Chaotic Fizzy Good
August 10, 2023 1:30 PM   Subscribe

What are some unusual non-sweet ways to flavor fizzy water?

Recently I bought a little bottle of "Yuzu essence" and the ingredients were just yuzu citrus and sea salt. I found adding a tiny amount to sparkling water was tremendously good - strong flavor, refreshing, not sweet, not the same as squeezing a lemon into the water.

What are some other out of the ordinary (easy) ways to flavor plain sparkling water myself that are not sweet? (It's ok if there's a little sweetness but I am more interested in strong flavors than sweetness.) I'd appreciate specifics: For example, if you're suggesting ginger, how do you recommend that I prepare the ginger to add it to sparkling water?
posted by vunder to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Rose is a good one. Personally I really like Tulsi sweet rose tea from a company called organic india throw a teabag in, wait a long as you like, drink.
You could use a flavor syrup with rose but many of them have sugar in them so I do the tea instead.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:34 PM on August 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

I add a couple drops of cocktail bitters to mine. There's plenty of variety in bitters flavors these days, too.
posted by adiabat at 1:35 PM on August 10, 2023 [18 favorites]

At the risk of repeating myself (probably some other ideas in that thread too)
posted by staggernation at 1:35 PM on August 10, 2023

If you haven't looked into shrubs, you might want to do that! tl;dr: a shrub is a vinegar-based fruit syrup. If you make them at home you can adjust the sugar content to your liking, and also experiment with different flavors and herbs or spices. You can also do tiny batches (like, just one piece of fruit at a time, in a small jar) to see how you like the concept in general.

I usually look up "[fruit name] shrub" to see what kinds of vinegars people are using -- some fruits go better with certain vinegars than others -- and if there are any herb additions that sound particularly nice. Then I more or less wing it, or at the very least reduce the sugar from the published recipes.

Some combos I've made and enjoyed are: citrus thyme; blueberry bay; cranberry orange ginger; strawberry black pepper. I have a nectarine basil one steeping right now, and I think I'll also do a peach rosemary soon.
posted by librarina at 1:44 PM on August 10, 2023 [3 favorites]

Oh, I also recently learned about chanh muối, a Vietnamese drink made with salt-preserved lemons, and nimbu soda, and Indian drink made with limes, a smidge of sugar, and a specific kind of Indian salt. Haven't made either yet, but plan to soon!
posted by librarina at 1:48 PM on August 10, 2023 [4 favorites]

Verjus! I could take it or leave it, but my Aunt's a huge fan.
posted by sohalt at 2:07 PM on August 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

Pickle brine
posted by veery at 2:14 PM on August 10, 2023 [3 favorites]

Try just a dash or two of cinnamon.
posted by kickingtheground at 2:14 PM on August 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

my kids really like the Passion tea from Tazo in fizzy form.
posted by Dr. Twist at 2:24 PM on August 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

For ginger you can just grate it on a microplane, mix in and strain. You could also make a simple syrup. Really either works
posted by raccoon409 at 2:28 PM on August 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

Nthing cocktail bitters -- there are many different types to experiment with.
Extracts meant for baking -- like vanilla, almond, etc. -- are also great. You don't need much at all -- a little dab'll do ya.
posted by ourobouros at 2:57 PM on August 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

I like the tartness of unsweetened cranberry juice cut with sparkling water. Jamaica/hibiscus tea is also tart but I think it's less astringent?

Lavender simple syrup is sweet but customizable.

Rosewater and citrus.

Nimbu Pani - citrus, black salt, optional sugar and spices
posted by meemzi at 2:59 PM on August 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

Cardamon bitters.
posted by dobbs at 3:41 PM on August 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

I like Tazo's Wild Sweet Orange teabags. They have an intensely tart, acidic flavor that's not actually all that sweet if you don't add sweetener.

They changed the formula somehow a few years ago, and it's not quite as good, or as orangey, as it used to be -- it tastes more like a grapefruit/orange blend now -- but I still like it a lot better than yout typical "orange spice" herbal teas.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:41 PM on August 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

Stir in a bit of marmite.
posted by runincircles at 4:30 PM on August 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

There is also Vietnamese soda xi muoi, with preserved plum. You can use one from a jar of Koon Chun Chinese plums in brine or the dried kind. Similarly take Japanese umeboshi or umezuke if not dried, smash in a glass, and pour sparkling water over it.

Lemongrass, basil, thyme, rosemary, celery seed, star anise could work - chop/muddle, boil in simple syrup or try without sugar?

Michelada sans beer?

Salty Dog sans gin?

Cucumber, watermelon, lime, mint plus chaat masala could also be refreshing
posted by eyeball at 4:53 PM on August 10, 2023

posted by Rich Text at 9:33 PM on August 10, 2023

One of my magic tricks is to pour sparkling water over turmeric syrup, which instantly changes from orange to yellow. It's a treat for all five senses. I make the syrup by boiling peeled turmeric root in water for ~10 minutes, adding sugar, then boiling another ~5 minutes. You could probably do it with less or no sugar.
posted by aws17576 at 10:05 PM on August 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

I either use angostura bitters or ginger extract, and sometimes both combined. When I want a small amount of sugar, I premix a ~ tsp of maple syrup, dash of bitters, and a ~ tsp of apple cider vinegar in a small amount of water and add that.
posted by kiblinger at 10:13 PM on August 10, 2023

I love Korean drinking vinegar, but it is very slightly sweet. The flavor is most definitely strong, and there are tons of different kinds.

Also I got a sparkling basil tomato drink the other day that was pretty savory. It had cherry tomatoes squeezed in it (so again, very slightly sweet) and some crushed fresh basil. It was super refreshing.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:17 AM on August 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

Did no one suggest balsamic vinegar yet?
posted by at 5:25 AM on August 11, 2023

Korean maesil cheong can be used for drinks.
posted by whitelotus at 6:32 AM on August 11, 2023

My favorite is Scrappy's cardamom bitters.

I also like a small amount of 100% Montmorency cherry juice, about one ounce for twelve ounces of seltzer, with a hefty dash of Angostura bitters; that much cherry juice naturally contains about three grams of sugar, so it's not very sweet.

I have some rose water and wonder how much people like to use.

I looked up Korean Drinking Vinegars and was disappointed to find that the Petitzel brand, at least, contains stevia as a sweetener, in every flavor.
posted by metonym at 10:26 AM on August 11, 2023

I like to add either cranberry juice or tart cherry juice to seltzer. Both unsweetened, but of course they are fruit so they naturally have a small amount of sugar.
posted by Julnyes at 10:39 AM on August 14, 2023

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