Alayne's Secrets to Flavored Syrups
by Alexadra Alayne Nyvern Nightwatcher
Recently I have noticed a propensity at events to provide either no beverage, or to provide water. This seems rather unfortunate, especially when the fighters are being kept so well hydrated outside!
People at events should also be encouraged to have a high non-alcoholic liquid intake, and while water does suit this purpose, it would be a lovely amenity to include some flavorful fare! Therefore, I put forth this simple guide for the preparation of flavored syrups, which can be toted around and then mixed with fresh water at a ratio of 1:12 to provide a interesting alternative potable.
Disclaimer: What follows is not intended to be a scholarly research work , but rather is redacted from sejankabin, various Roman beverages, and several Native American recipes which it seems would be easy to imagine pre-literate Celtic Cultures developing as well.
Making flavored syrups is no mystery. All it takes is a little time and the mentality that things may get a little sticky in and around your work area. Like all recipes, this works best if you use good fresh ingredients. Otherwise the results can be pretty awful.
Once you make these syrups once or twice you should be confident in refining them to suit your particular tastes. More about this at the end of the article.
Even though the recipe calls for boiling, please remember to start with cold tap water. You might ask why? Water can taste fresh or go flat. It can really make or break a storage recipe. Tap water in your cold water line is constantly moving until it gets into your pipes. But when you run the water a little until it gets cold, you are in essence getting rid of the water that has sat. The cold fresh water has far more oxygen in it than the hot water, which has been sitting in your hot water tank. The hot water, sitting in the tank heating, can also pick up a little of the tank flavor.
Hopping off the soap box.
Take a five pound bag of sugar, and a good large pot (I recommend stainless steel.) Pour it in the pot and add the gallon of water. Bring this to a boil stirring to be certain not to scorch the sugar.
- One gallon Water
- 1 cup white vinegar (The vinegar can be reduced if quicker consumption is anticipated or if your individual tastes dictate.)
- 5 lbs sugar
Keep boiling until the volume is reduced by half! Allow this to cool on the stove.
Add the 1 cup vinegar, mixing it in. Now, you have your basic syrup for flavoring.
Be certain not to add the vinegar or other flavorings while the syrup is too hot. You do not want to cook them!
For Mint Drink:
Add two generous fistfuls of fresh mint which has been carefully washed. Stir into the syrup.
Add a handful of fresh organic rose hips, rose petals or (in a bind) a quarter cup of rose water.
Stir. Allow this mix to set at least over night.
Strain to remove floaters.
Decant into storage containers. (I go to the local Italian place and beg them for their empty vino gallon bottles.) Store in a cool dark place. This syrup should last for a year (except it generally gets used up before then!)
For Ginger Drink:
Get a hand-span of fresh ginger root. Wash and peel it. Cut it into one inch chunks. Prepare the syrup as above, add the ginger root to the mix. With ginger root, I generally allow the chunks of ginger to remain in right up until I mix it with water to serve. If you add more ginger root the flavor will be more potent.
Also with the basic syrup you can mix in strawberries or raspberries or both.
Take your basic syrup, and add three to four pints of berries. Let sit over night to one day. Before mixing and serving strain the berries out. (Off season I use frozen berries, and the flavor does not seem to suffer.)
If I am doing this at an event, I puree the berries I have drained off, and I put them in a dish on the side board as a sauce. This has proved to be popular as well as thrifty.
Please note! Berry Syrups do not have the same staying power as do the mint and ginger. If you wish to store them, I recommend freezing them.
Now, as I said, these basic redactions are fine, but you will wish to adjust them to your own tastes. For example: If making strawberry or raspberry water for an event where you are fairly certain there will be no left overs, you might greatly reduce the vinegar, although vinegar provides a nice tartness that adds a thirst quenching quality to the drink. I am also fairly liberal with my rose water and rose flavorings. Strawberry water really benefits from this flavor. In the ginger drink I will sometimes add limes.
Hydromel is a honey drink. Many people think it was only served with alcohol, but it can make a lovely non-alcoholic beverage as well. Half of a cup honey dissolved into a gallon of water, more or less depending on the personal tastes of the revelers. To this can be added a quarter cup white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, or red wine vinegar for tartness. Using a strong and unusual honey (tupelo or poplar honey for example) makes this beverage more interesting,
Tinctures, which are not syrup based, can be made with coriander seeds, lavender flowers and citrus fruit, rose hips or other herbs. Per gallon of water add a quarter cup of coriander seeds, or lavender blooms (dehydrated) these can be loose, or placed in a cotton diffusion bag (preferred). They can either be made the night before and refrigerated, or made fresh the day of the event.
Citrus water is an easy and beautiful addition to a feast or buffet table. Slice citrus fruit into a pitcher and pour cold water over it. Replace the water as it runs out. You can slice and freeze the citrus before hand if you so choose, and that will help keep the water chill. I recommend having an AM and a PM reserve of citrus slices. That way the flavor remains robust.
Both of the above are made without adding sugar. As the Society gets older (and so do we!) There is a noticeable change in preference to unsweetened drinks. Unsweetened drinks (especially citrus water) are generally preferred by fighters as well.
Whether for a feast or for Pennsic, wouldn’t it be nice to make a more period beverage than mixing up powdered lemonade? Give these a try. I think you will be pleased with the results.