cherry-basil soda

We are cherry-besotted around here.

People, we haven’t had much of a summer. Right now, as I stare out the window while waiting for the words to appear, I see a grey sky before me. A mono-color, same-color-as-slate, no-break-in-the-clouds grey. It’s about 61 degrees.

We need as much color and intensity of flavor as we can find right now.

(I know. The rest of you are sweltering in the heat. We’re headed to New York tomorrow, so there will be plenty of summer sunlight in our future.)

One of the gifts of living in a place where summer is sometimes a figment of our imagination is that everyone is so very grateful for the sunlight when it arrives. When the sun rises in the sky without the encumbrance of clouds, you can see everyone’s chest opening, the ribs stretching wide, smiles arising. You pass people on the street and see wide-open faces, welcoming. The day before, when the sky lowered, people kept their faces to themselves. On sunny days, summer is a communal experience.

It’s really the same process as waiting for the cherries to ripen on the tree. We sit through months of skeletal branches, the first tentative buds, leafy-green goodness, and tiny green cherries hanging amidst that green against sky. And then, the birds eat most of them. The dreams are dashed.

When we can pull a cherry off our tree, a dark-black, ripe cherry without any bird pecks? We’re ecstatic. And if we happen to eat that cherry under a blue sky? So much the better.

A few days ago, the sun came out. Strong. Clear. We ran outside.

As I pulled weeds from the garden overgrown from too much rain, Danny followed Lu around the yard. She wanted to blow bubbles, then kick the soccer ball, then run. However, when she remembered the ladder, she became single-minded.

“I go up the ladder, Daddy. For cherries.”

And so he stood just below her, letting her reach without his hand on hers, and watched her pluck cherries from our tree.

The cherry tree in our yard  produces wine-dark cherries, with a sweet flavor at the front and a tannic taste at the back of the mouth. They’re small cherries, so each bite feels like something special. They’re addictive. And for a few days this past week, the sun was shining. Lu ate cherries off the branches, from the top of a ladder, her dad just beneath her, her mom pulling weeds and grinning that wide-open smile.

Plus, we taught her how to spit out the pits.

Cherry season, like summer skies, may be brief around here. But oh, it is so sweet .


The first week of having cherries in our lives again, I don’t want to do anything with them but eat them clean and spit out the pits. However, once the cherries come into the farmstands, especially the ones from Eastern Washington, we make them into pies, clafoutis, scones, and cakes. This summer, however, has been the summer of homemade cherry-basil soda.

Cherries and basil go together so well that we’ll think you’ll be cherry-besotted soon too. However, think of the possibilities of this technique with other fruits and herbs: strawberry-mint soda; nectarine-lavender soda; watermelon-lime soda. There are endless possibilities. And then, of course, you could use these syrups to make homemade popsicles too.

There’s no need to buy soda in a can again.

2 cups pitted fresh cherries
1 cup organic cane sugar
½ cup chopped fresh basil
club soda

Setting up the syrup. Combine the cherries, sugar, and basil in a large bowl. Toss them around with your hands to coat the cherries. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Making the syrup. The next morning, put the cherry mixture into a blender. (A food processor would work well here too.) There should be a lovely syrup at the bottom of the bowl. Be sure to include all of that loveliness in the blender. Blend the cherry mixture until it is smooth. Push the cherry puree through a fine-mesh strainer. Throw away the cherry pulp.

You now have cherry-basil syrup.

Making the soda. Combine some of the cherry-basil syrup with club soda for cherry-basil soda. You’ll know your own ratio of syrup to club soda. Although we’ve always done ours by taste alone, I think our favorite ratio is about 1 ounce of syrup to 6 ounces of club soda.

Don’t forget the ice! Enjoy.

62 comments on “cherry-basil soda

  1. Kalinda

    While I love basil with everything, I had not yet thought of cherries and basil. This soda does sound so refreshing. I’m jealous of your cherry tree. I’ll have to go find some.

  2. Sandra Jaqua

    Hmm. My husband brews soda for us. He’s going to have to try this the old fashioned way. *g*

  3. Shelly

    I love the picture I have Lu spitting out her cherry pits! How adorable! And I love this idea, we are highly allergic to cherries, but you have given me so much inspiration! And I have a sodastream, so I have an endless supply of bubbly water! Off to make some refreshing sodas!

  4. Melissa

    Wow, looks amazing! We have been eating a lot of cherries this last week too but not from our own backyard, lucky you! I have very fond memories of picking and eating cherries from my grandparents’ tree when I was young. Enjoy.

  5. Joan

    This sounds delicious! Just a little FYI Shelly. Two summers ago I started breaking out in hives from cherries. My chiropractor suggested I wash then in a solution of 2 tablespoons of salt, and 1/4 cup vinegar to a big bowl or tub full of water. No more hives after that!! Evidently it was the pesticides on them that was bothering me. I haven’t had a problem since I started using that veggie/fruit wash solution.

    1. Cari

      Joan, this is very interesting! My partner gets itchy lips and a slightly scratchy throat when she eats Rainier Cherries but not the red ones. While I would love to try this solution to see if it works it makes me a little nervous. Glad to hear you found a way to eat cherries!

      1. nikki

        I’ve used the same veggie-fruit wash, and love it. It literally sucks out dirt and gross stuff- and MAN do clean veggies and strawberries taste amazing!!!

  6. Eva

    I will definitely be making this and using my soda stream for the seltzer (no salt). Awesome recipe!

      1. abby

        This sounds delicious especially since I have all I need to make this recipe – even better. Couldn’t you use the pulp as a mix in for muffins or pancakes, or even as a topping on ice cream…the cherries still should have a little special sweetness from sitting in the syrup.

      2. Rachel

        When I juice carrots or fruits I use the pulp for baking. You could probably do the same here–make a cherry cake/muffins using a carrot cake or apple sauce cake type recipe but sub in the cherry pulp & adjust the sugar/sweetner in the recipe based on the sugar in the pulp. I’ve thrown strawberry pulp into a carrot cake recipe (followed the recipe in a more or less kind of way) & the cake was delicious!

      3. Cari

        Seriously this is a no brainer people. Just eat it with a spoon. I could have paused long enough to spoon it over some vanilla ice cream but I am so cherry crazed I was licking drippings off the counter top. I used a vitamix to puree the cherries and actually didn’t end up with much pulp at all after passing it through the fine-mesh strainer.

        1. Ann from Montana

          I made this last night/this morning. I had seen somewhere…adding chia seeds to make a kind of jam. so I put the pulp in a pint mason jar, added a tablespoon of chia seeds and let it sit in the frig…presto – cherry basil jam! Like Cari, I used a Vita-Mix so the pulp was not chunky. I probably could have pushed it all through or not strained it, but glad I didn’t as the jam is a bonus.

          The soda is wonderful. I have a soda stream and have been making my own ginger soda. Love this cherry basil AND it was also good with a bit of the ginger mixed in.

  7. Ada

    Your description of your summer so far sounds exactly like our summer here in Vancouver. I have a hard time believing it’s almost August given that we’ve had only a handful of sunny days, but when the weather’s good, it’s like the whole city rejoices. Hopefully this means a warm and sunny fall!

    Thankfully, both cherries and basil are cheap and plentiful despite the inclement weather. I’m looking forward to trying this. 🙂

  8. SummerEllen

    How about using the pulp as a swirl addition to homemade vanilla ice cream? Or homemade chocolate ice cream? Or as the flavor in a creamsicle? Can you tell we’re deep into the blazing humidity that is a typical Virginia summer……..

  9. Sarah @fitfablife

    This soda sounds delicious, I am 100% going to try this! Do you have any tips on quickly pitting the cherries? I have to admit I’ve only ever eaten and spit them out, never had to de-pit!

  10. Deb

    I miss living in Washington (Spokane). Your blog made me remember how MUCH I loved the weather there (even tho’ Spokane’s weather is night-n-day different from the coast!!!). Take care…..

  11. Cari

    One of my favorite memories is taking care of a 10 year old from Portland Oregon when I was a new nurse, some 25 years ago. She spent an entire summer on my unit recovering from two back surgeries. I planned a party for her discharge from the hospital and instead of cake she wanted cherries. I took her to a stairwell and taught her how to spit the pits. The two of us sat in that stairwell with a bag of cherries, spitting the pits all over the place. I would imagine it left an impression on her as it did for me. Glad to know Lu can spit pits too. I am taking this to sit Shiva this evening with some good friends. You my friend, are brilliant.

  12. molly

    Oy, I hear it’s been quite a summer, even for Seattle. Still, the cherries are second to none, and that’s something fine.

    I had forgotten clafouti. HOW had I forgotten clafouti? I was once a clafouti fiend. I know that wasn’t the point, but oh, I’ve got my work cut out for me…

  13. Brooke @ Food Woolf

    This is brilliant. Especially for people like me who want to make something tasty to drink and not have to worry about adding other stuff to the mix! Yay! Homemade Cherry-Basil soda! How grown up.

  14. InTolerantChef

    I’ve never heard of cherries with basil, but I loooove strawberries with basil. I’ll give this combo a try, I just have to wait about 4months or so here!

  15. Russell at Chasing Delicious

    What an interesting idea. I’ve been throwing basil in everything the last couple weeks–out of curiosity and the need to use up the numerous basil plants I have scattered around my yard. This one is new to me though and it sounds super yummy! I only wish I had a cherry tree near by.

  16. Dru

    I haven’t had soda in years due to corn, and this was…

    The BEST way to reintroduce myself to soda!!! WOW. I think I have to move to Washington to get those cherries on a more regular basis! Thanks for sharing!

  17. London Cleaning

    Wonderful idea! I love it! I think I can add some more sugar to it, because I like it sweet but this is totally refreshing for the summer! Love it! I love than combination of cherries and basil here. And do not forget the put a fresh slice of lime on the side of the glass

  18. Anita

    This sounds absolutely delightful. I’d like to know the difference between club soda and other sodas? I have celiac and I have the usual reaction as well as break out on my knees, elbows and scalp with itching, and blisters. Needless to say, I can’t drink soda without breaking out in those areas and having the usual reactions that go along with celiac. Is soda good for celiacs?

    1. nikki

      I am corn-allergic, and one by one, the sparkling waters I have been able to drink have diminished. I know a lot of the air being pushed can be exposed, in one way or another. My “safe” one is Perrier right now, in the glass bottles (that’s important!). Hope it works!

    2. Faith

      You can make your own fizzy water, then you don’t have to worry. We have a Soda Stream, but there are other brands out there, they all basically just carbonate the water. We make all our own sodas at home, its a lot cheaper than buying the “good” types at Whole Foods and I know exactly what goes in them. You shouldn’t react to them, as long as you use ingredients that you tolerate.

  19. Dave Bel

    This looks like a great summertime recipe. Looking forward to making this. Thanks so much for posting, what a great idea.

  20. Cookie and Kate

    I gave up processed sodas a year and a half ago (the same time I gave up meat), and this is the first time I’ve been tempted to try making my own! It looks absolutely delicious.

  21. Kate Lam Sam

    You know you’re addicted to a blog when you check to see if it’s been updated about 10 times a day. Hope the book is going well guys. 😀

    1. shauna

      You are so sweet. I’m working on a post right now! (And we were in NY and PA all week. Whirlwind. Beautiful.)

  22. Nikki

    Hi Shauna- My aunt in Bellingham just found out she has celiac disease, as well as a few other people in the Seattle area. I can’t find the name of Danny’s restaurant anywhere- what is it called? I would love to introduce them to the love that comes through this blog through their tastebuds! 🙂
    Do you think you could put a list of your favorite gluten-safe Seattle area together? (Or if you have, point me in the right direction, haha… I’d like to share the safe joys!)

  23. Elizabeth

    Gosh that looks delicious. When I was little I didn’t like cherries, probably just because of the pits. Now I can’t get enough of them. Cherry and basil is a combo I’ve never tried, it sounds lovely.

  24. Tracy

    Hello Shauna – I am a passionate foodie and photographer, using food to heal and nourish my family and friends and have designed an ecourse to be released this fall….I wonder if you would consider making a guest appearance, virtually of course, to help me introduce gluten free to my audience of eaters-of-everything? I know you are a busy girl, but when I heard your voice on Mondo Beyondo – and your story….I wished then to collaborate with you on some creative plain, and thought I had nothing to loose in asking you to contribute in a small way, to this meaningful project. If this pulls a cord, I would be so thrilled – to put it so mildly! – and could share an idea or two with you then…on how you might contribute, to this celebration of food. Thanks for all your foodie contributions to the Universe – Tracy xo

  25. April

    I’m the one eating gluten-free, but my husband is so excited about this recipe! He is always trying to justify having a glass of something carbonated, and I’m keep telling him how bad it is for him. Well, this one is homemade and uses real fruit! He’s super excited and taunting me about his “healthy” soda recipe. Haha! Can’t wait to try it!

  26. Liz

    What a great coctail for a day in St. Louis, Missouri when it hit an all time high of 105 degrees
    Thanks for a great recipe

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