Non alcoholic drinks you can create at home for all the rituals and fun you need for every meal, every treat, and every member of the family has been a passion of mine since I quit drinking 12 years ago. Did you know that it’s easy to make your own syrups. My favorites are lemon, vanilla, cream soda, apple cider, and chocolate. Recipes to follow.

Before I discovered syrup making, I used to purchase gallons and gallons of sparkling water whose bottles littered the earth and cost a bundle. I love bubbles. I never bought bottled syrups because they were just too sweet for me, and too expensive. But I do crave sparkling water. First, I tried Soda Stream, and I got hooked on making my own bubbly water. No more cases of pricey water and empty bottles. For a long time, I just added a little orange or lemon juice. Super sour. And then I discovered the syrups and use them all the time for making non alcoholic drinks for all occasions. The advantage to syrups over sugar is they blend perfectly all the way through the drinks and you can measure exactly the amount of sweetness you want to add. Here are my favorite homemade syrups for non alcoholic drinks.

Apple Cider Syrup

This is so easy I could plotz. That’s a Yiddish term we used in the Bronx where I grew up. Nobody says it now. It means bursting with excitement. Apple cider syrup is something that is bursting with flavor. It’s what what the settlers used for sweetener when they didn’t have honey, white sugar, or maple syrup. It gives a great tang to any baked recipe, but I use it as a syrup on corn bread, waffles, and for non alcoholic bubbly drinks to die for. This is perfect for Easy Thanksgiving Turkey with Zoom.

Ingredients

1/2 gallon fresh apple cider (or a gallon if you want a bigger batch)

Instructions

Take a half gallon of fresh apple cider and add to a large, non reactive pan. Be sure your pan is large enough, boil it until it is reduced to 1/7 of its volume. A steady boil, but not a high boil, will do it. It will take a couple of hours. You’ll see that it thickens as it reduces. You can taste it along the way to see how intense you want your syrup. You should have about a cup and a half. Cool. Add to a sterile jar(s) and seal. Once you open the jar, store in the refrigerator. This is perfect for Thanksgiving and winter.

Non alcoholic drinks with apple cider syrup

Tea with a tangy twist: Add a teaspoon or two and a sprinkle of cinnamon and fresh mint to hot or cold tea.

Coffee with a wake up call: Instead of sugar, use frothed milk and apple syrup to taste. Add a splash of nutmeg or cinnamon and you’re good to go.

Apple bubbly: Add a tablespoon to a glass of sparkling water. Garnish with fresh mint, cucumber, a slice of pineapple, lemon or lime.

Better than Hershey’s chocolate syrup

I love Hershey’s syrup, but this is better. It has only 4 ingredients and no corn syrup. You’ll just love it.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup-1 cup unsweetened cocoa,
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I have made this with 1/2 cup cocoa and 1 cup cocoa. It all depends on whether you like your chocolate thick and super intense or thinner and less intense. I like it best at 3/4 cup cocoa, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup water.

Instructions

Super easy. Mix the sugar, water and cocoa really well with a whisk to make it smooth as you heat the mixture. Boil for a few minutes stirring constantly. You want your syrup to be smooth but not too thick. It will thicken slightly as it cools and will be thicker the more cocoa you use. Add vanilla. You’ll want to store this in the fridge, but it won’t last long.

Non alcoholic drinks with chocolate syrup

Mocha coffee: froth your milk and add a tablespoon of chocolate syrup any time of the day.

Egg Cream: It doesn’t have egg in it. And egg cream where I come from is 1-2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup, 1/4 cup milk mixed well with a spritzer of, you guessed it 2 cents plain or the bubbly water you make yourself.

Chocolate milk: This is a nightly treat for many of us. Just mix your own choco syrup with milk and get your calcium.

Banana chocolate smoothie: Freeze a few bananas then put into a blender with a little milk or yogurt and our choco syrup to taste. This is a pretty healthy alternative to a an chocolate milkshake.

Chocolate milkshake: Well, you can use ice cream if you want.

Vanilla Syrup

Anybody love vanilla syrup from Starbucks? Here’s the copycat version.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions with vanilla extract

  1. Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Continue to cook at a rapid simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, about 8-9 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a glass jar or bottle and refrigerate. The syrup will last for two weeks or more.

Instructions with vanilla bean. 

Slice the vanilla bean the long way and scrape beans into the saucepan. Drop in the whole bean, too. Let it steep in the sugar for 5-10 minutes. You can add a little extract if you want, as well.

You can strain the beans out if desired using a piece of cheesecloth, but since they’re so small, I just leave them in there.

Cream Soda Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • juice of one lemon
  • vanilla bean (or vanilla extract)

Instructions with vanilla extract

  1. Bring the water, sugar, and lemon juice to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a glass jar or bottle and refrigerate. The syrup will last for two weeks or more.

Instructions with vanilla bean. 

Slice the vanilla bean the long way and scrape seeds into the saucepan. Drop in the whole bean, too. Let it steep in the sugar for 5-10 minutes. You can add a little extract if you want, as well. Cool and remove the bean. Leave the seeds. They’re tiny.

Non alcoholic drinks with vanilla syrup and cream soda syrup

Coffee with milk: froth your milk and add vanilla syrup to taste

Coffee black: add vanilla syrup to taste

Vanilla Iced Tea: add vanilla syrup to iced tea and garnish with mint

Vanilla soda: You guessed it. Add vanilla syrup to sparkling water and garnish with pineapple, cherries, mint, or you name it.

Cream Soda: add cream soda syrup to sparkling water. Ahhh

Lemon Syrup

This was where I started. Drinking sparkling water with just lemon juice was great for the digestion, but super sour. I had used lemon simple syrup on cakes but never tried it in drinks. Here is simple lemon syrup that you can use to sweeten cakes, pour on pancakes or use in non alcoholic drinks.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • juice of one lemon

Instructions

  1. Bring the water, sugar, and lemon juice to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a glass jar or bottle and refrigerate. The syrup will last for two weeks or more.

Non alcoholic drinks with lemon syrup

Lemonade: add lemon syrup to lemon juice and water for a smoother lemonade.

Arnold Palmer: Add lemon syrup to your unsweetened ice-tea and lemonade. Garnish with fresh lemon or lime.

Hot Tea: Any kind of tea you love can be enhanced with a teaspoon or two of lemon syrup.

Lemon Spritzer: Add lemon syrup to sparkling water to taste and garnish with any fruit or cucumber.

You can get fancier with your non alcoholic drinks

There are more flavored syrups that you can make with the simple syrup method. And, there are many more non alcoholic drinks that can be created by incorporating fruit juices, like cranberry juice, coconut milk, or orange juice and adding your homemade syrups. I like to keep it simple with ingredients I always have around in easy drinks to make using the basic simple syrups, but you go for it and let your imagination run wild. You will have fun. Your family will have fun, and you will all benefit from sobriety this and every season.


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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass became a recovery advocate and co-founder of Reach Out Recovery in 2011, encouraged by her daughter Lindsey who had struggled with substances as a teen and young adult. Learning how to manage the family disease of addiction with no roadmap to follow inspired the mother and daughter to create Reach Out Recovery's website to help others experiencing the same life-threatening problems. Together they produced the the 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World of Recovery, and the teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, distributed by American Public Television. In her career, Leslie has worked in advertising, publishing, and magazines as a writer of both fiction and non fiction. She is the author of 9 bestselling crime novels, featuring NYPD Dt.Sgt. April Woo. Leslie has has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education and as a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation. For from 1990 to 2017, Leslie was the Trustee of the Leslie Glass Foundation. Leslie is a proud member of Rotary International.

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