In New Orleans, we live to eat.
That should come with no surprise; New Orleans is a cultural capital, a foodie's utopia bursting with endless cuisines, flavors, quintessential dishes, and culinary traditions and histories. From Creole to Cajun, red beans & rice to po' boys, gumbo to jambalaya, our tastebuds are spoiled. But what about dessert? Though the staples of New Orleans cuisine largely cater more towards those with a more savoury palette, the city also has a much sweeter side, equally as rich in vibrant histories and unique traditions. In the coming months, I'll be posting dozens of recipes showing off the sweeter side of New Orleans.
Summer in New Orleans is hot, really freaking hot. Once August rolls around, the humidity becomes pretty much unbearable. Try going outside for more than ten minutes and you'll start drowning in the humidity. No, I'm not being dramatic, it's actually that bad. Luckily, we have our fair share of cold desserts to cool down with, like nectar soda.
Nectar is a flavor pretty much exclusive to South Louisiana. Though most would figure something with the name nectar to taste like a tropical fruit, nectar syrup is a neon-pink concoction overflowing with almond and vanilla flavoring. I.L. Lyons, a local pharmacist who relocated from South Carolina to New Orleans following the Civil War, developed the flavor in the late 19th century and began selling it to local soda fountains. The syrup became an instant hit, and local K&B soda fountains made Lyon's syrup their signature flavor. As soda fountains came into decline and ICEE deemed the flavor too regionally specific to produce into frozen treats, the flavor vanished from the scene until the late 1990's when it was revived into a line of syrups and bottled sodas. Though nectar syrup and nectar soda were pulled from supermarket shelves in recent years, the flavor still lives on today, predominantly at local snoball stands.
Here are my top picks to celebrate the Nectar love in the 504:
Alas, I know that many my readers are from outside of Louisiana, so I've developed the perfect recipe to recreate this classic New Orleans flavor at home. And it couldn't be any easier — ten minutes over a stove and bam, you've got some of the Big Easy in your kitchen. Once you have your syrup, the possibilities are endless. You can use it as:
1) a soda — just add some club soda/sparkling water
2) a cream soda — achieving this by repeating the process above, mixing in a tablespoon of condensed milk, and topping it with vanilla ice cream
3) a flavoring in cakes, ice cream, frostings — you name it.
You can even sneak a teaspoonful when nobody's looking! I'm not one to judge.
(makes about one pint)
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons almond extract
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp red food coloring
Over medium heat, bring the sugar and water to boil in a saucepan. Let boil for 10 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, add in the extracts and food coloring. Refrigerate.
For sodas, pour about an inch of the syrup into a glass before adding soda water.
For cream sodas, repeat the above process, add a tablespoon of condensed milk, and serve with vanilla ice cream.