Staying hydrated is a necessity, but drinking plain water can be underwhelming.
The logical step is to infuse your water. With the rise in #watertok’s popularity, many people are turning to store-bought flavored syrups and the brightly colored packets of powder from our youth. Though tasty, these options are full of added sugars.
On the other hand, throwing a bunch of fruit and herbs into a glass at home often yields a drink full of seeds and other plant fibers that can quickly turn bitter.
We spent months testing infusion methods while working on our book The Complete Guide to Healthy Drinks. Here are some of the techniques we developed and discoveries we made. Use them to make your own great-tasting flavored water that you’ll feel good about drinking.
Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter
Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!
How to Infuse Water for Still Drinks
Instead of simply combining cut ingredients with water and hoping for the best, we muddle them together for our still water drinks such as Cucumber Water and Grapefruit, Blackberry, and Sage Water. Here’s how to do it.
- Create a concentrate by mashing some fresh ingredients with a small amount of water. (Save some of the fresh ingredients to stir in at the end.)
- Stir that concentrate into 3 cups of water to infuse it with flavor for 30 minutes to 1 hour. (Any less time and the flavor is underextracted.)
- After infusing, strain out the solids from the concentrate so they don’t float in the water and impart bitterness or dull the flavors.
- Stir in reserved unmuddled produce for a final pop of fresh flavor and a beautiful garnish.
Our Top Tips for Better Infused Water
Try any, or all, of these tips to suit your tastes.
- Know the Timing Sweet Spot: We learned the hard way that there’s a sweet spot for infusing your muddled ingredients. Less than 30 minutes and the flavors won’t properly develop. More than an hour and your concentrate can turn bitter (especially if it contains grapefruit).
- For Carbonated Drinks, Lift—Don’t Mix: To make a bubbly drink that combines a syrup or concentrated mixture with carbonated water, we use a lift method. Use a spoon to gently lift the components from the bottom of the glass to combine with the seltzer, without deflating all the bubbles. Lifting instead of stirring ensures a well-mixed drink that still has its fizz, such as in our Celery–Sumac Sensation.
- For Spritzers, Blitz the Fruit First: To flavor seltzer without any added sugar, we use a food processor. Blitzing fresh fruit with additional elements such as extracts or citrus juice creates a flavorful, all-natural concentrate. We then gently stir seltzer into it for uniquely flavored and fresh homemade spritzers. Try it out in our recipes for Cantaloupe and Fresno Chile Spritzer and Mango and Lime Spritzer.
- Mind the Short Shelf Life: Flavored water has a short shelf life, about 24 hours. Allowing ingredients, especially whole pieces of fruit and herbs, to sit in the water too long sogs them out, muddying the flavor of the water. It is also important to reserve final garnishes on the side to add later. Left in the drink during storage, a fresh garnish will turn mushy and make the water bitter.
- Gently Simmer Syrups: If you’re adding additional sweetness in the form of flavor-infused simple syrups, bring the ingredients to a gentle simmer. Allowing them to cook too long or get too hot will cook out the delicate flavors.
- Experiment with Your Ingredients and Prep: Acidity balanced with sweetness creates complex flavors that work really well in drinks with limited sugar to keep the flavor bold. We found that thin slices of citrus muddle best to extract not only juice but also more aromatic oils from the zest.
Savory herbs also serve to highlight and balance fruit combinations—for instance, using sage with blackberries and grapefruit. Similar to how a pinch of salt draws out flavor, herbs have a similar effect because the contrast creates an interesting new taste fusion.
Grated ginger adds zippy flavor to infused waters. When cut into rounds, the flavor is dulled because there is less exposed surface area. Grating the ginger releases all its internal flavor compounds, and you can use less grated than sliced ginger.
- Add Garnishes for More Flavor: Reserve some unmuddled fruits and herbs to add pop and some flavor before serving. Get creative—slices of strawberries, ribbons of cucumbers (which should be added before the ice), and curls of orange peels add color and contrast.
You can even garnish ice by adding pieces of fruit and sprigs of herbs to your ice cube tray before the water. This uses up leftover produce and makes drinking water that much more fun.