Savory Spiced Soda
This is a simple yet sophisticated drink. It's refreshing enough for a summer sip but the spiced garnish makes it a gorgeous holiday-time mocktail or cocktail.
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the spices and stir for 2 min. or until you smell the spices begin to toast. Add water and sugar and bring to a simmer. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add thyme and lemon peel. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 5 min. Remove from heat and let cool. To serve, fill 4 cocktail glasses with ice. Pour 1/4 cup of the spiced simple syrup to each glass and top with club soda; be sure and get some of the thyme, peppercorns and star anise in each glass. For a cocktail version, start with a shot of gin or vodka, then add the syrup and top with club soda. Garnish with a slice of lemon.