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Ordering Up a Soda Revolution

Ordering Up a Soda Revolution

Along with fatty, salty and sugar-laden junk food, sodas have been suitably implicated in the current obesity epidemic that is washing over the country (as well as much of the world). With high sugar levels (some conventional sodas hold upwards of 30 grams of sugar per 12 oz) along with a myriad of artificial ingredients and stimulants, sodas, pop, and/or colas have been predictably demonized by everyone from health officials to government officials. Still, with sodas making up a good portion of what Americans drink each day (estimates are around 240 gallons per year, per person) it is going to take some doing to undo our collective soda habit.

But as with many food trends that endeavor to retool and reframe our notion of a traditional populist favorite (e.g. Coffee, beer, cupcakes, etc) the artisanal soda people are out there in the world making interesting and alluring sodas, in an effort to broaden your palate and lure you away from Pepsi and the like.

Traditional soda is basically two things: carbonated water and flavoring. Simple, basic, and immensely satisfying. I recently had someone recommend maple soda to me. I went home, poured about a tablespoon of maple syrup into a glass of carbonated water, stirred, and enjoyed something profoundly delicious, not to mention cheaper, and more nutritious, than a can of conventional soda. And while there are numerous mixers, syrups, and herbal elixirs one can stir into a glass of carbonated water, most people opt for something artfully concocted to their liking.

The antiquated notion of the soda jerk, or the soda fountain, has been revived of recent, with numerous trendy soda concoctions appearing on restaurant menus and as soft alternatives to alcohol at bars. Also, true blue soda fountains are making a comeback with places like Soda Craft in San Francisco, and Soda Jerks in Santa Monica, where sodas are mixed with considerable flair and style.

And there exist numerous canned and bottled soda alternatives, like Fentimans (a company founded over 100 years ago) who make a wonderful Dandelion & Burdock soda as well as a mighty fine Ginger Beer. There is Cheerwine, which is not a wine, but a cherry-flavored pop from North Carolina with a cult-like following, and there is the Hawaiian-born Waialua Soda Works’s Vanilla Cream soda, which is made with local Hawaiian vanilla and honey. In essence, it may be time to dump the 12-pack habit and try something far more engaging and delicious.

While I personally endorse the spirit of home soda jerking, with all of its creative capacity, I do understand if people feel a bit disinclined to jerk around with soda concoctions. That said; please feel fee to share your favorite sodas (natural, manufactured, jerked, whatever) and how you best like to enjoy them. Shared recipes would be most appreciated.

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


+ add your own
2:40AM PST on Nov 13, 2011

I'm really not a fan of conventional sodas. They always make my teeth feel strangely sticky and unpleasant. Fentimans is great though! It's pretty expensive in the UK so I haven't tried all of their varieties, but I can definitely recommend the ginger beer and Victorian lemonade. The lemonade is great on particularly warm humid days and the ginger beer on cooler days when you want something refreshing, but warming. It's quite spicy!

3:00PM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

i normally don't like soda, but Jones is really good (made with pure cane sugar) and i'm always willing to try something new and interesting, as long as it's not one of the super unhealthy big brand sodays >.

12:03PM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

I love sparkling water...

12:02PM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

I love sparkling water...

11:47PM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

Thanks for posting.

10:07PM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

For such an aficianado i'm surprised there was no mention of Seattles Jones Soda Co.
Where else are you gonna get "Turkey and gravy" soda for Thanksgiving?

9:15PM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

Love the stuff but homemade is better. Homemade lemonade and iced tea.

3:35PM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

I have an infusion pitcher with a slotted core where you add fresh or frozen fruit and let it sit in the fridge until the fruits infuse the water with flavor.
Then we use our ISI carbonated water system to make it into soda with no sugar at all. It's great and refreshing.

1:25PM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

I really like soda but I don't drink much of it anymore.I won't touch diet soda, way too many chemicals.Stevia tastes excessively sweet and like there is something wrong with it.I like real actual sugar, everything else tastes too chemical.Sugar and honey, so there, I've committed a crime against weight and bees...

1:25PM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

Drink what the lions drink!

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