The DIY craze, which makes wannabe homemakers age their own cheese and brew craft beer, has reached our cola. But before you shake your head and hide your stash of Pepsi, read the soothing words of cookbook author Andrew Schloss: “Making soda yourself is stupid easy,” he reassures. “All you need is a sauce pan, some tall glasses and lots of ice. If you have a soda siphon [such as Sodastream] it greatly expands the possibilities.” Of course, there’s one more addition you might want: Schloss’ new book, “Homemade Soda.”
Why make homemade soda when it’s so easy to just go out and buy it?
There are several benefits — less sugar, for one. The recipes in the book have about half the sweetener that’s in most commercial sodas and if you want to lower your consumption of high fructose corn syrup, there is none in homemade sodas. It isn’t even available to home cooks. The other benefits is flavor — you can be way more creative than soda manufacturers who have to appeal to a mass market. There’s also nutrition. By working with fresh juices and purees you can actually get real nutrients into your soda.
How did you come up with so many recipes for soda?
The flavor combinatons of sodas are almost limitless. I look at flavors that go together in chewable foods and in different cuisines, not just those typical for beverages, when I’m thinking about making sodas.
What is a big misconception about homemade soda?
That it is difficult to make. It can be as simple as sweetening juice or tea or coffee or a pureed fruit and mixing it with carbonated water.
Which is your favorite recipe?
I love the fermented honey soda because it is made from three ingredients and the flavor of the honey is transformed. It is awesomely delicious.
What’s the best way for a novice soda-maker to start?
Buy a bottle of seltzer and mix it into a little bit of honey and lemon juice — completely refreshing.
Extracts aren’t necessary for cola flavor. After all, those extracts originally started as real ingredients, so why not go right to the source? This formula yields a beautiful cola concoction using all fresh and dried ingredients, readily available in most home refrigerators and spice cupboards. The one ingredient you might have to search for is gum arabic. It’s there for mouthfeel rather than flavor, so if you don’t have it, your cola will still be delicious; it will just seem a little thin.
1 quart water
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
3 large (5-inch) cinnamon sticks, broken into small
2 tablespoons dried bitter orange peel
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon finely grated
1 teaspoon gum arabic
2 pounds sugar
1/4 cup browning sauce, suchas Kitchen Bouquet
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract enough for 5 quarts brewed cola
Combine the water, lemon zest, lime zest, orange zest, cinnamon, bitter orange peel, coriander seed, nutmeg, and gum arabic (if using) in a large saucepan. Whisk together until the gum arabic dissolves. Stir in the sugar and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon, lime, and orange juices, along with the browning sauce and vanilla. Let cool, then strain. This syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Credit: Aran Goyoaga
If you are looking for the nuanced flavor of a fermented soda but don’t want to go to the hassle of bottling, try this recipe. The flavor base is mixed with yeast and set aside to ferment at room temperature for a couple of days. During that time the yeast will digest some of the sugar and start to build some savory flavors into the juice. As soon as it tastes right, the mixture is heated, which kills the carbonation and the yeast, thus setting the fermented flavor. The flavor base is then stored, ready to be carbonated whenever the mood strikes.
1 quart unsweetened apple juice
½ cup turbinado or light brown sugar
2 medium (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
Finely grated zest and juice of ½ lime
Pinch of champagne yeast (Saccharomyces bayanus)
Combine the apple juice, sugar, and cinnamon in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves, and then remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest and juice. Let cool to a warm room temperature, from 75 to 80°F, then strain out the cinnamon and lime zest. Add the yeast and stir until it is completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into a clean jar or other sealable container, cover, and let sit at room temperature until very bubbly, about three days. Carefully decant the liquid into a large saucepan, leaving behind any sediment that has fallen to the bottom of the fermenting container. Heat to a simmer to stop the fermentation, and then remove from the heat and let cool. The flavored juice will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
To mix with seltzer
2⁄3 cup fermented apple juice
2⁄3 cup seltzer
Pour the juice into a tall glass. Add the seltzer and stir just until blended. Add ice and serve.