I am willing to bet that Craft soda is going to be the next big thing following on from the popularity of craft beer. You heard it here first.
Whether it’s beer, cider, spirits, chocolate, coffee, all of these things have increased in popularity with small, artisanal producers vying with each other for a small piece of the market. I think the next product that will fall under the eye of small producers may be Soda or fizzy drinks as I like to call them. Fizzy drinks have gotten so much bad press recently primarily because of sugar content and how much is present. If there is one thing in which small, artisanal producers take care over it’s the ingredients they use (that and graphic design/branding of course).
Small independent “craft brewers” sprang up as an alternative option to massive multinational breweries controlling the beer market, they provide a wider, more diverse range of products to the consumer seeking something different. The market for fizzy drinks is similarly controlled by a few super-massive companies and conglomerates it seem uncannily similar to the beer market in that regard.
Until more people start producing soda for the masses I have been mixing up some up my own. There is a really big interest in “craft” products and although the definition is somewhat fuzzy I think we can all agree that it doesn’t get much craftier than producing something in your own kitchen.
That is why I want to dedicate this, and a further few posts to exploring the “craft” of making Soda.
What is Soda?
For everyone here in Britain we don’t really use the term soda a lot. We’re more likely to be asking for a fizzy pop/soft drink or using a brand name like Pepsi, Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper, Fanta or Tango. If the craft soda revolution is going to gain traction though we need to get the marketing lingo right.
Soda gets its name from soda water, a British invention . . . kind of. In 1767 an English chemist called Joseph Priestly devised a way to artificially carbonate water.
The process involved suspending a vat of water over a fermenting beer at a brewery in Leeds. The carbon dioxide produced by the fermenting beer seemed to Joseph to have a pleasant taste. He developed the process further and published a paper titled Impregnating Water with Fixed Air. The process involved dripping sulfuric acid onto chalk (calcium carbonate) to produce carbon dioxide, the gas was passed through water to produce effervescent water.
Johann Jacob Schweppe a young german watchmaker further developed the work of Joseph Priestly and found sodium bicarbonate and tartaric acid produced a similar product. He patented the “Geneva System” to produce his sparkling water or Soda water and sold it on mass under the Schweppes brand created in 1783.
By 1800 soda water had reached Dublin and a company called A & R Thwaites began to produce soda water themselves. They are believed to be the first company to market the water under the term soda water.
During this time soda water was thought to be medicinal. To begin with for instance, Soda water was thought to be a preventative measure against scurvy. Bottled soda-water was among the articles salvaged from the wreck of the Royal George, which sank off Spithead in 1782.
Lord Byron also reportedly claimed soda water as a reviving drink after a night out spent drinking heavily.
Soda Water with Flavourings
The medicinal virtues of soda water didn’t last that long and soon enough soda waters were being flavoured, one of the earliest flavourings used was Lemon. A combination of citric acid, lemon essence and sugar syrup were combined with the soda water to create what we know as Lemonade. One of the first companies to do this was Schweppes and by the mid-nineteenth century soda was growing fast.
This expansion reflected the gradual increase in leisure. It was no coincidence that at the Great Exhibition of 1851 vast numbers of people drank lemonade, ginger beer, Seltzer water and soda-water all supplied by Messrs Schweppes, who paid £5000 for the concession.
Wines, spirits, beer and intoxicating drinks were forbidden at the Crystal Palace, being evidently out of keeping with the high purpose of its promoters. As a result over a million bottles of soft drinks were sold, representing almost half the company’s production for that year. – British Soft Drinks
Nowadays soda water is made by force carbonating water rather than as a chemical process and it is mainly called sparkling water in the UK. Force carbonating water involves placing water in a sealed container and forcing carbon dioxide into the water. The process is exactly the same as kegging beer in a corny keg.
If you are old enough to remember the 1970’s or 1980’s you’ll probably remember the Soda stream which became popular with the slogan “Get Busy With The Fizzy”. In use it is a kitchen appliance to carbonate water with carbon dioxide, the resulting water you add a flavouring to.
The use of sugar syrups is how the vast majority of fizzy drinks or sodas are made today. Go into any pub up or down the country and as for a coke and the staff behind the bar will pick up the soda gun and press a button for Coca-cola or Pepsi. In the cellar a certain amount of cola syrup will be mixed with carbonated water at a ratio of about 1 to 5. The only difference there is when you buy a bottle of coke from the shops is that the syrup is already mixed with the water.
Making your own soda is a case of deciding on a flavour, infusing this into a sugar syrup and then mixing it with carbonated water which you can either buy from the shop or make in a soda stream if you have one. If you’re a home brewer and have a keg setup you can even force carbonate water in a keg.
Craft Soda Recipe – Ginger Soda
To make your own soda at home then is simple, all you need is two things:
- Flavoured sugar syrup
- Carbonated water
Keeping this in mind I want to share a recipe for one of the earliest iterations of soda flavours Ginger. Although Ginger beer has been around longer in the form of an alcoholic beverage, this version of Ginger soda is more akin to something like Old Jamaican Fiery Ginger Beer but with a lot less sugar.
Ginger Soda Recipe
As I mentioned before, what we are doing is making a syrup which is then mixed with carbonated water, the syrup will last for a week or so in the fridge and you can mix up your soda whenever you want a glass.
All you will need to make around 250ml of Ginger Syrup is these ingredients:
- 6 inch piece of fresh Root Ginger
- 1 tablespoon of Ground Ginger
- 150g Sugar
- 450ml water
To make the Ginger Syrup chop the ginger into matchsticks, I didn’t even bother peeling it, just give it a wash
Place in a pan with the sugar and the water and bring to the boil.
Once boiling whisk in the ground ginger and reduce the liquid by half which will take around 10-15 minutes at a moderate simmer
Strain the syrup to remove the root ginger into sanitised bottles.
To make the ginger soda mix the syrup with carbonated water in a ratio of 1 part syrup to 5 parts water. You can adjust the ratio to suit your taste and of course if you like your ginger soda even spicier up the root ginger a bit more.
More Craft Sodas?
This is the first of a few recipes I want to post up here. I have a Pineapple and Basil Soda I like and Kiwi and Juniper that is nice and refreshing both recipes inspired by this book, I mean it doesn’t get more craft than that, surely. The other recipe I’m working on is for Cola so stay tuned for more.