Making homemade soda is a great activity for the whole family.
WRITTEN BY HEIDI BETHEL
PHOTOS BY ASA GILMORE
Whether it’s orange or grape, sea salt lime or banana brown sugar, families today are skipping the two-liter bottle of soda at the grocery store and opting for a more personalized approach. These homemade beverages pack a ton of flavor along with the benefits of using real ingredients, rather than the processed chemicals and artificial flavors you’ll find in their commercial counterparts.
“I find it really concerning that we’re constantly hearing about the health effects from high fructose corn syrup and fake lemony flavors,” explains Genni Farrell, Reno mother of three. “My kids love to help in the kitchen, and making sodas gives us the chance to complement our meals and snack time with a healthy drink option.”
Farrell adds that she and her husband enjoy making sodas, since they don’t drink alcohol often.
“This also is a fun way to enjoy mocktails that we can spike when we have company over,” she says.
Many local businesses, including Great Basin Brewing Co. in Reno and Sparks and Brasserie Saint James in Reno, proudly serve home-brewed sodas. These bubbly concoctions embody the same care and creativity as those establishments’ craft beers.
“We’re starting to see a cult following for handcrafted sodas, especially root beer,” says Jordan Moore, brewery representative for Brasserie Saint James. “With our version, we use the same well water we produce for our beer. This combined with local honey, vanilla extract, and vanilla cream, gives it a nice roundness.”
Farrell has provided a few favorite soda recipes (listed below), and she also recommends visiting Reno Homebrewer for supplies. Another great resource for distinctive syrups and beverage ideas is The Artisan Soda Workshop by Andrea Lynn. This book presents an overview of the history of soda (Did you know that America is the first place where soda became popular on small- and large-scale production?) followed by creative, natural syrup ideas.
Cheers to a season filled with tasty sips!
Heidi Bethel is a freelance writer whose beverage of choice is soda water with a splash of freshly squeezed juice. She enjoys this so much, she’s invested in her own Sodastream and highly recommends it to anyone who has the same fondness for effervescent H2O.
Strawberry Lime Soda
(courtesy of Genni Farrell. Serves 1)
1 part freshly squeezed lime juice
1 part simple syrup (recipe below)
2 strawberries, sliced
Muddle lime juice, simple syrup, and strawberries in glass until strawberries are crushed and they form thick syrup. Add ice and top with soda water. Farrell recommends substituting different fruits, herbs, and even cucumber in place of strawberries.
For simple syrup: Bring 1 cup water to boil. Dissolve 2 cups sugar in boiling water, stirring constantly. Once sugar dissolves completely, remove pan from heat. Allow to cool completely and thicken. Store for up to one month in an airtight container in refrigerator.
Homemade Root Beer
(courtesy of Genni Farrell. Makes about 2½ quarts)
6 cups water
3 ounces dried sassafras root
½ ounce burdock root
½ teaspoon anise seeds
4 allspice berries
1 inch of cinnamon stick
¼ cup dark molasses
3 to 4 wintergreen leaves (can substitute extract)
2 cups sugar
2 quarts soda water
Scrub roots clean of any dirt. Put roots into small pot and cover with water. Add cloves, anise seeds, allspice berries, and cinnamon stick. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add molasses and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add wintergreen leaves, and let mixture cool to room temperature.
Strain through cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve lined with paper towel. While that strains, rinse pot. Return liquid to pot. Add sugar, then heat until just simmering and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
To make root beer drink, use 1 tablespoon syrup over ice to 1 cup soda water. Stir and enjoy!