Do you love bubbles? I LUUUUURRVE bubbles. All kinds of bubbles. Bubbles in cappuccino. Bubbles in champagne. Bubbles in a bath or hot tub. Bubbles in soda. But, wait a second—I rarely drink soda, even though I adore those tickly, fizzy bubbles popping lightly in my mouth. Why? Because commercial sodas are, simply put, too sweet. Kiddy sweet. Treacly. Show me a real foodie, and I will show you someone who wouldn’t be caught dead quaffing a standard-issue sickeningly sweet soda pop. But that would all change—when I got my hands on a SodaStream home soda fountain.
Soda came. It sweetened. It conquered.
Back in the 1800s, soda pop first was mass produced and then popularized by English inventor, John Matthews, who then immigrated to the U.S. Around the late 1800s, the right combination of bottles and cork-topped caps made distribution possible. Vending machines dispensing the new soda pop came along in the 1920s. Coca-cola, Pepsi-cola, and Dr. Pepper were among the earliest commercial soda brands, followed soon thereafter by 7-Up, and a bazillion others.
Somewhere between then and now, soda pop became overly commercialized, subverted, and warped. For some reason, the soda-makers decided to make their beverages super-sweet. Coca-Cola, for instance, has 39 grams of sugar—or the equivalent of 10 packets of sugar—in one 12 oz. can of soda. Who would take a cup and a half of tea and add 10 packets of sugar to it? That kind of sweetness level is insane.
Sure, lots of people opt for diet sodas, to skip sugar altogether. But diet sodas contain aspartame—which converts to wood alcohol in the blood, or sucralose—which is akin to chlorine. When you design your own sodas, you can still go the artificial sweetener route—SodaStream makes a line of diet soda flavorings (sweetened with sucralose), but a better way to go might be to mix your own sodas and simply use a smaller amount of sweetener—say, a teaspoon or two per serving.
Dissatisfied foodies have gone on to create more sophisticated sodas, and you can find delectable—and soberly sweetened—bubbly treats, such as Reed’s Ginger Brew and Boylan’s. These soda micro-brewers make their soda the old-fashioned way—soda fountain style—without artificial anything. And now you can, too. The bottom line is that SodaStream empowers you to make your soda the way you like it. You become the mixmaster. The demi-god of the fizz. And with an urge to explore and have fun, well, mixing your own soda fits right in.
Cue Journey’s “Any Way You Want It”
SodaStream has been around for a while, but is enjoying resurgence in popularity lately, with a redesigned website and some snazzy marketing. Once you have a home soda fountain, it’s easy to understand why: the carbonation units are highly portable: light-weight, cordless, and just easy. The unit I have, the red Fountain Jet, works like a dream and feels like a party. We drink “frizzy” water (the Italians call it frizzante) every night at supper. Sorry, Pellegrino. You’ve gotten our money for many years, but no more. Saving carbon is an environmentally caring choice. No more bottles to recycle, no more lugging back and forth. We now go local. As local as our own kitchen and our own little SodaStream, which is cute, too, by the way, and doesn’t take up much counter space.
How to Be a Soda Mixmaster
The secret is gourmet flavoring syrups. You know, the kind you can get at Cost Plus World Market or in Starbucks. Simply make the sparkling water with your SodaStream, and add in the desired amount of flavoring syrup. Voila! Artisanal soda at your fingertips.
Look for gourmet flavoring syrups that:
· Use pure cane sugar, not artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup
· Do not use artificial colors (some have no colorings, others do—check the ingredients list before buying)
· Use predominantly natural flavorings (some use artificial flavors, such as chocolate or cinnamon, but I am willing to forgive this as long as the other two conditions are satisfied)
Gourmet Flavoring Syrup Makers
Torani—sold at CostPlus World Market
Nature’s Flavors Organic Flavor Concentrate—costs more, but nothing artificial ever
Exotic Sodas You Can Make
· Pumpkin soda
· Passion fruit
· Chocolate mint
· Asian rose
· White chocolate
· Irish cream
· Chipotle pineapple
· Habañero lime soda
Funky, Original Sodas You Can Create
· Green tea soda
· Peach white tea soda
· Gingerbread (mix cinnamon and ginger)
· Piña colada soda (mix pineapple and coconut)
Now, compound that wild list of potential soda flavors with what you could do in terms of “grown-up drinks,” (this is what we tell our five-year-old to distinguish from the drinks she can taste). Chocolate raspberry martini, anyone?
And oh, yeah, don’t forget soda drinks with a splash of heavy cream. You can make kiddy fountain drinks with a creamy pleasure to them. Think of the fun you can have at your next child’s birthday party? No need to cop out with a giant punch bowl—now you can make custom-tailored kiddy mocktails. And don’t forget about ice cream floats. What joy!
Carolyn’s Ginger Lemon Soda
As a bonus, here’s my original recipe for Ginger Lemon Soda. This will actually make you feel better if you are suffering from the flu. Somehow restorative and at the very least, super-yummy. A truly grown-up refresher that is slightly spicy, although my five-year-old loves it, too.
- One liter of bubblicious SodaStream sparkling water
- Agave nectar or maple syrup to taste (three tablespoons tastes about right to me, but adjust to your desired sweetness level)
- Two teaspoons ginger root juice (grate peeled ginger root and squeeze to get the juice, add more to increase spiciness)
- One tablespoon lemon juice
Add the three flavorings to the liter of sparkling water, being careful because the soda will bubble up when you add the sweetener. When bubbling has slowed, close the top, and gently rock from side to side to disperse the syrup. Serve over ice with a twist of lemon.