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Sunday, May 22

Homemade Soda – By Andrew Schloss

The good folks at Thomas Allen & Son sent me a copy of this lovely book (per my request) to review. So far, so good!

Last night we had friends over for a round of The Game of Things. I’ve mentioned it before. Have you bought it yet? No? Go get it! But, getting back to the book, I decided that would be a good time to try out one of the recipes. There are 200 hundred recipes from which to choose, so it was a little overwhelming, until I saw that there is a whole chapter devoted to “shrubs” and similar drinks.

What is a shrub? According to Mr. Schloss shrubs are “soft drinks spiked with vinegar. They were developed as temperance beverages in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with vinegar taking the place of alcohol…”

I had my first (and until last night, only) taste of a shrub at a Colonial period-themed restaurant near Boston about six or seven years ago. I quite enjoyed it back then, and I was very excited to taste something similar. So we made the “Sangria Shrub” recipe. The feedback was mostly positive. I found the recipe called for just a tad too much vinegar, as did Uncle Dork. But my new friend K seemed to enjoy hers. She said it tasted like Sweet Tarts.

Ultimately, it was good enough that I have faith enough in the book to try more recipes. The recipe was easy to make (though some of the recipes in the book require pre-making a syrup, which will be a little more work). There are some really unique combinations (orange honey ginger ale, coffee chocolate stout, cantaloupe clementine soda, peach habanero tongue twister, etc.). And the book is peppered with interesting tidbits on the history and culture of soda, as well as the occassional “mixology” section for mixing adult drinks with the recipes. The book ends with a section of food recipes (everything from main dishes like sweet heat mahogany chicken wings to desserts like brown sugar pecan cake with root beer frosting). And everything is presented in a pretty design (though the title font on the recipes can be difficult to read at times).

My favorite part of the book so far is the wondrous and glorious secret revealed within regarding Cherry Coke. But first, some background…

We can’t buy Cherry Coke in Canada. They used to sell it years and years and yeeeaaars ago, well before I lived here. Having grown up in the states I had developed a love for this particular nectar of the gods. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make trips over the border to bring back a fridge worth (though I was able to share in someone else’s cross-border loot once or twice). Occasionally I would add some maraschino cherry juice to a glass of cola, but it was never quite the same.

This book has changed everything.

Behold, the secret to making Cherry Coke at home:

“Although we may associate cherry flavor with cherries, it is mostly because the foods it flavors are commonly dyed red. It looks like a cherry, but it tastes like…almond extract. That’s right. The flavor of all cherry-flavored concoctions is almond. The aromatic in almond extract is benzaldehyde, a toxic substance derived from bitter almonds and detoxified of cyanide for consumption. Benzaldehyde is also found in the pits of most drupe fruits, like apricots, prunes, and most notably, cherries.”

Almond extract?

Almond extract!

And, guess what, it works! Now, this may not be exciting to all you lucky people who’ve had steady access to the glory that is Cherry Coke. But for us forsaken residents of the Great White North, this is better than any rapture.

It also says to me that the author, Andrew Schloss, knows what the heck he’s talking about! So if you’re interested in making sodas at home (whether it be because you’re a foodie looking for some more unique flavours, or you’re concerned about the types of sweeteners being used in commercially available sodas), I highly recommend Homemade Soda: 200 Recipes for Making and Using: fruit sodas and fizzy juice; sparkling waters; root beers and cola brews; herbal and healing waters; sparkling teas and coffees; shrubs and switchels; cream sodas and floats; and other carbonated concoctions.

Now excuse me…but there’s a bottle of cola and a bottle of almond extract calling my name…

…What? I can have cherry cola with breakfast, right?


3 Stubborn Stains:

Holly Diane said...

Wow.. I have never even thought of making my own soda. You do make it sound interesting but my lazy self wins out on not doing this.

I featured you on my blog today as a favorite :)

Enjoy your soda!

kitchen koala said...

Almond extract! I KNEW it was "cherry" flavored, but I never put 2 and 2 together. Now I'm off to make my favorite soda (that I can't find ANYWHERE) anymore: Cherry 7-up.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your review. I just purchased this book as I recently bought a Soda Stream machine to make my own soda water. I live in Canada too, so your piece on cherry coke was good to know, I looooove cherry coke. Will also have to take a look at those 'shrubs'.


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