Sweet, bubbly, and refreshing, there’s nothing quite like an ice cold soft drink on a hot day. Perhaps it’s the effervescence in a glass, or the sugar rush, or maybe even the simple fact that dopamine is released for each sip we take, soda pop is deeply ingrained in Western food culture. After all, you needn’t go very far to get your fix.
The fact that a daily soda habit is not good for you is nothing new. While the excessive amount of sugars in soft drinks is primarily to blame for its association with diabetes, obesity, heart disease, tooth decay, and an increased risk of dementia and cancer, sadly opting for the diet version isn’t much better.
So what’s a soda addict to do? The answer is to make your own healthful fizzy drinks at home!
Homemade vs. Store Bought Soda
The average can of store bought soda pop contains 140 calories, 39 grams of sugar, 34 milligrams of caffeine, and 45 milligrams of sodium. It’s made with phosphoric acid, which gives soda its tanginess, but also can reduce the amount of calcium in your body and lead to a decrease in bone mass density.
Dark sodas like cola and root beer are brown because of the addition of caramel color, an artificial food coloring that includes the chemical 4-methylimidazole which has been linked to an increased cancer risk. Another chemical of concern is benzene, a known carcinogen that forms in soft drinks when they contain both benzoate salts and ascorbic acid and are exposed to heat or light. The FDA contends that the amount of benzene in sodas is so low, it doesn’t pose an acute health risk; however, most scientists agree that there is no safe level of exposure to a carcinogen.
Lastly, the inclusion of “natural flavors” on the label is just as opaque as it sounds, a banner under which all ingredients that are either derived from nature or are synthesized from a natural source, can fall under. Frankly, we’ll never know what exactly natural flavors entail – a mixture of anywhere between 50 and 100 individual ingredients – and we can only hope that our favorite soft drink doesn’t contain beaver anal secretions!
Homemade soda, on the other hand, is all about control. You get to choose what sweeteners to use, the natural ingredients it will contain, and tweak recipes to your heart’s desire. As a bonus, when you elect to use reusable bottles, you will be significantly reducing the amount of waste you generate.
The Basics of Homemade Soda
To get started making your own pop, you will need four basic elements:
To get those uplifting bubbles, you will need to have access to carbonated water. While you may wish to invest in a good quality soda maker or a soda siphon, you can also make fizzy water at home with dry ice, yeast, ginger bug, or a combination of baking soda and vinegar. An easy, low-cost solution for when you are just starting out is to purchase a bottle or two of soda water, and once you get the hang of the process, look into more sustainable carbonation options.
Here’s where you can be certain that the flavors you use are indeed natural and real. You’ll want to have plenty of herbs, fruits, spices, extracts, and food-grade essential oils on hand to get experimenting with different flavor combinations. You’ll also need an acid to help strike a balance between sour and sweet. Here are some examples:
- Fruit – Berries, pineapples, peaches, oranges, and other especially flavorful fruits
- Herbs & Spices – Ginger, mint, celery seed, cinnamon
- Acids – Lemon juice, lime juice, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar
- Extracts – Vanilla, chocolate, almond
Most DIY soda pop recipes involve heating up white sugar on the stove top to make a flavored syrup. You can have your sweetness and keep things on the healthy side by choosing natural sweeteners like raw honey, stevia, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and blackstrap molasses. Not only will you benefit from antioxidants and other beneficial compounds, you can adjust the sweetness level to your personal tastes.
While you can make soda by the glass, it’s much more efficient to brew up a larger batch. These reusable 16-ounce glass bottles with rubber gaskets are perfect for soda making. Before you distribute your finished soda to the bottles, you’ll need to sterilize them first.
Homemade Soda Recipes:
Here are some soda syrup recipes to get you started – just add it to soda water. For best results, the seltzer should be cold. Store it in the fridge until it’s time to stir in the syrup. Whether you choose to replicate name brand soft drinks or delve into fruit-infused sodas, keep in mind that the more syrup you add to the carbonated water, the more intense the flavor will be.
To make cola syrup, you will need the grated zest and juice of a lemon, lime, and two oranges, cinnamon sticks, coriander seed, grated nutmeg, vanilla extract, bitter orange peel, with the optional additions of gum arabic and browning sauce for color. If you’d rather use essential oils instead of fresh ingredients, see this alternative version of cola.
2. Ginger Ale
The secret of perfecting homemade ginger ale is simmering fresh ginger on the stove and allowing it to steep for the fullest ginger flavor. All you need for this recipe is fresh ginger, lime juice, water, sweetener, and seltzer.
3. Lime Soda
Lime soda is so easy to make and its flavor profile is so much more refreshing than the store-bought version. Make it by simmering lime juice and rind along with a sweetener until it’s reduced, then mix with seltzer.
4. Root Beer
To achieve the flavor complexity of root beer from scratch, you’ll need sarsaparilla root and sarsaparilla root bark, burdock root, cinnamon sticks, star anise, licorice root, vanilla beans, and orange zest. This recipe also calls for brewer’s yeast for carbonation.
5. Cream Soda
To make the syrup for traditional vanilla cream soda, you will need heavy cream and vanilla extract. As a bonus, this recipe includes instructions for making raspberry cream soda and orange cream soda.
6. Grape Soda
Turn your lips a nice shade of purple with this fresh grape soda concoction. You’ll need about three pounds of red seedless grapes and fresh ginger for natural carbonation.
7. Orange Soda
Simple and clean, this orange soda recipe calls for freshly squeezed orange juice, orange zest, lime zest, and honey to sweeten.
8. Kiwi Soda
Only three ingredients are needed to make this refreshing drink: kiwis, lime juice, and agave nectar. Simply blend it together and top with soda water.
9. Coffee Soda
Want to try carbonated coffee? All you need is brewed coffee (or a shot of espresso), sweetened syrup, and seltzer.
Steep fresh cucumbers, mint leaves, and basil leaves in sweetened syrup for 30 minutes, then combine with soda water for this cool and refreshing bevvy.
Need some more inspiration? Here are 50 more unique twists on the classic soda pop!