While restaurants have unique dishes created by their chefs, house made sodas are fast becoming the popular drink of non-alcoholic choice, replacing iced tea. “It’s another avenue in which a restaurant can showcase its vision and personality,” says Nahm Kim, Sunda mixologist.
Frankie’s Scaloppine General Manager Matt Whittaker notes that customers want options beyond traditional sodas, inspiring restaurants to create their own spin on the drink.
Tavernita Batchologist Scott Huth recounts researching homemade soda recipes and reading Darcy O’Neil’s Fix the Pumps, about the history of the soda fountain. “It really helped us come up with a hybrid approach of using ‘homemade’ ingredients such as orange zest for our Valencia crush orange soda,” says Mr. Huth.
Tavernita offers a one-of-a-kind custom draft system that serves cocktails, sangrias and sodas. But the restaurant didn’t stray far from its roots, as it uses typical Spanish flavors. “The genesis of our soda program came out of discussions about offering the kalimotxo, a combination of half-cola and half-red wine that’s really popular in Spain,” Mr. Huth says.
Likewise, Tavernita’s ingredients are all-natural, made with real cane sugar and mainly organic. For example, the only added sweetener in their “Uva Pop” soda, crafted from white grape soda and rose water, comes from golden raisins.
Allium, at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, wanted to create a menu featuring local and seasonal ingredients, notes Bernhard Duerrmeier, Allium’s restaurant manager. So they devised their own simple syrups, then combined them with natural ingredients – such as spices, herbs and natural extracts – and soda.
Mercadito created refrescos, or “refreshers,” with fresh puree, carbonated soda water, lime juice and simple syrup in a variety of fruit flavors. “Refrescos are especially popular for the lunch guests who don’t want an alcoholic drink,” Mercadito bartender Danny Woods reports.
Presentation is just as important as taste with signature sodas. Mercadito showcases their refrescos in a tall pilsner glass trimmed with flourishes like a salty and spicy garnish or fresh fruit on the rim.
At 2 Sparrows, the soda is a non-alcoholic replica of its signature cocktail, 553. Bartenders shake it over the rocks and top it with soda in a Collins glass; the drink appears layered until mixed for a full flavor combination. In addition, the 553-inspired sodas have healthy components. “The pieces of fruits and vegetables in the signature soda makes it low calorie just as it is,” says General Manager Steven Fladung.
Sunda’s soda is served in a thin carafe filled with soda water, accompanied with a smaller sake glass of syrup; the two are combined tableside. “It definitely grabs the attention of the surrounding tables when poured,” comments Mr. Kim.
Whether using them as mixers or enjoying them as they are, signature sodas have revolutionized the non-alcoholic, but very grown-up drink. And it’s fun to see just how creative many of these dining places can be with soda, fruit and syrups.
Written by Chiara Milioulis