November 16, 2012

Homemade Soda Holiday Gift Ideas 2012

It's that time of year again.  Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is sneaking up fast.  As of this post, there's only one week until the dreaded Black Friday.  The Holiday shopping season is upon us.
So now you need some gift ideas for that special someone who has taken up a sodamaking hobby.  We can be a hard bunch to shop for, I know.  If you're having some trouble, here are 10 ideas that I have handpicked for anyone who loves homemade soda.

1. The Artisan Soda Workshop by Andrea Lynn

This little book would make a great stocking stuffer.  For anyone who is into natural ingredients and artisan foods, this book is a great companion.  The recipes in it were developed with the Sodastream in mind, so it's a perfect segue from the commercially available sodastream syrups to DIY prowess.  The flavors in here are really inspiring, too.  From Rhubarb Basil and Rosemary Lemonade to Tomato Water and Persimmon-Black Pepper Shrub.  

Fee Brothers has been serving mixologists since 1920 with drink mixes and flavorings.  They have an impressive lineup of syrups for beverages including Watermelon, Sour Apple, Warm Ginger, Grape, Orange, Lemon, Lime, and many more.  

3. iSi Soda Siphon
iSi has been in the soda siphon and cream whipper business for quite some time.  If you want to go vintage, there are glass syphons with mesh from other manufacturers, but iSi offers a brushed aluminum that will hold up to some wear and is more economical, but still has the vintage feel.  Andrew Schloss recommends these in his book as an easy way for quick force carbonated soda.

Bottling in glass bottles is fun.  There's something nostalgic about it.  You can make that experience even more nostalgic with overrun caps.  A plain cap is inexpensive, but lacks character.  This seller on ebay has the best variety of new, unused bottle caps.  You don't have to worry about getting ancient caps that may or may not seal, and you get a great assortment to avoid the mundane.

5. Vintage Soda Crates
If you are bottling in glass bottles, that means that you're storing glass bottles somewhere.  Under the stairs, in the closet, in milk crates, in cardboard boxes.  Vintage soda crates usually run about $25 each depending on where you find them.  This seller on ebay has good feedback and a wide selection.  Check flea markets, craigslist, and antique stores in your area if you want to buy local.  Sometimes garage sales have them for a great price, too.

6. Homebrew Kit
Go old school with a homebrew soda equipment kit from Midwest Supplies.  The process is simple: boil and strain your roots (or easier yet, use an extract), add sugar, pitch the yeast, bottle, and wait.  The process is made easier with a bottling bucket and bottle filler.  

7.Mr. Root Beer or Copernicus Kit.

If you want to go old school, but don't want the big batch kit from Midwest, try an all inclusive kit from Mr. Root Beer or Copernicus.  Kits include everything you need to make a yeast brewed batch of soda.  Pretty much you just add water.  The Mr. Root Beer Kit even includes bottles.

8. Roots and Herbs
Starwest Botanicals is one of the top finds for bulk herbs and spices.  They have a wide selection that includes common root beer and cola ingredients such as sarsaparilla root, sassafras root bark, burdock root, dandelion root, star anise, vanilla beans, and many more.  When using herbs and roots, it's always advisable that these were originally used for medicinal purposes, so it's important to know what these herbs were used for to avoid any unwanted side effects.

9. Fix the Pumps by Darcy O'Neil
From mixologist Darcy O'Neil, author of the Art of Drink blog, Fix the Pumps tells the history of the soda fountain and includes old time formulations using their original ingredients.  A must have history lesson for any soda maker.

Gnome specializes in old fashioned flavors and comes highly recommended.  Available in Crystal Clear Vanilla Cream Soda, Dark Vanilla Cream Soda, Draft Style Root Beer, Autumn Red Birch Beer, and Spicy Ginger Beer.  Add your favorite sweetener to taste and carbonate naturally or under pressure.  Their home page has instructions and sugar equivalents, but these must be purchased through other retailers such as CHI, Midwest, Northern Brewer and other homebrew supply stores.

November 9, 2012

Recipe 21 - Paris Lemon Mint Cooler Soda

This is a recipe that my sister asked me to make up for her wedding.  The idea came from something she had on her trip to Europe.  I think it was basically a sprig of mint leaves and a lemon wedge in ice water, but as I was putting this together for her reception, I thought it would be better sweetened and carbonated.  It worked out very well and I received many compliments on it.  It was such a whirlwind that I personally didn’t get any great pictures of it, but it was a great presentation.  The pictures here are courtesy of their photographer Katie.  The syrup I made was mixed into carafes with club soda.  There was a sprig of mint leaves in some, and raspberries in some others.  The raspberries added a touch of color and some great flavor that mixed in very well with the lemon and the mint. 

I also recently made this and bottled it for a cookout with friends and my kids loved it.  I thought the mint made it more of a sophisticated flavor, but I apparently couldn’t keep this around long enough for many adults to try it.  Imagine that.

1/2 cup Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Mint Extract
1 lb sugar

This recipe is incredibly simple, but is also incredibly tasty.  Prepare your basic sugar syrup, many longtime readers know I prefer to invert mine.  If you plan on bottling this beverage to store for a while, add the lemon juice when the mixture is still hot to kill off any wild yeasts that might be in the juice.  You don’t want to boil the lemon juice with the sugar, though, or else you will destroy most of the citric acid.  If you’re planning on keeping your final beverage refrigerated or consuming this rather quickly, you can wait for the sugar to cool before adding the juice.  You definitely want to wait for it to cool before adding the mint flavor, the menthol that give mint it’s characteristic flavor boils off quickly, so you’ll end up losing some of the flavor if your sugar is too hot.  (And if you do happen to add it while your sugar is too hot, be sure your face isn’t right over the pot, menthol burns your eyes.)

This is enough syrup for 1 gallon of finished beverage, though the nature of this beverage also lends itself well to more subtle flavors.  So depending on your tastes, you may end up with enough syrup for 1.5-2 gallons finished beverage if you like your flavors and sweetness on this one a little more subdued.

November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Tony Stark, the Homemade Soda Expert.
Happy Halloween everyone!  I've decided that I would go ahead and break my own unwritten rule of remaining anonymous and faceless here on my blog.  I needed to show off something that I built in a cave with a box of scraps.  Of course by cave, I mean on my living room coffee table, and by box of scraps, I mean a box and some other stuff I had lying around but not necessarily in the box.  But because Trick-or-Treating was postponed in our neighborhood due to weather, I at least needed to awe someone with my glowing chest piece.

I promise I do have a head above my eyes, and I'm not sure how that pumpkin photobombed my picture.  Actually, this was a photo for a contest.  Which is why I'm here today.  Midwest Supplies is hosting their annual Boo Brew giveaway, and who couldn't use some extra supplies to build up their recipe repertoire?  If you like my blog, and you like what I do here, and you would like to see more.  You can do your part to make this blog better by voting for my picture on their Facebook promotion Here.  Voting is open until 11/7.

Thanks for your support!  Now go make some soda!
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