December 30, 2014

Year in Review - Top 5 Homemade Soda Recipes of 2014

Another year has come to a close and it's been a decent enough one.  The biggest thing to happen this year is that my book hit store shelves and is now available to the masses.   I didn't dream up as many recipes as I have in past years, but I was somewhat focused on book marketing and other things, so I don't feel too disappointed, especially considering that they've been pretty good quality.  There's still time to whip up something tasty for New Year's Eve, so here's the top five in case you missed them:

#5 - Blueberry Pie Soda

This was a little something I made as a special treat for some friends as a fun way to announce the gender of our next child.  I figured boy=blue, so blue...berry pie would be perfect.  It seemed appropriate for the approaching summer and was quite a hit among friends, even though it wasn't all that blue.

#4 - Blue Bubble Gum Soda

This was my take on both Jones' Blue Bubble Gum and as a checkmark off my Recipe Challenge pinterest board.  The recipe is not mine, but comes from Cherry Tea Cakes.  It turned out fine, though not an exact match to Jones.  I think I prefer the fruitier version that I put into my book, even though it's not blue.

#3 - Psych Roasted Pineapple Soda

 Every bit worthy of a fist bump, this was a tribute to the final season of USA network's Psych.  The only show where there is a pineapple in every episode.  A smoky version of the tasty fruit, this recipe incorporates smoked malt for the grilled notes for a more in depth flavor.  I love that the pineapple juice adds a little bit of head at the top.

#2 - Grape Lime Rickey Soda

This was meant to be a match to the Arizona Beverage Co.'s Grape Lime Rickey and tastes very refreshing for a summer afternoon.  This was a very popular recipe this year and even got served at my sister-in-law's wedding.  

#1 - Mockter Pepper

 With the release of my book this year, I had the opportunity to do some radio interviews and participate in a few giveaways.  It was quite a blast to enjoy the 15 minutes of fame.  As part of the marketing and probably the best revealed recipe of the book has been the recipe for homemade Dr Pepper.  It's not meant to pull out every nuance of the 23 mysterious flavors or topple the beverage giants, but this is a pretty good representation of a classic Dr Pepper for your homebrew keg or sodastream.  There are even instructions for fermenting it to get the carbonation.  Plus, gorgeous photography.

So there you have the top recipes of 2014!  I hope you have a Happy New Year and enjoy some tasty homemade soda along the way!  There are many more recipes to come, so stay tuned.  I'm excited to see what 2015 will bring.

November 28, 2014

Holiday Guide 2014

I don't know about where you are, but here, it's snowing.  Again.  It probably won't let up for another six months, so the only thing left to do is embrace it.  Luckily, with it comes the Holidays.  And even though Holiday shopping can be a stress, trust me, there are worse things you could be doing in the snow.  There's no reason to fret for the soda maker on your list. I've got you covered.

For The Nostalgic
You know the type, always wishing it was the 1950's again.  He's always wishing he could pop a nickle in the vending machine and get an ice cold glass bottle of CocaCola, wondering what happened to the fountain in the corner drugstore.

-Vintage Diner Stools
Nothing says nostalgia like a an old style soda shop or 1950's diner.  If you're making soda in your home and especially if you have a home bar space, serve your soda to your guests in style with this Retro 3-Piece Chrome Bar Stools and Table Set.

 -Vintage Bottle Cappers
Why buy a new plastic bottle capper when you can buy something that has stood the test of time.  I bought a brand new bench capper and while I'm pretty happy with it, I shortly thereafter realized that there are some nice sturdy vintage cappers to be found and put to good use.  Ebay always has a  
Selection of Vintage Bottle Cappers at various prices.

-Soda Pop! Book
For the book shelf.  As a sodamaker, it always helps to know your roots.  Soda Pop!: From Miracle Medicine to Pop Culture is an interesting read that looks at the history of soda pop in general as well as the history of a few specific flavors and brands.  

For The Copycat
So what do you pickup for someone that's like a chameleon?  Someone who is always copying what other people do.  Mimicking the classics down to the last detail.  Give her something to copy.

-Root Beer of the Month Club
One thing that a copycat needs is something to work from.  Some inspiration can be found in the selection of many root beers available.  Signing up for a Root Beer of the Month Club is one way to bring fresh inspiration on a regular basis. The Root Beer Store based in Washington State has a monthly subscription that can be cancelled anytime.  Beverages Direct offers a 3 month subscription for either root beer or gourmet soda, and they also offer various sampler packs.

-Copycat Recipe Books
My own Making Soda at Home has some copycat recipes for Mt. Dew, Dr Pepper, Cola and a few others.  Another book that's been around a while that has a handful of soda recipes among other drink recipes is Top Secret Recipes--Sodas, Smoothies, Spirits, and Shakes.

For The Fermenter
For someone who doesn't mind blurring the lines between soda making and homebrewing, there are a number of options.  Usually the homebrew store has a plethora of options, though some homebrew stores don't cater much to soda makers, and some places simply don't have homebrew stores.  Here are some sure bets.

-Ginger Beer Kit

There are a few different fermentation soda kits out there.  This year Williams-Sonoma has jumped on the band wagon with kits for Ginger Beer, Root Beer, and Hibiscus Lime.

-PET Bottles and Caps

Mr. Beer has been around for a number of years and they have various beer kits and at least one root beer kit.  For fermenting soda, all you need is the bottles.  If you don't want to reuse commercial soda bottles, Mr. Beer offers different sets of new PET bottles including some  740 mL PET Bottles iconand additional sets of Plastic Caps iconfor fermenting safely.

For The Health Nut
The health nut jumped into home soda making for obvious reasons.  You control what you put into it.  You can sweeten with natural sweeteners, or you can put in no sweeteners.

-Stevia Sweetener
Stevia extract is a great way to sweeten without sugar, and it's considered all natural.  This Stevia Liquid Extract is easier to work with than the powders, using only a few drops per cup.  If using for larger amounts of soda, the powders work fine as long as you measure them precisely.

-Water Filter

While there's usually nothing wrong with your usual tap water.  It does typically have residual chlorine.  I don't often notice it in plain tap water, but I can taste it in carbonated water for some reason.  Though it's more of a flavor choice than a health choice, an activated carbon filter is sure to get rid of any off flavors that might be in your tap water.  A filtering pitcher is fine, but a Whole House Water Filtration System is surprisingly inexpensive, especially considering the capacity of how much it can filter.

November 12, 2014

Book Signing: Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA

Once again I'm hitting B&N with a book signing.
The Barnes and Noble at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA has graciously invited me for a book signing where I will be signing books, serving samples, hosting a demo and answering questions about my book.

Click to add to your calendar:

For everyone attending, here is what I have planned: I will be presenting a demonstration showing how to make the Jamaica (Hibiscus) Soda on page 80.  I will also be serving up some bottled samples of flavors including Ginger Ale (p. 88), Caramel Apple (p. 121).

Feel free to stop by and chat, buy a book, drink a soda, or just hang out!

When: Saturday Nov. 15, 2014,  2:00pm to 5:00pm
Where: Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University 400 Market St. Lewisburg, PA

November 9, 2014

Mauna Loa Luau Chili

Fall seems to be the season for chili cook-offs.  I entered this one twice, making it initially sort of on the fly, and it ended up placing both times.

Let me preface this by reminding everyone that Mauna Loa is a volcano, so yes, it's hot.  (Even though Mauna Loa hasn't erupted for quite some time, I am told it is still active.)

Putting this recipe together, the theme was exotic ingredients.  While pineapple isn't exactly the most exotic thing you can throw in a recipe, it's not very common in chili, so I built it from there.

I've never been to an actual Luau, but I imagine the things that might be served there would include pork, something spicy, and there would be lots of fire and grilling.

Here's what you'll need -

To be grilled:
1 lb of pork chops, boneless is best
1 can pineapple in heavy syrup
1/4 medium red onion diced
2 cloves garlic
1 or 2 small habeneros (depending on how deathly hot you want it and the strength of your habeneros)

For the chili:
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
flake red pepper
1/4 c soy sauce
1 Tbsp corn starch
dash black pepper
dash garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 c water

It seems like a long list, but it's easier than it looks.

Start by straining the pineapple, saving the syrup in a saucepan.  Throw them on on the grill with the garlic and onion in a grill basket or sheet of foil.  If you're using a gas grill, get some smoke pellets for flavor.

 Get them nice and toasty before you start grilling anything else.  The pineapple is very moist, so it takes the longest to start to brown.

While the fruits and veggies are grilling, go back to your saucepan.  Mix the syrup with the soy sauce, corn starch, black pepper, garlic powder, brown sugar, and red pepper.  Bring it to a boil as you whisk until it thickens, then add the water.

Back on the grill, throw on the pork chops and the habenero(s).  You want some black on the peppers and the pork to be cooked thoroughly.

 You don't have to grill the habeneros on the pork, it just looks really good that way.

 After grilling, dice up the pork, and the peppers.  I like to really mince the pepper so they blend well with the rest of the chili.  Add the diced meat, peppers, beans, and your pineapple/onion blend to the saucepan.  Let that simmer for about five minutes so everything is nice and hot (temperatue and seasoning).

Dish it up and serve.  And remember it tastes like a volcano.

October 7, 2014

Book Signing: Barnes & Noble Wilkes-King's in Wilkes-Barre, PA 10/11/14

The Barnes and Noble at Wilkes University/King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA has graciously invited me for a book signing where I will be signing books, serving samples, hosting a demo and answering questions about my book.

For anyone attending, here's what I have planned out:
-Demonstration showing how to make the Jamaica (Hibiscus) Soda on page 80

-Samples of Strawberry (p. 61), Ginger Ale (p. 88), Lemon Mint (p. 91), and Caramel Apple (p. 121) as syrups to be mixed with carbonated water.

-Samples of Harvest Apple (p. 109) on tap from a keg.

Feel free to stop by and chat, buy a book, drink a soda, or just hang out!

When: Saturday Oct. 11, 2014,  2:00pm to 4:00pm
Where: Barnes & Noble Wilkes-King's, 7 South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA

August 16, 2014

SodaStream Genesis Kit

So I'm not a huge fan of the SodaStream.  I have a keg, so I don't need to be.  But I do recognize a deal when I see one.

Groupon is running a deal right now for a SodaStream Genesis Kit which includes the Genesis, two bottles, a mini carbonator (3oz - I'm guessing that will carbonate 12-15 L of soda), 4 syrups, and a $20 mail in rebate. You pay 79.99 up front, but you essentially get the whole thing for 59.99 because of the rebate offer. That seems pretty reasonable to me, considering what you get with it.

You pay 79.99 up front, but you essentially get the whole thing for 59.99 because of the rebate offer. That seems pretty reasonable to me, considering what you get with it.

The $20 mail in rebate is pretty ubiquitous, though.  I've seen them on store shelves with the same rebate attached.  If you purchased on recently and didn't get the rebate, you might be able to still pick up that $20 if you still have your receipt, just visit the link below:
SodaStream (Soda-Club) USA

And once you run out of the four flavor mixes included in the kit, there's always more recipes here, or I came across a super why-didn't-I-think-of-that easy way to make your own with Crystal Light packets and still use the same ratio of syrup in your SodaStream bottle.  See the instructable for all the details.

July 18, 2014

Pinterest Recipe Challenge: Blue Bubblegum Soda

I need to make a confession. I'm a dude, and I use Pinterest.

In my defense, the place is getting a lot more dude friendly, so I know I'm not the only male using the site. When it first came out, I didn't understand what all the rage was about, and when it was referred to as a social media site, I was confused. At first glance I couldn't see that it was anything more than a bookmarking site and I thought it was appalling that our social communication had digressed from well scripted eloquent letters to sloppy, hasty emails, to the limited canvas of SMS messages and Twitter to the "let me show you because it's easier to explain it if I take a picture" of instagram, to being so lazy that we have to steal someone else's picture and say "This!" In order to make our point. Yeah, we can't even take our own pictures, now? Wow.

But I've come to see it as what it really is. A collection of things we wish we could do that someone else with a nicer camera has already done.

I have a board that I've chalked up as "recipe challenge" with the express purpose of attempting to make the sodas that others with nicer cameras have already made to see how they stack up. First up is kind of two fold. This is a recipe from Cherry Tea Cakes for blue bubble gum soda.
Blue bubble gum soda from Cherry Tea Cakes, clearly taken with a better camera.
Now, it's not specifically stated, but with a name like blue bubble gum soda, why would you not mention Jones? Bubble gum in my childhood was usually pink, so 'fess up. Tell it like it is. You're trying to do a Jones knock-off.

Basically the recipe is equal parts (by volume) gumballs and water, boiled to extract the flavor and sugar, then mixed with carbonated water to taste. Make sure you read the caveat about not letting the gum stick to the pan, it's important.

One thing that is interesting about this recipe is that at first glance it may seem like it's a natural thing; not using some artificial extract, but pulling the flavor straight from the source. But really? Where do the gumballs get it? Think about that for a minute. Why not just get a bubble gum flavor and some food coloring? It's the same thing, and without the mess. But oh well, every now and again we need to do things the hard way. I have a bubble gum flavor in my book using fruits and juices that mostly avoids extracts, if you want something more natural.

So here's the two fold part: how does the recipe turn out, and how does it compare to Jones? Here's my experience.

My attempt at blue bubble gum soda, taking on the competition.
The flavor is a bit flat. It pulls out enough from the gum without much problem, but the sweetness is lacking a bit. If I were a fan of bubble gum, and I'm not, and I were going to make this again I would definitely add some more sugar. Adding 1/4 cup of sugar per cup of gum seemed to do the trick, other than that, you'll probably subconsciously attempt to blow bubbles with this, because it tastes like bubble gum.

How does it compare with Jones? Jones has a bit more fruity flavor from the citric acid which makes it a more pleasant drink than I remember. In a taste test, I'd pick Jones every time. Which is not to say that you can't add in some citric acid to the homemade, that's easy enough, even if just in the form of lemon juice, it would perk it up.

So the takeaway? If you want to make your own, get your hands on some bubble gum flavor from somewhere like LorAnne's and skip the gooey mess. If you want something natural, use fruits. Or if you want a Jones, buy a Jones.

July 16, 2014

Recipe 34 - Peanut Butter Soda

Continuing on with the celebration of my book's release, I bring you a second recipe this week. Considering that new recipes have been a bit sparse lately, I think you, the reader, deserve it as the least I can do.

Anyone who's familiar with Rocket Fizz will know that this isn't a novel idea. I'm pretty sure I've seen (but never tasted) both a peanut butter soda and a pb&j soda from them, though the reviews weren't all that great. If I remember right, the complaints stemmed from the fact that they tried to give theirs some sort of creamy, thick mouthfeel. I think this should be something that you don't need to drink with a spoon, so I went the powdered peanut butter path. I've heard of homebrewers using this for their peanut butter porters because it has a low oil content and mixed well with water.

Basically it's ground nuts that most of the oil has been pressed out of, so if this gives you the impression that you're mixing up some artificial "just add water" stuff, then you are gravely mistaken. This is all natural "just add water" stuff. And if you had a blender, and an efficient way to press 85% of the oil out, you could probably make your own.

Anyway, when I saw this on the shelf at the local Wal-Mart and discovered that I wouldn't have to order from Amazon, I knew that peanut butter soda was in my future.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 gallon carbonated water

Bring the water to a boil and add the peanut butter powder and remove from heat. Stir and allow to cool. Strain out the larger peanut granules using a fine mesh strainer. Add the sugar and heat to dissolve. Mix the resulting syrup with 1 gal carbonated water or to taste.

It worked out well, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't too oily or gritty. There's enough fine powder to get a nice smooth syrup with minimal filtering. It could use some jelly flavor, or possibly an addition of chocolate flavor. 

Now, there are likely easier ways to do something similar. Watkins makes an artificial peanut flavor extract which would probably get you the same effect. But that's kind of cheating, unless you happen to be allergic to peanuts, and then it's probably a good idea.

Book Release Party: Lemon Basil Soda

So today is the official release for my book, Making Soda at Home. I should probably be celebrating with friends and family, making all kinds of beverages and hors d'oeuvres to celebrate the occasion.

But I'm not. I'm spending my week in Kansas learning about baking breads for my "real job".

I thought about going to the local Barnes and Noble to see if they have it in stock yet, but apparently Manhattan, KS doesn't have one. Being a college town, they seem to only have need of campus bookstores filled with textbooks, and used book stores. Oh well. I guess I'll celebrate properly some other time. For now, I'll make myself a soda, and share it with the internet. Lucky you, internet. Enjoy!:

I keep seeing a lot of drink recipes with basil lately. I first came across this combo in Andrea Lynn's Artisan Soda Workshop. At first it disturbed me. Having spent some significant time in Italy, experience tells me that the only liquid that should have basil flavor in it is olive oil. I don't think an olive oil soda would work out so well. However, Lynn did an excellent job of pairing basil with pineapple, and I enjoyed that.

So, with its prevalence and pairing with numerous fruits, I'll give my own a shot. I figured citrus was a safe place to start and chose lemon as basil's dance partner for this party.

1 cup sugar
2 chips water
6 large fresh basil leaves, plus one our two more for garnish. (My garnish looks like canned spinach because it accidentally got frozen)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-4 liters carbonated water, to taste

Heat the water to boiling and add the basil to steep. After about 20 min, remove the leaves and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. After it has cooled somewhat, add the lemon juice. To this syrup, add 2 to 4 liters of carbonated water to taste.

Frequent visitors will notice that this recipe is quite different from what I normally post. It was designed to be less intense in both sweetness and flavor than some of my usual recipes. Why? Because it's summer, and the flavors lend themselves well to subtlety for a more refreshing, cooling, thirst quenching beverage closer to an infused sparkling water than a soda. I was quite surprised that the basil was a nice addition to citrus. In fact I was pleased enough with the flavor that it almost didn't need citrus at all, it would drink well with just the basil straight up.

June 9, 2014

Book Preview and Book Plates!

Ok everyone, at about one month out there is some exciting things happening for the book.  There's been a couple of sneak peaks at the Quarry Spoon Blog for the Butterbeer recipe and the Limonata recipe.  Special thanks to Paul and Deanna Sobota for awesome photography and styling.  And for anyone wondering, those are the actual sodas, not just colored water stand-ins.  (We actually drank some of the soda with lunch on one of the photo shoot days.)

I received an advance copy last week and everything is looking great!  It's so amazing to watch something go from scratches on a notebook to photographed, printed, and bound and ready to be cracked open and read in one of the easy chairs at Barnes and Noble.
Yes, I skipped cleaning the house that night in favor of a little light reading.
If you haven't pre-ordered the book yet, now is definitely as good a time as any.  The first 100 people to email me their proof of purchase will receive a personally inscribed book plate to adhere inside the book.  Which will look a little something like this:
Cheesy Inscription with Autograph: check!
This gives anyone anywhere the opportunity to make their book a special, limited edition, autographed copy.

So here's all you have to do:
1. Pre-order the book from anywhere.  Links are below, but the giveaway is not limited to those retailers.
2. Email me (1) your receipt or proof of purchase and (2) the address to which you'd like the book plate sent.  Feel free to include anyone special you'd like me to inscribe it for. Mail to homemadesodaexpert(at)
3. Wait patiently for your book plate and book to arrive.  They likely won't arrive at the same time, don't worry, that's normal.

Pre-Order from any Online Retailer:
QbookshopIndieBoundIndigoBarnes & Noble iconAmazon , Powell'sWalmart iconBooksAMillionBookish,
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