November 26, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide 2015

How is it the holidays already?  Life has been crazy and time just flies by.  While I'm not ready to post new recipes just yet, I've got a couple things up my sleeve, such as a tasty Hibiscus Ginger Ale and a possible Moxie clone.  I couldn't however leave everyone hanging for the holidays without a gift guide.  This gift guide, now in its fifth year, is a tradition I've started that I can't bear to let slip away. See previous gift guides from 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011

For The Nostalgic
Nostalgia is really what I love about homemade soda.  It hearkens back to a simpler time.  Even though I wasn't around to see the heyday of the soda fountain, or the dime glass bottle vending machines, that's what I associate with soda.

There was something classy when it came to kitchen appliances in the 1940s and 1950s. Chrome and curves accentuated functionality. If you can't get your hands on a 1950s refrigerator to convert to a kegerator, or you don't want to trust your tasty beverages to something that old (though the fact that some of the 1950s fridges are still cranking should be a testament to the fact that they just don't make things like they used to.) A 1950s style kegerator is the next best thing. If you want to convert this for soda kegs, all it takes is swapping out the sanke disconnect for a Ball Lock Keg MFL Coupler Set or Pin-Lock MFL Disconnect Set.  When pouring soda instead of beer, it's always a good idea to swap out chrome faucets (even though this one is spring loaded to avoid unintended spillage) with a Stainless Steel Beer Faucet to avoid corrosion.

Anchor Hocking Classic Soda Fountain Glasses
Kick up the nostalgia a notch by serving up your own homemade ice cream soda, coke float, root beer float or ice cream sundae in these classic look glasses.  Pick up a Pack of 4 or a Set of 12 .

The Syrup-er
Like the soda fountains of yesteryear and the SodaStreams of today, adding syrup to carbonated water is really the easiest route to go in making homemade soda.  
The SodaStream has brought the popularity of homemade soda to new heights in the past 5 years, but one of the big complaints and probably one of the biggest reason for people to stop using them is the proprietary fill canisters and the expense of replacements.  For someone who wants the convenience and compact design of the SodaStream but the cost savings of a larger CO2 tank, this adapter screws onto a standard paintball tank that can be refilled for just $3 to $5 at your local sporting goods store. Refill the tank at the store without the adapter, then plug it into your SodaStream with it on, and you're ready to carbonate.  Now you don't have to feel bad about that third blast of CO2 to get more fizz.
LorAnn Flavoring Oils

There's a secret formula locked up in the vaults of the Coca Cola Co. that details the ingredients in their more than a century old classic formula.  It's been somewhat elusive to many, but some recipes have surfaced over time that seem to hit close to the mark. The Open Cola Project is one that has been kicking around for a few years now and uses flavor oils as the flavor base.  Cola is not the only one that can be made strictly from oils.  Crush and 7up also started their lives with flavor oils as well.  You can pick up flavors for syrup for all those and more using Lorann Oils.  These can sometimes be picked up at pharmacies for flavoring hard candies, they are super concentrated and some are straight up natural flavor oils.  A little goes a long way, so picking up a Pack of 10 or 12 1-dram vials should be plenty for a foray into syrup making. (The 12 and 24 pack links will let you pick the flavors.)

For the Connoisseur 
One of the appeals of homemade soda is the gourmet side.  The Connoisseur will try any new flavor (No matter how weird ) they can get their hands on and has a running list of the ones that are the best.  

Flavors are funny things.  If they lean one way or another towards something else, it can make the difference between something delectable and something horrific.  For anyone who wants to brush up on their flavor pairing skills, the Flavor Thesaurus is the go-to book for mixing up something new.  Want to know if a bacon chocolate soda would work well? Consult the thesaurus.

Rox Ice Ball Maker
Part of being a connoisseur is consuming things in style.  For someone looking to make homemade soda say classy, swanky and hip, there's the Rox ice ball maker.  This mold will swank up your soda party with perfectly round ice balls.  After all, if you're bold enough to serve up a hibiscus-ginger-cucumber-melon-turmeric soda, shouldn't it be served on the Rox?  

For The Budding Pro
One of the common questions I get is "How do I take my soda commercial?"  That's not a road that I've trod, but I've seen some of the people that have.  It's got a lot of road blocks and obstacles, but one way to have the confidence to face them head on is with custom branded items.

Bottle Cap Mount Starr X Bottle Opener

Build your brand the easy way by picking up a cap mount Starr X Bottle Opener.  These are available in many colors and are the classic wall mount openers that haven't changed in nearly a century.  Just get yourself a custom cap, and mount it on the top nub.  If a cap mount isn't your style, you can get a special order one with your own logo from the Cap Monger on Etsy.

For The Health Nut
While I'm not opposed to difficult to pronounce ingredients, there are those that have made dietary choices to avoid artificial ingredients and chemicals.  Some found homemade soda a great way to feel good about what they put into their body and still enjoy some tasty fizz.

SipWell Stainless Steel Straws
Sipping sodas brings back memories of a bygone era, but concerns about chemicals in plastics and filling landfills may be on the forefront of a sodamaker's mind.  For some piece of mind, pick up some reusable stainless steel straws that can be cleaned and sanitized at high temperatures and reused indefinitely.  Careful, though, they're likely to get pretty cold in an ice cold beverage.

Carbonator Cap
While there are health merits to making your own soda, there is still a likelihood of consuming simply too much sugar.  So while having kegs of soda on hand seems like a wonderful idea, it may be a bit much for most people not serving a crowd.  The carbonator cap brings all the benefits of owning a kegging system down to a more manageable scale by allowing the carbonation of 2 liters or less at a time.  The cap fits on most standard 2L bottles and some smaller and hooks up to a ball lock disconnect attached to a regulated CO2 supply.  Just chill, pressurize, shake, and enjoy your favorite beverage, and unlike a sodastream, you won't ruin any warranties by carbonating whatever you please. Water, apple juice, milk, pudding, jell-o; you're only limited by your imagination (and the laws of physics, and your ability to get it out of the bottle).

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