By Carlynn Woolsey, Foodable Contributor
You’re poised to open a fast casual restaurant at one of the best locations in one of the busiest cities in the nation. The interior is primed and the menu perfected. But in a sea full of dining options, what’s going to make your restaurant stand apart from all of the rest? According to industry insiders, your beverage selections could be the defining factor, especially if you opt to add craft sodas to your program.
From Beer to Soda
With the craft beer movement in full-swing, it seemed only a matter of time before craft soda emerged as the non-alcoholic counterpart. Like craft beers, sodas are often brewed in small batches and created around buzzword concepts like artisan, local and natural. Some traditional brewers are even crossing over into the soda segment, as was seen exhibited in the past at the LA Beer Week Festival, where brewers not only served up ales and stouts, but soft drinks, too. Amongst the concoctions previously on tap at the event were Crème Berry (a strawberry-laden take on cream soda), Ginger Citrus (a citrus-heavy ginger ale), and Limond (a tart blend of almond and lime).
Meanwhile, larger productions, like Boylan Bottling Company, are bringing their popular craft sodas to the masses, with distribution currently in 20 states and growing.
What’s the Appeal?
There is the obvious: craft sodas can be produced in almost any flavor combination under the sun, making them fun to order, and, of course, drink. Since those combinations are typically made with real cane sugar, they’re also a healthier option. Traditional soft drink sales are on the decline over concerns about the use of ingredients like aspartame and high-fructose corn syrup, neither of which consumers have to worry about when it comes to craft varieties.
A Fresh Take
‘Fresh’ is an important notion to the fast casual restaurant segment. Diners want to see freshness from the standpoint of innovation and originality, as well as in the literal sense through high quality, health-conscious products. Restaurateurs can accommodate those needs in one way through dispensing craft sodas.
For the chef or chief mixologist behind-the-scenes, brewing craft sodas in-house is an opportunity to use seasonal ingredients in new ways, while capitalizing on the farm-to-table trend. In this case, yesterday’s farmers’ market haul becomes today’s fruity-herbal-fizz.
Make Your Own
For the at-home ‘brewer,’ methods of soda production can vary depending on the preference to use yeast or the quicker, non-conventional use of a carbonation system like a SodaStream. If you’re leery of either of those, you can ease your way into crafting your own soda by cooking up a syrup and simply adding it to an already fizzy club soda. The recipe below is for a basic cola, with an extra punch of vanilla.
Vanilla-Cola Syrup Recipe
2 Cups Water
2 Cups White Sugar
4 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Vanilla Beans, Split
1 Large Orange, Zested
1 Lemon, Zested
2 Teaspoons Fresh Ginger, Minced
1 Teaspoon Dried Lavender
1 Small Cinnamon Stick
2 Whole Star Anise
¼ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
¼ Teaspoon Citric Acid
- Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and cover, continuing to simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Strain.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To serve, add syrup to club soda or seltzer water.