An artist and a chemist making soda and carbonated juices from scratch, using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Fresh draft soda - available at the Brooklyn Flea on the weekends & select bars & restaurants

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer Shandies!

by Rachel Atkinson
summer intern

Beer belongs to the small group of fizzy beverages I consider as delicious and refreshing as our sodas. But in the middle of a long New York summer, I admit that I occasionally find myself wishing that my beer were a little bit more like a soda. Or that my soda was a little bit more like a beer.

Enter the shandy. For the unenlightened, a shandy is a mix of beer and soft drink. Surrounded by the best sodas in New York, the Brooklyn Soda Works crew decided that mixing the perfect shandy was a perfect Monday afternoon endeavor. To get the ideas rolling, we took a brief stroll through shandy history. 

Brits have been mixing their beers for well over a century. A 1900 British newspaper piece teaches us of all the many common beer “blends” of the time. For example, here are three common shandies:
Portergaff: Ginger Beer and Porter
Shandy or Shandygaff: Ginger Beer and Mild Ale
Shandybitter: Ginger Beer and Bitter (Pale Ale)

Historically, shandy referred to beer mixed with ginger beer. And yet, the shandies in the typical American beer aisle are almost uniformly mixed with citrus of some sort. These drinks have more in common with the Radler – the German take on the shandy.

According to one story the radler, which means “cyclist” was invented in the 1920s, when a crowd of cyclists overwhelmed an innkeeper’s beer supply. He cut the beer with lemon soda to stretch the brew, and declared he was doing so to prevent drunk cycling. The drink was a hit, and was soon copied all over Germany. Today, radlers are typically made with a 1:2 or 3:2 ratio of beer (often Pilsner) and lemon soda.

While other regions have all sorts of beer blends as well, we took our inspiration primarily from the shandygaff + radler lineages. 

Our experiment involved six beers (Blue Point’s Summer Ale, Founders All Day IPA, Victory’s Golden Monkey, Brooklyn Brewery’s Pilsner, Founders Porter, & Hofbrau Hefe-Weizen) and 6 sodas (Watermelon Tarragon Lime, Ginger Beer, Hibiscus Mint, Lemon Thyme, Blueberry Lemon & Arnold Palmer). 

We tried just about every combination imaginable. Some were perfectly refreshing, and some were a little bizarre (adding fruit to Brooklyn Brewery’s Pilsner somehow creates a flavor reminiscent of children’s chewable vitamins). Here are some of our favorites:

  • Golden Monkey + Blueberry Lemon: Golden Monkey, a Tripel with a rich malty flavor, was the perfect match for our light, sweet Blueberry Lemon. 
  • Founders IPA + Ginger Beer: The spices in our ginger beer brought out the citrusy notes of the IPA’s hops. Bright, grapefruity, and very refreshing.
  • Hoffbrau Hefe-Weizen + Watermelon Tarragon Lime: There are lots of watermelon-wheat beers on the market right now, but they’ve always tasted a bit funky to me. However, with our fresh, raw watermelon soda, I could finally see what they were going for. Fresh, lightly sweet, and very watermelon – this was the perfect summer drink.
  • Founders Porter + Arnold Palmer: Even though it’s summer, we wanted to make a shandy with a porter, after a good experience with Porter/Hibiscus-Cinnamon last winter. Our favorite porter combination was a surprise, but the tea in the Arnold Palmer compliments the chocolately porter.
  • Bluepoint Summer Ale + Hibiscus Mint: This summer ale was light enough to let the mint shine through, and the hibiscus only made the summer ale more summery. Light, easy drinking!

While we would love to serve you shandies at our market locations, liquor laws will now allow. We encourage you to experiment with your own shandy mixes, and let us know how it goes! 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Brooklyn Soda Works Inspired Cocktail Recipes

Now that our growlers are available for purchase at Smorgasburg we thought we would share some of our favorite summer cocktail recipes, starting of course with the one that started it all-the Dark 'N Stormy

Dark 'N' Stormy with Apple & Ginger

  • 2 oz dark rum (Gosling's Black Seal is the brand of choice for die hard stomy fans)
  • 4 oz Apple & Ginger soda 
  • 1/2 oz lime juice

Add several ice cubes to glass and top with soda and rum. Garnish with lime and enjoy!

Grapefruit Jalepeno & Honey Paloma

Touted as the most popular cocktail in all of Mexico, the Paloma delivers a refreshing escape from the impenetrable summer heat...although our version still promises to leave your taste buds tingling!

  • Kosher salt
  • 6 oz Grapefruit Jalepeno and Honey soda
  • 2 oz mescal or tequila
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • Grapefruit slice (garnish) 

Pour kosher slate onto a small plate. Rub half of rim of highball glass with grapefruit wedge and dip in salt. Place several cubes of ice in glass. Combine grapefruit soda, tequila or mescal, and garnish with grapefruit wedge.

Wild Hibiscus Royale

A product of the Dorchester Hotel in London, England, this legendary drink has long been the most popular champagne cocktail on the menu-and we can see why! Although the original recipe calls for hibiscus syrup we think it works even better with our fresh Hibiscus Mint soda. For a layered effect pour the soda and rose water in first and top with champagne. Cheers!

Extra special bonus effect: If you are able to find wild hibiscus flowers (look no further than Dual Speciality Store fellow New Yorkers) place one flower in bottom of glass before layering ingredients. The flower will open over the course of 3-4 minutes and makes for a drink as beautiful as it is delicious.

1 oz Hibiscus Mint soda
5 oz dry Brut champagne
Splash rose water (optional)

Cuba Libre

Coming in as the second most popular cocktail in the world, this effervescent delight is number 1 with us! Another easy as can be crowd pleaser.

2 oz light rum
Brookyln Soda Works Cola
Lime wedge

Fill glass with ice and add rum. Top with cola, garnish with lime, and enjoy!

Vodka-Thyme Sparkling Lemonade 

2 1/2 oz vodka'
1/2 oz orange liquor
1 1/2 oz Lemon Thyme Soda

Fill martini glass with ice and let sit to chill while you prepare ingredients. Pour vodka and orange liquor into cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Add 1 1/2 oz Lemon Thyme Soda, strain into chilled martini glass.

Cucumber, Lime & Sea Salt Gin Fizz

It doesn't get simpler or more refreshing than this-perfect for a backyard BBQs or those times when you just want something low maintenance.

2 oz gin of choice
Cucumber, Lime & Sea Salt Soda
Cucumber slice (optional)

Fill glass with ice and add gin. Top with Cucumber, Lime & Sea Salt soda, mix, and garnish with cucumber slice.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Grand Debut: Brooklyn Soda Works Cola

With market season amping up we’ve been hard at work perfecting what has been one of our most challenging recipes to date: a Brooklyn Soda Works original cola.  The complexity in the recipe creation process was embedded in the very essence of what makes a cola what it is: it’s famously intangible but unmistakable flavor.  While we certainly haven’t set out to recreate Coke, it was important to us that our rendition be inspired by the taste of colas past, so research played a heavy role in the process. Our quest began with a look to the flurry of recent reporting that has centered on cola and cola production— starting with the widely publicized article from the Atlantic that gives a history of the split of the beverage from its two primary original formative ingredients: cocaine and alcohol.

                                               (image credit: University of Buffalo)

Marketed originally as an all-around medical remedy, cola was first formulated in the United States by Dr. John Pemberton of Atlanta— likely in response to the grand success of the French coca wine Vin Mariani. When prohibition struck in Atlanta in 1886, 34 years before the rest of the nation, Pemberton removed the alcohol from the concoction but without the wine, the bitterness of the cocaine and caffeine was overpowering. Pemberton masked this off-putting taste with strong sugar syrup and spices, and remarketed it as “the temperance drink”, inching the beverage closer to its modern form. Following a racially-fueled backlash against the use of cocaine (as detailed by The NewYork Times) and increasing restrictions on narcotics in the early 1900’s, the drug was also removed from the formula. What was left become the foundation of what we know as cola today. Although no formula changes as drastic as the ones that occurred in cola’s early years have happened since, the industrialization of the food and beverage industry and the controversies surrounding high fructose corn syrup and so-called “natural” ingredients have had a profound effect on the making of cola

An earlier version of the tightly-guarded recipe purportedly became available in 2011 when This American Life aired its broadcast “Original Recipe”— sharing in it an article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution that closely matched an entry from Pemberton’s diary detailing the famed formula.

(image credit: This American Life)

What interested us about this was not so much the mystery of the story (although we were admittedly intrigued!), but rather the essence of the drink: the herbs and spices that make up that classic taste. We wanted to shy far away from the syrupy sweetness that is the mark of so many colas today and get back to the root of the flavors. We looked to this recipe and countless others to get a feel for the “soul” of cola. Lime, orange, lemon, nutmeg, coriander, and cinnamon, kept popping up, as did kola nut.  Despite being the origin of the term “cola”, kola nut is surprisingly flavorless and used primarily to caffeinate the beverage. With our knowledge as our starting point, we set out to create our own cola extract, which in and of itself was a new process for us juice enthusiasts! Extracts take 3-5 weeks to make, so modifying a recipe is as slow as well, the molasses we use later in the process:

But back to the extract: we let cinnamon, lime peel, orange peel, lemon peel, nutmeg, and coriander steep in alcohol until all of the flavors are just right:

After about a month it emerges looking like this, and ready to be mixed:

Next we add lime juice, molasses, a touch of cane sugar, and at long last we carbonate. 

All our hard work testing and retesting different extracts and flavor combinations paid off, and what emerges is a light refreshing cola that makes our taste buds here at Brooklyn Soda Works do a jig. We are excited to have created something so unique that still manages to honor the traditional flavor of cola and are already thinking of all the delicious things we can mix it with come summer...Cuba Libre anyone? Speaking of mixins' the Strand Smokehouse in Astoria, Queens (25-27 Broadway, Astoria, NY 11106, Phone: 718-440-3231) will have a custom Lime Cola on tap which will be mixed with a barrel aged rum by Ballast Point for a summery Coke and rum cocktail. Delicious!

Our cola will be making its debut by in a couple of weeks at Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, come by and see us for a taste!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hello from various roof tops across Hong Kong

I spent three weeks late June/ early July in Hong Kong visiting family and friends, and trying to get some work done. One of the interesting trends that has picked up in Hong Kong, very dense metropolis of 7 million people, is the emergence of rooftop farms and urban gardening.

Antonio and I first met Michael Leung from HK Honey last year when he showed us his (hibernating) bees and the start of his rooftop farm in an industrial building in Kowloon. Through running workshops and working with an association of local bee farmers, HK Honey has made great strides in making the general population aware of urban bee-keeping and local honey. His background in design comes in handy too - high end stores like Lane Crawford have requested bee hive commissions.  Eight months later, and one typhoon in, I had the chance to visit his rooftop again and see how his urban farming project (which he started with Matthew Edmonsen & Glenn Eugen Ellingsen), HK Farm is going.
Here's Michael showing me the wonderfully strange planter that someone made them using discarded materials.

The bee hives (painted green) are happily situated between his planters that are currently growing everything from chile peppers to basil. And there's a funny feather duster that is in the lower right corner that is used as a scarecrow.
Michael had spent a couple of months in Brooklyn two years ago, working on Brooklyn Grange's rooftop farm. His zine was fantastically heartfelt.
It's hard to run any type of farm, and it's particularly hard to use rooftops in a city; the engineering that is required and the logistics involved are daunting. But it's fascinating to see how rooftops in industrial areas can be slowly reclaimed and used to their full advantage.

The next day I headed out to check out Project Grow which is run by a non-profit group. Their model is quite different from HK Farm - they see themselves primarily as community center, a place where the people in their neighbourhood can come and learn how to grow their own food. Project Grow is located in the incredibly dense neighbourhood of To Kwa Wan, a once bustling industrial area that has seen better days. Run by the Hong Kong Film Culture Center (which has their screening room and offices in the same building) they don't see themselves selling their produce to generate revenue any time soon, instead choosing to focus their energy on running classes and hosting regular talks & open days.

The view from the rooftop at  Project Grow

Old bed frames were repurposed for planters

No live chickens - but some nice chubby clay ones

Friday, June 8, 2012

Foraged flavors - Angelica and our foraged root soda

Foraged flavors of the week!

We've been working on a series of foraged flavors for the past couple of months and we're happy to announce that this Saturday at Smorgasburg we'll debut two of them:
- Angelica
- foraged root soda (a root beer-like soda using sassafras root, spice bush and wintergreen leaves)

Ingredients were sourced via Evan Strusinski, the noted forager who also supplies a number a of noted New York restaurants.

Angelica archangelica has a long history of medicinal use, specifically popular in Scandinavian countries where it grows quite easily. If the taste is slightly familiar to you, it's because it is used to flavor gins, Vermouth and Chartreuse. In this batch, Antonio used both the root and the stems (see photos below)

Our root soda uses all found and foraged roots which was a fun challenge for us.

Sassafras is a traditional ingredient in root beer - it smells fantastic - perfumey, sweet and earthly.
Spice bush (Lindera; check out the informative Wikipedia link here) - is aromatic, heady and spicy and a fantastic accompaniment to the more tanin-y notes in the wintergreen.
Wintergreen is a small waxy leafed plant with red berries that grows everywhere in the north-east.  Wintergreen extract is the main flavoring in almost all modern root beers. It's easy to spot in the fall or winter when it is one of the few green things poking through the fallen leaves or snow (we foraged this batch of wintergreen ourselves from the Catskills - see picture below)

We're excited to bring these roots and plants straight from the woods of the north-east to your cup of soda.  Be warned though - even though some of these flavors are familiar from root beer, they are usually balanced (or smothered, depending how you look at it) by lots of sweeter lighter flavors, such as vanilla. Here we are letting them shine on their own for the adventurous tasters to enjoy in all their earthy, bitter, herbal glory! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Foraged knotweed and our new production space!

The past month has been a whirlwind of activity - we finally finished our build out at our new production space over on Flushing Ave (on the border of Bed-Stuy and Bushwick). The building is pretty incredible; it is the pharmaceutical company Pfizer's former Brooklyn headquarters, and has been empty for a few years.  The 8-storey building is FDA approved and comes with a fully operational loading dock.  We are one of the first tenants in the building (along with Kombucha Brooklyn, Steve's Ice Cream and People's Pops) and it's been quite a journey to get our 1900 sq ft space fully operational.

(check out the recent NY Times article on this building)

Last week, we put down a new layer of epoxy floor paint, finished the walk-in refrigeration installation, paid the last electrician's bill and today our new steam kettle arrived (we are taking suggestions for affectionate names for our steam kettles).

And now for foraging news - this Saturday at Smorgasburg - Japanese knotweed and honey soda.  Knotweed is native to east Asia and grows wild on the east coast (it is sometimes classified as an invasive species). It has hollow stems, edible leaves and tastes a bit like rhubarb. We've been working with Evan Strusinski  the noted wild food forager who travels up and down the east coast, sending packages of foraged goodies to various NYC chefs and restaurants.

Antonio is particularly excited about the prospect of creating a root beer using mostly foraged ingredients - in the next few weeks we'll keep you updated on how our experiments with foraged Spice Bush, Sassafras, birch bark and wintergreen go.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Good Spirits Feb 28th

The end of winter is getting close - we can almost smell spring. And that means working on our new kitchen (1800 sq feet of space to house some new equipment) and preparing for a busy outdoor season.

Before all of that though, comes the annual Edible Manhattan's Good Spirits event. This coming Tuesday from 6-8pm, join a host of chefs, mixologists and spirit vendors for an evening of cocktail and food pairings. We'll be there with our signature Grapefruit, jalapeno & honey soda, and the crowd pleasing Apple & Ginger.

And of course, if you can't make that, you can always find us at our usual spot at the indoor Brooklyn Flea on the weekends (located at One Hanson Place in Fort Greene) or on tap at some great restaurants and bars (including the newest member of Danny Meyer's restaurant group, North End Grill).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Get your bottles! Cocktail recipes!

For a limited time this holiday season, you can get your hands on some of our bottles of apple & ginger soda at the Brooklyn Flea (now indoors at One Hanson Place in Fort Greene on Saturdays and Sundays).  We also wanted to take the opportunity to hand out some of our favorite (and simple) cocktail recipes for using the apple & ginger carbonated juices with.

Apple Ginger Dark n’ Stormy
2oz rum
6oz apple & ginger soda
about 1/2 oz lime juice
Combine in tall glass with ice. Stir.
Garnish with wedge of lime.

Bourbon with Apple Ginger soda
2oz bourbon
4 oz apple & ginger
dash of angostura bitters
Stir. Serve in short glass.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beer Table drinks

We had a lot of fun coming up with the drinks for the Beer Table tasting event. The final menu for the evening:
- Citra Hops Soda with pink peppercorn foam
- Pineapple with sage & ginger ice cubes
- salted plum soda with Thai basil
- Honeycrisp apple with cranberry ice cubes
- spiced ginger soda with coconut pandan foam and a cinnamon garnish
- and a warm dessert to cap it it : hot almond milk

Thanks again to everyone who came out for the event!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Beer Table Tasting Event: Nov 7th 7-9pm

We are very proud to announce our first ever tasting event on Nov 7th which will be held at Beer Table, one of our favorite beer bars and the host of a monthly homebrewer's night.

Not just content with our 40+ flavors that we have dispensed at various markets and events, we have been working hard on foams, gels, flavored ice cubes and garnishes (don't forget, one of us is a chemist). This tasting represents some of our wackiest ideas, all of which we are trying out for the first time. Reserve your ticket by emailing: (tickets are $35)

Tasting Menu
- Citra hops & honey soda, with a
pink peppercorn foam head
- Salted plum soda with Thai basil

- Fresh pressed Honeycrisp apple soda with cranberry ice cubes

- Spiced ginger soda with coconut pandan foam
- Warm almond milk dessert