Artisanal soda is a revelation. Gone is the sticky, syrupy, chemically bite of so many mass-produced beverages, replaced with colors found in nature, refreshing, natural bubbles, and real fruit flavor. Read on for five of our favorite purveyors of this good stuff. By Jessica Allen.
Simply put, the husband and wife/visual artist and research chemist behind Brooklyn Soda Works “carbonate fresh fruit juice.” Among the flavors produced since the company was founded in 2010 have been grapefruit, jalapeno, and honey, root beer (pictured), and strawberry, hops, and pink peppercorn. No additional sugar means you can truly taste the fruit and spices. Try a sip (or several) for yourself at Brooklyn Flea, Beer Table, or, beginning July 1, the High Line.
More: 5 Iconic NYC Drinks
Way before there was an artisanal soda movement, there was Manhattan Special. This family-owned company has been using the same secret recipe since it started making Pure Espresso Coffee Soda in 1895. The soda tastes like what it is: a fizzy blend of carbonation, cane sugar, and strong, hand-brewed coffee. You can find bottles in bodegas, in grocery stores, and online, or you can order a glass from Ferdinando’s Focacceria, an equally old school Italian restaurant in Brooklyn that offers Manhattan Special on tap.
Greenpoint-based P&H Soda Co. makes syrups, which then make incredible sodas, and cocktails, and mocktails at markets, restaurants, and shops around the city, and beyond. Flavors include lime (pictured, left), hibiscus (pictured, right), cream, chocolate maple, lemon, and ruby red grapefruit. Ingredients are fresh, often organic, usually fair-trade, and free of preservatives. If you can’t get enough (and, trust us, you probably can’t), order a copy of founder/owner Anton Nocito’s book, Make Your Own Soda.
Best known for pies, Bubby’s in Tribeca also makes a mean soda. Regular flavors on rotation range from ginger beer to root beer to cola; each and every one is made by hand, and several are made with cane juice, not corn syrup. You can also try one of the unique lemonades in flavors like hot honey and ginger, a fresh-pressed pineapple/lime or cucumber/lemon juice, or a world-famous, bottomless cup of coffee. Bubby’s is almost always open (except for the wee hours on Tuesdays). Get ready to be slaked, thirst.
At this feel-good, old-time establishment, the servers wear shirts that say “jerk” (as in “soda jerk”) and pointy paper hats. They polish glasses and chat up customers during downtime. Brother-and-sister Peter Freeman and Gia Giasullo opened their throwback restaurant in a 1920s pharmacy in Carroll Gardens. It specializes in good service, community, and treats like egg creams, milkshakes, sundaes, and floats. Sodas come in such flavors as cream, New Orleans mead, and lime ginger. Order one, and watch it get mixed right before your eyes.