This past year one of the big trends was do-it-yourself soda. Sound like fun? Well it is, and if you're not careful it can be messy fun.
I set out to create the most popular soda you might find; a version of a homemade Coca-Cola.
There are a couple of kits and carbonators on the market that are relatively affordable. William Sonoma sells the iSi's Twist 'n Sparkle for $49.95, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond sells the SodaStream Pure Soda Maker for $130.
Most kits on the market offer an option to use their version of syrup that you mix with carbonated water â€“ pretty easy. Well, I skipped that part and made the syrup all from scratch using all-natural ingredients â€“ no food coloring, no fructose corn syrup or preservatives. Not an easy task.
First you have to procure the ingredients. You can read the back of the label, but that doesn't give you the recipe. So I turned to the internet to hunt down some kind of starting point.
This recipe was like putting together a puzzle with missing pieces and only your taste buds to guide. I learned most soft drinks require citric acid to some degree, a water-soluble powder having a strong acidic taste, obtained by fermentation of crude sugar or corn sugar. Thankfully, I didn't have to do that part; you can find citric acid pretty easily â€“ The Spice House carries it and it's not expensive.
Another ingredient hurdle was cassia oil; this is supposedly the secret ingredient to Coca-Cola. This Vietnamese cinnamon oil usually is used for aromatherapy. This hard-to-find ingredient is essential for flavoring and is very intense. You can find this at most health food stores.
I found in Coca-Cola they use lemon oil, orange oil, citric acid, cassia oil, vanilla (I used fresh bean paste), caffeine (which I chose to omit, but crushed NoDoz can be used) and carbonated water. I recommend finding the oils; extracts lack the potency.
One of the challenges about recreating the cola syrup was the color. I attempted to create the right flavor by caramelizing the raw sugar in place of food coloring. The result was a flavor combination of crĂ¨me brulee and cream soda. I really don't think you can get past the food coloring. I wanted to create a natural version; in future experiments I would look for natural ways to create color.
Another challenging aspect was the ratio of syrup to carbonated water. Coca-Cola is known for its crisp flavor. If you're not careful when playing with carbonation you might end up wearing more cola than drinking â€“ at one point I felt I was in an "I Love Lucy" episode covered in "faux coke."
The end result was pretty good; either way it wasn't a half bad way to spend an afternoon. The ironic part is since being diagnosed with diabetes a couple years ago I gave up soft drinks altogether.
I will admit to enjoying an occasional Mexican Coca-Cola; they say the taste of cane sugar compared to fructose corn syrup is negligible. However, the flavor takes me back to childhood days when Dad would teach me there is a technique to pouring coke: "Pour down the side of the glass not over the ice, nothing worse than flat coke!"
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Jason Gorman
Published June 29, 2012
Rehorst has been producing some fantastic local spirits for quite some time. Jason Gorman recently met with founder Guy Rehorst to shake, stir and pick his brain about his passion.
Published June 22, 2012
In case you missed it, Tory Miller - Madison chef, restaurateur and lover of all culinary things Wisconsin - brought home the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Midwest region this year. Jason Gorman recently had the chance to catch up with him and asked him to share some of his insight.
Published June 4, 2012
Last year I was a featured guest chef at an amazing dinner pairing chefs with the next generation of Wisconsin cheese makers and I had the pleasure of meeting LaClare Farms' award-winning cheese maker Katie Hedrich. I recently caught up with Katie to ask her about all things in the world of cheese.
Published May 12, 2012
One of the remarkable things about Nate is not only his genuine love of wine, but he is always engaged in the constant pursuit of enlightenment, not for himself but to share with others. Jason Gorman recently had some time to sit and ask him about his perspective on all things wine.
Published May 2, 2012
I met director and creator of "Wisconsin Foodie" Arthur Ircink several years ago and was fortunate enough to work with him in the first season of the show. I recently caught up with him to ask him about his ideas, inspirations and some recommendations.
Published April 12, 2012
There are so many different ways to cook asparagus. Most people enjoy grilling, sauteing or even topping it with a poached egg. Well, I thought you might enjoy a Wisconsin-inspired recipe on what to do with asparagus, as the market season is about to begin.
Published April 2, 2012
It seems spring hasn't fully committed yet, but we are starting to see some local spring green garlic. Pinehold Gardens, run by farmers David Kozlowski and Sandra Raduenzis, is already harvesting some. Treat yourself to a spring-inspired soup with a special recipe featuring this flavorful ingredient.
Published March 27, 2012
Barry Estabrook is a two-time winner of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards for food writing. His first, for a gourmet feature about labor abuses in Florida's tomato fields, led to his acclaimed book "Tomatoland," about how industrial agriculture has ruined one of America's favorite foods.
Published March 13, 2012
I'll admit it: I have a sweet tooth, much to my chagrin. This past week I was grocery shopping, picking up some basics and longing for the markets to start up again, when behold - I stumbled upon a new product that just came out: WhoNu cookies!
Published Feb. 27, 2012
This week I'd like to pose a question: When dining out, if there is something you don't care for, do you tell your server? Do you give the restaurant a chance to reconcile the situation?