Taking a month off from drinking alcohol was harder than I expected. My strongest craving would hit in the afternoon, when I would normally have a glass of wine or beer to relax after work. Rather than fight my Pavlovian habit, I decided to trick myself with a beverage that felt special sans alcohol: homemade soda.
The combination of fructose, phosphoric acid and artificial sweeteners in traditional soda is one cocktail I’ve never enjoyed. But making soda at home is simple, requires four ingredients, 24 hours, and no special equipment. Plus, you can be creative with flavors. Ginger and Meyer lemon is my favorite, but blueberry-thyme, pomegranate, and strawberry-basil are also delicious.
First, fill a clean plastic 2-liter bottle with a cup of sugar, water, flavoring and 1/8 teaspoon of champagne yeast. That may sound like a lot of sugar, but a portion of it will be metabolized by the yeast to produce the bubbles. Using less sugar doesn’t yield the same results. A packet of champagne yeast can be purchased locally at Seven Bridges Organic Brewing Supply for $1.25; it will make a dozen batches of soda and keep in the fridge for months. It will produce the same delightful fizz in your soda that it does for champagne. Do not use baking yeast.
Flavoring can be grated fresh ginger and four or five fresh-squeezed lemons, or a cup of your favorite juice—it’s hard to go wrong. It’s a fun activity to do with kids because it lets them invent their own soda flavors. Conventional root beer and cola flavorings can be found at Seven Bridges, too.
Combine the ingredients and give the bottle a good shake, seal it and leave it on the counter. By the next day, the pressure will have built up inside and you won’t be able to push in the plastic. Put it in the fridge. When it’s cold, slowly open the cap a bit at a time to release the gas, and enjoy. Best of all, the champagne yeast will continue to slowly turn sugar into fizz in the fridge, so it won’t go flat if it takes you a week to drink the whole bottle—but I doubt that will be an issue.
Soda-making books and equipment can be found at Seven Bridges Organic Brewing Supply, 325 River St., Santa Cruz