Like it was for many Americans, soda was a staple in my household growing up. Back in the 1980s, no one talked about the negative side effects of soda; it was served all day long and we all loved it. I personally drank soda every single day until I was 20. There was something about those fizzy bubbles that just lifted my spirits. However, today we know that the high-fructose corn syrup and other ingredients in soda can lead to a multitude of health issues, and that is sad in a way – it’s like learning that your lifelong friend isn’t who you thought they were.
But, thankfully, there are options today. One option is to make your own soda at home, which is actually healthier and cheaper than buying traditional soda. And the side effect is that your kids, friends, and family will be able to experience the effervescence that one can only get by drinking soda.
Differences Between Store-Bought and Homemade Soda
The main difference between store-bought and homemade soda is that you are in control of what ingredients are in the soda. When you buy mass-produced soda, you are subject to a huge quantity of sugar, artificial flavors and colorings, preservatives, and waste (think of all that plastic and aluminum!). Sure, it tastes delicious, but anything with that much sugar would!
Diet soda is no better than “regular” soda, due to artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, cyclamate, saccharin, acesulfame-k, or sucralose. Even though diet soda is calorie-free, there is evidence that the ingredients are just as bad, if not worse, for you than regular soda.
So, what’s the alternative? There are other carbonated beverages, like club soda and seltzer, but you still are dependent on mass-production and limited flavors.
When you make your own soda, you have complete control of what will eventually go into your body. You can control the amount of sugar (yes, there is still sugar in homemade soda, as you will see below) that goes into each batch. And the sky’s the limit when it comes to which natural ingredients you choose to create your own recipe. Bottling your own soda is also better for the environment, since you can reuse the same bottles for each batch you make.
Making soda at home is a fun and creative outlet as well. You can teach your kids about the differences between making your own products and buying products, experiment with various herbs and spices, and discover new flavors.
How to Make Your Own Soda:
What exactly do you need to make your own soda, and how is it done? It’s actually easier than you might think! Whether you decide to purchase a carbonation device or use seltzer is up to you and how much you want to spend up front. I suggest trying to make a few recipes without purchasing a device, just to get the hang of it and see if you like the results. But that’s just me!
To start, gather the basic ingredients and bottling mechanism (glass or plastic) that’s best for you.
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To get those bubbles in soda, you must have carbonated water. You can purchase seltzer, but it is not available in all locations (I can never find seltzer when I travel to Texas). If you are in a position to purchase a soda maker, you can research the various models out there, but it will cost you between $80 and $200. Some recipes also use club soda.
Here is where your control over your health comes into play. You can adjust the sweetness of the simple syrup to your personal taste. To make simple syrup, all you need is 1 cup of organic sugar and 1 cup of water. Simmer this mixture until all the sugar is dissolved. Try this ratio first. If you prefer it less sweet, cut the sugar down to ¾ cup. Alternatively, you can make simple syrup from honey or stevia, but the flavors will be different. To start, I recommend using the sugar and then graduate from there.
This is where you get to be creative!! Fruits, herbs, spices, extracts… you are in control of your soda flavorings. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Fruits: oranges, berries, clementine, pineapple, lime, peach, grape juice
- Herbs/Spices: ginger, mint, basil, fennel, chocolate
- Extracts: vanilla, almond
Whether you use plastic or glass, remember to sanitize the bottles. If you live next to a homebrewing store, stop in and ask them what they recommend. There are also many online stores (but still sanitize, just to be safe). If you prefer glass, the swing-top bottles are the most preferable.
Once you have your ingredients picked out, it’s time to start making soda! Here is a simple recipe to get you started
Homemade Ginger Ale
Yield: Makes about 1 1/2 cups syrup (enough for 4 to 6 drinks)
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours (includes chilling)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled ginger (7 ounces)
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- About 1 quart chilled seltzer or club soda
- About 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
To Make the Ginger Syrup:
- Cook ginger in water in a small saucepan at a low simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep, covered, for 20 minutes.
- Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on ginger and then discarding. Return liquid to saucepan and add sugar and a pinch of salt, then heat over medium heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Chill syrup in a covered jar until cold.
Make the Drinks:
- Mix ginger syrup with seltzer and lime juice (start with 1/4 cup syrup and 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice per 3/4 cup seltzer, then adjust to taste).
Pour over ice, and enjoy!
Homemade Cream Soda:
Follow the same instructions as with the ginger ale, but you won’t need to simmer the syrup as long:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup of filtered water
- 1-2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 2 liters carbonated water
- half-and-half or milk substitute, and ice to taste
Boil the water and sugar and stir until all of the sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla extract and allow the syrup to cool and refrigerate. To make the drink, add the cream to the syrup along with the carbonated water and you have vanilla cream soda!
Today you can easily find various websites, recipe books, and recipe apps with different homemade soda mixtures. And with winter and the holidays coming, it’s always fun to start experimenting with new things. Once you get the hang of making your own soda at home, serve some batches up to friends and family and don’t tell them you made it until they ask you where you bought it from. Have fun with all those bubbles!!