It’s Black Friday. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to post a cocktail a bit later today so you can drink your cares away. Me? I don’t do Black Friday. I don’t actually buy many gifts– but I’m always on the lookout for cool ideas and gifts that are fun, food-oriented and (preferably) local.
I’m going to start out with something that isn’t local, but is one of the most used appliances in my kitchen: the SodaStream. Yes, really. I have a Kitchenaid mixer, a Cuisinart food processor, lots of cookware and knives– but I use my SodaStream every day.
I decided about five months ago to forego artificial sweetener. I figure it probably isn’t good for me (even though the scientific data seems to be split). I’d rather use a little turbinado sweetener in my coffee than Splenda. I even gave up diet Coke (and I love diet Coke). After all of this time, artificial sweeteners taste awful, and I have cut down significantly on the amount of sugar I use in my coffee and in general. However, I still love bubbles and carbonation. It seems silly, though, to buy seltzer or club soda at the grocery store when I could charge it myself.
The SodaStream is a great contraption– instead of using single-use chargers like a soda siphon uses, you have a big canister that will charge 60 liters. You can customize the pressure by just pressing the charging button more than once– I like lots of tiny bubbles, so I charge it more. If you want just a little carbonation, you can do that too. There’s no electricity involved, and the plastic bottles last for about a year (I keep two in the fridge at all times). The charger is $36, but if you bring it back to exchange it for a new one, it’s only $16 for the refill. SodaStream sells flavored syrups as well, but I prefer to make my own– most of their syrups contain artificial sweetener (though the “cola” and “Dr. Pepper” syrups are pretty good, all told). They have unsweetened “hint of flavor” water flavors too– orange, lemon and raspberry– that aren’t bad, and they recently introduced a “naturals” series that doesn’t have any artificial anything. I usually drink it plain, or add in some bitters for a bit of interest.
The SodaStream I bought, the Genesis, came from Sur La Table and is priced around $100 (the link is to Amazon, where you can also purchase it). If you want to upgrade to glass bottles instead of plastic, tack on another $100 for the Penguin (which does look like a penguin and is cute, but not worth the extra $100 for me). Extra bottles (glass or plastic) are $14.95 each. Syrups run about $8 per container (cheaper on Amazon), more for the “natural” syrups. Of course, you can also make your own. Here’s my recipe for a killer cream soda.
Cream Soda Syrup
2.5 cups turbinado sugar
2.5 cups water
juice of 2 lemons
two vanilla beans
Place sugar and about a half cup of water in a pan and heat until the sugar is caramelized– about ten minutes. Watch it very carefully so it doesn’t burn. Then, add the rest of the water and lemon juice. Slice the vanilla beans down the middle and scrape the seeds into the mixture, and put in the whole beans as well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat off and let the syrup sit for an hour. Discard the vanilla beans and put into a container. This will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge. In order to make soda, I use about one ounce of syrup to 8 ounces of soda, though you can experiment to find out your perfect mix.
For an alcoholic version, add an ounce of OYO Honey Vanilla Vodka. It’s cream soda with a kick.