Whether you call it pop, soda or a soft drink, today’s popular sweetened carbonated beverages aren’t what they started out to be. Traditional recipes for drinks like root beer, vanilla cream soda and cherry and ginger ales were made from extracts of flavorful botanicals and were often offered in pharmacies for their reputed health benefits.
Subtly sweetened with natural cane sugar, early soft drinks were dubbed ‘soft’ because they were a safe and natural alternative to hard alcohol. In addition, they weren’t fortified with the mega-doses of high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, flavorings and preservatives that their canned and bottled stand-ins feature today.
It's still possible to enjoy the natural soft drinks of yesteryear with their complex aromas, beneficial flavors and unique appeal. You can make them yourself at home while controlling the amount of sugar in the final mix. You’ll also be saving a fair bit of change over the purchase of commercial soft drinks, and you won’t need to endlessly schlep all those bottles and cans.
Sip on the nostalgic nuances of homemade herbal sodas with the recipes below:
This recipe features the beguiling flavors of sarsaparilla root, licorice and anise, which make for a rounded, mild root beer. If you’ve ever experienced the old-fashioned hardy candy called Root Beer Barrels, you’ll recognize its nostalgic flavor in this fun drink.
The subtle tang of real lemon fruit elevates the luxurious sweetness of natural vanilla in this refreshing cream soda.
Spicy-sweet crystallized ginger brings a fresh flavor to this simple ginger ale. Steep with fresh rosemary or garnish with mint leaves for added herbal notes.