Day: August 12, 2015

Six Barrel Soda: Celery Soda

History: The American influence is everywhere, and sometimes even when it isn’t, people will go out of their way get it or make it up themselves. For example, if you’re an American, you could travel 16 hours around the world to the beautiful island country of New Zealand and you’ll still find a little piece of home at a joint called Six Barrel Soda. “I have always loved old school Americana stuff…. Soda has such a great history and there is so much to work with flavour wise,” says Six Barrel Soda Co-founder Joseph Slater. Founded in 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand, the business came about after Slater and his childhood buddy and business partner, Mike Stewart, started serving increasingly popular homemade teas and sodas at their bar in Wellington. They quickly realized they were onto something and moved away from the bar to put all their energy into the soda business. But first, for those of you unfamiliar with New Zealand, a brief lesson. Here are three things we think you should know. 1. As mentioned, it’s gorgeous. 2. They filmed the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movies there (I bet they’re so sick of hearing this one). 3. And most importantly, they have THESE things. Apparently something survived the Jurassic period. Stay the hell away from them. That is a real, living thing. If you see one, you won’t be. Moving on. Slater says craft soda hasn’t quite hit it big over there the way it has in America. In essence, these guys have cornered the gourmet soda market over there and they’re trying to do it in a way that ensures they stay on top by using premium ingredients, real sugar, and no preservatives. They also just have that artisan feel nailed down. Just look at their website and packaging. There’s a sophistication to their presentation.

But just as important to their business model is the willingness to be different. “We also try to do flavours that people might not have tried before or are unique to us. Our Celery Tonic is probably our most iconic flavour, we use celery seed, cucumber, apples, ginger and fresh celery,” adds Slater. Now don’t let the label “tonic” fool you. Their Celery Tonic is actually a soda. And how can you let a man who makes his own soda by hand ship it to you from across the world and not review his most popular product? That said, we’re reviewing the sarsaparilla. Just kidding, we’re reviewing the celery soda. (Immediately I realized this joke didn’t work because of the title and photos in this post. F#%k it, I’m leaving it in.) Currently, Six Barrel Soda has five bottled flavors with a sixth seasonal flavor that rotates. If you hit that link, you’ll also notice they produce a line of soda syrups. The shop also serves coffee and fries, but their commitment is unquestionably on liquid. In their own words, “We’re drink makers not chemists.” And in an age where “flavor chemists” are becoming more popular, it’s interesting to see the Kiwi’s making soda Americana-style with more good ole fashioned elbow grease than a lot of soda companies here in the states. Or something like that. And according to Slater, you might just see Six Barrel Soda pop up in America some time in the future. So stay tuned.

Where to get: According to Slater, Six Barrel Soda supplies “bars, restaurants, cafes, grocery and gift store across NZ, Australia, Singapore” and soon, Korea. Americans, your best bet is to email the company and see if something can be worked out. Six Barrel Soda sells their soda online and ships throughout New Zealand.

Nose: A balance of celery and apple juice with the celery becoming more prominent the longer you sniff.

Taste: Celery seed; apple juice; cucumber. Six Barrel Soda Co.’s Celery Tonic tastes light on sugar and rich in celery. You can really taste the celery seed as well as the cucumber. For a soda with two vegetables in it, this is refreshing and palatable. The apple juice provides a mild sweetness. The celery flavor lingers the longest. The cucumber provides some slightly bitter notes. The carbonation is very, very light. The ginger isn’t obvious in the flavor profile, but if you search for it, it’s there.

Finish: Lingering celery with a stronger cucumber flavor than in the body of the soda. Not sweet or savory. Right in the middle.

Rating: Celery is a vegetable you’re 100 times more likely to find in soup, but Six Barrel Soda Co. has no time for your culinary limitations. This is a soda made with two vegetables, but luckily doesn’t taste like vegetable soda. The primary flavors you’ll taste will be celery, apple juice and cucumber. All of them are mild. Celery is the most prominent, but don’t sleep on the cucumber, the soda’s most refreshing element and one that becomes more prominent throughout the duration of the drink. The apple juice does a nice job providing a sweetness, but I’d love to see the flavor more emboldened in the drink’s overall flavor profile. The celery and cucumber are both distinct, while the apple seems to be cast in a supporting role. I think a stronger apple would work really well with those two flavors. That said, Celery Tonic is a pleasant surprise. You don’t often expect a soda with a vegetable on the label to be something you want to drink, but I’d definitely down one of these on a hot day. Fans of botanical sodas or ones off the beaten path are almost sure to love this, but we’d recommend it to any sort of soda connoisseur. It’s an inventive take in an industry where innovation is half the battle to its customer base. Keep fighting the good fight, Kiwi friends.

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Bickford’s: Sarsaparilla

History: Bickford’s is a brand rooted in tradition. Since 1874, the South Australian company has been producing its famous cordials. The company makes a whole host of other products too, including its Bickford’s Old Style Soda line of seven different flavors. One of the most popular is sarsaparilla. Says Bickford’s Brand Manager Beverley Reeves, “Sarsaparilla is the fastest growing in some of our overseas markets perhaps because the flavors are different from those that consumers there would normally be familiar with.” According to Reeves, the soda’s recipe is still the same as it was decades ago. Like America, the Australian soda scene continues to evolve. Reeves adds that there is a “shift from mainstream to more differentiated flavours and brands with a story.” In the end, it’ll always come down to taste and Bickford’s Sarsaparilla was designed with a bold licorice flavor in mind. Knowing that, I wouldn’t expect this to be particularly fluffy on the palate. Previously, we reviewed their creamy soda that has a touch of raspberry. So Bickford’s definitely seems to be a company that makes traditional flavors with nontraditional tastes. A fan favorite in its native country, Reeves gave us the inside scoop that Bickford’s is soon coming to America and will debut in October. We’ll keep you posted when and where as soon as details become available. In the mean time, there’s ice cold sarsaparilla waiting for you.

Where to get: In Australia, you can find Bickford’s Sarsaparilla at “most major supermarkets and convenience stores,” according to its website. Now you might pay some hefty shipping outside of Australia, but you can also buy Bickford’s Sarsaparilla online via Sippify.

Nose: Strong black licorice; anise. There’s a mild hint of root beer on the nose, but this smells very, very rich in licorice. Pucker up.

Taste: Licorice; anise; sarsaparilla root. This is definitely more of a botanical sarsaparilla as opposed to a creamy one with lots of vanilla. You’ll really notice the sarsaparilla root flavor in this drink. It’s bold and very herbal. There’s a semisweet sensation encapsulated by frothy bubbles that coats the tongue as the sarsaparilla flavor fades. At brief points in the soda, there’s even a little bit of a cola flavor, but this is a sarsaparilla anchored by strong sarsaparilla root, sassafras, and licorice flavors. The licorice isn’t as pronounced in the flavor profile as it is on the nose, but really shows up in the aftertaste. Definitely black licorice flavor, but not overly strong.

Finish: Tart sarsaparilla root with lingering notes of licorice.

Rating: Bickford’s sarsaparilla is a stark departure from American takes on the flavor, utilizing a strong herbal flavor profile instead of a smooth, creamy one. The tasting notes that stand out most are unmistakably sarsaparilla root and licorice. The sarsaparilla flavor is stronger, but the licorice is particularly noteworthy. Coming in near the end of each sip along with a wave of champagne-like bubbles; it’s a commendable use of a flavor that often overpowers the soda experience. Another aspect that stands out is the tartness on the finish. It’s a crisp herbal reminder that reinforces you’re definitely drinking sarsaparilla and not root beer. I could’ve used a sign like that during my second engagement If you’re not a fan of botanical sodas, you’re not going to enjoy Bickford’s Sarsaparilla. This is a soft drink for the slightly more adventurous soda connoisseur. It isn’t particularly sweet and relies more on its herbals flavors to impress its drinkers. The sugar, while lower in the flavor profile, is noticeably crisp. Bickford’s Sarsaparilla should be a hit with lovers of botanical sodas and die-hard sarsaparilla drinkers. It won’t be for everyone, but this soda knows its niche and leaves an Australian footprint in the sarsaparilla marketplace.