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.