elderflower

Frïsa: Elderflower

History: “We are soda’s hipper, healthier, edgier – and of course, more delicious! – cousin,” boasts Casey Beard, Frïsa General Manager and COO. I wish my cousin was like that. Had to get a restraining order against him. Frïsa is a new sparkling soft drink out of Minneapolis, Minnesota from Kristian Regale, though this particular brand is marketed as an “ultra-premium European botanical beverage.” It joins a litany of other “sparkling” beverages that further blur the definition of what craft soda is becoming and entails. But for all intensive purposes, it’s still a carbonated soft drink made with cane sugar and premium ingredients. Sounds like craft soda to us. Frïsa is all about creating a soda made with botanicals. For those of you who aren’t aware, “botanicals” typically refer to plant or herbal flavors when it comes to beverages. “We use very unique botanical ingredients, and super surprising flavor combinations. Each ingredient and flavor profile was heavily scrutinized to ensure a delicious taste that rings true on so many different levels,” says Beard. But perhaps their sexiest ingredient is the one we all take for granted in soda: water. Frïsa sources its water from the Pyrenees Mountains. In addition to the botanicals and fancy water, each soda is also made with a modest amount of pure cane sugar. And for you health-conscious soda drinkers, every bottle of Frïsa is gluten-free, non-GMO, and Kosher certified. And every serving clocks in at under 100 calories. Makes me want to strap on a pair of yoga pants and run a casual marathon just thinking about it. Maybe chug a bottle in victory as I gallop past some 60 year-old guy at the finish line. Beard tells us the company’s most popular flavor is elderflower, which has kind of a citrusy flavor and is popular in cocktails. The flavor recently received a BevStar Award from Beverage Magazine in the category of category pioneer, so it’s already receiving some praise despite its newcomer status to the marketplace. It was simply too intriguing for us to pass up.

Where to get: Because Frïsa is still so new, it’s mostly only sold in the midwest and has a small footprint in New York City. You can find it in stores at Kowalski’s Markets and Lunds & Byerlys. As of late October 2015, Frïsa is still not sold online, though we are told online sales should begin within the next few weeks at Frïsa’s website.

Nose: Grapefruit; citrus; hops. Smells like a fruity IPA, almost identical to Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA.

Taste: Grapefruit; floral; mild tartness; light pear. This has a really bright and vivid taste. Very floral and fairly fruity. For a beverage marketed as botanical, this is a little sweeter than you’d probably expect, though not to the level of a typical soda. You taste a subtle and frothy tartness in the beginning that’s full of pear and mild citrus notes. The carbonation is very similar to that of champagne or sparkling grape juice. As the drink settles in on each sip, the sweet, floral grapefruit flavor comes in to balance out the initial tartness. This is full-bodied for a soda with a lot of flavor characteristics and subtleties. For example, and this doesn’t happen often, you can tell the quality of water used in this is high. It’s just a very distinct crispness separate from the flavors. There’s also just a little bit of a hops taste that accompanies the grapefruit. Some drinkers might even taste subtle apple notes. We also tasted champagne grapes. This has lots of layer while maintaining a robust, natural flavor throughout.

Finish: Mild floral grapefruit that’s slightly earthy. The botanical elements come out more near the end of each sip.

Rating: Frïsa Elderflower is going to be a pleasant surprise for most soda drinkers. It’s light, but full of flavor. Definitely a more sophisticated take on soda that fits right in the “sparkling” category. This should probably sipped to enjoy all of the subtleties in the flavor profile. I’d recommend chilled with no ice. This is certainly botanical, but it’s still approachable, and that’s critical. So often botanical sodas are too savory or herbal for the majority of soda drinkers to enjoy, but there are familiar flavors in Frïsa’s Elderflower working in tandem with the botanical notes. While it is a very floral drink, you’ll also taste some general citrus, pear, and most notably, grapefruit. Maybe even subtle apple and/or grape. What’s most impressive about Frïsa Elderflower is its ability to pack so much into the flavor profile, while retaining a fresh taste that’s very drinkable. Honestly, at first glance this probably wouldn’t be in the wheelhouse of most craft soda drinkers because of its champagne bottle packaging and unfamiliar flavor. Sometimes those characteristics can be turn offs instead of intriguing elements of a liquid mystery you want to put in your mouth. But this is one you shouldn’t pass over. Sure, the citrus could probably shine more or the earthier elements could be curtailed, but these are the elements that give this soda its character. I, for one, had my doubts coming in, but I’m here to tell you that Frïsa Elderflower is one of the best off the beaten path sodas I’ve tried in a long time.

Four Stars

Cannonborough BevCo: Grapefruit Elderflower Soda

History: Three young dudes running a soda company… what could go wrong? Who knows, but fortunately for Cannonborough Beverage Company in Charleston, South Carolina, a lot has gone right. And a lot of it has to do with their location. Charleston is a city renowned for its local produce and fruits with a vibrant farmer’s market community. The farm-to-table movement is strong there. There’s a lot of plaid. People drink PBR in the afternoon. Lots of life talks. You get where I’m going? It’s a hipster town. People there are used to what’s authentic. So, with their boyish good looks and background in cocktail mixing, the guys at CannonBevCo set out to make sodas that appealed to a more health-conscious audience. “Sometimes you feel a little guilty drinking soda. We wanted to take the vehicle of soda we loved and elevate it a little bit,” they said. But they wanted to do it right. That background in the bar business has translated to their soda production. They use the same type of equipment used by craft beer brewers to make their soda. The three partners began at farmer’s markets in April 2012. They’ve since found their niche using a bevy of fresh, local options to create high-end, non-pasteurized, fruit sodas. Flavors are often dictated by season, with Honey Basil, Ginger Beer and Grapefruit Elderflower available year-round.

Where to get: Currently, Cannonborough sodas are available in about 50 restaurants throughout the Charlestown, South Carolina area. The company is set to soon nationally debut a 750 ml bottle that is shelf-stable, meaning it doesn’t have to be constantly refrigerated. Until then, the guys are more than happy to take orders directly. Expect shipping to be around $10-15 due to their larger 32 oz. bottle size.

Nose: Grapefruit; lemon; very soft orange; slight vanilla notes.

Taste: BANG, summer just smacked you in the mouth, yo! Extremely crisp, refreshing citrus taste. The tang of the grapefruit is immediate and then softens out with just a hint of sweetness and a mild floral note you get from the elderflower. I’m even getting a little bit of candied ginger, which is interesting because there’s no ginger in this soda. Most importantly, this tastes real. Cannonborough’s emphasis on sourcing local, fresh ingredients is evident. No syrupy, mouth-coating feeling with this soda. It has a little bit of a San Pellegrino thing going on, but its carbonation makes it more drinkable and its ingredients give it more flavor. This could be your Mountain Dew, hipsters! Those who don’t enjoy grapefruit obviously should avoid this. The grapefruit is very prominent, but never overbearing. I’d have liked to get just a little bit more sweetness in this to cut some of the tang of the grapefruit. But its drinkability is undeniable. This is pool party soda.

Finish: We kept drinking this over and over because we weren’t sure how this was happening, but there’s a very soft, floral candied cherry finish that comes from the elderflower. It’s extremely pleasant after the citrus zing. Best part of the soda.

Rating: It’s refreshing; it’s different; and most of all, it’s good. Hipsters, keep your pants on and put down your PBR. This is for you. Normal people, this is also for you. The bite of the grapefruit can be a bit much at times, but the elderflower aftertaste does a nice job at mellowing that out. Not many people make sodas the way these guys do. Everyone talks about being “all-natural” and using “real ingredients.” These dudes actually do it and the proof is in your mouth. If you’re willing to fork over a little bit more money than you’d normally pay for a soda, give the guys at CannonBevCo a call. You’ll be glad you did. And for you grown-ups: When mixed with an aged bourbon, this becomes the most dangerous mouthgasm-inducing cocktail you’ve had in a long time.