lavender

Soda Jerk Soda: Lemon Lavender

History: Seattle, Washington is continually churning out some of the most inventive and artisanal craft sodas on the market. But some of these effervescent elixirs are hidden gems that not everyone knows about. We believe they deserve their day in the sun. Enter Soda Jerk Soda, some of the most creative craft soda on the west coast. Owner Cory Clark had been a cosmetic chemist with a couple stores in Texas, but he was looking for his next project. Something different, he thought. Something cool. “I’m kind of a person that has to be creating something to be happy,” he says. He told us initially he wanted to start an ice cream and soda fountain, but after seeing the success of the Soda Stream, Clark changed his mind and started exploring soda syrups. He quickly changed course again after he realized he preferred fresh ingredients to syrup. It’s hard to disagree there. But before we tell you about the liquid, here’s an example of Clark’s creativeness. Dude sells his soda out of what is essentially a cute-ass baby truck on wheels. He bought it online and customized it himself after being inspired by a Cushman Truckster… aka the next thing I’m drunk buying online. Back to the soda. You won’t find anything traditional on the Soda Jerk Soda truck. It features three taps with two rotating flavors. Strawberry Rhubarb. Lime Cilantro Jalapeno. Lemon Lavender. These are some of the flavors you’ll find in place of classics like root beer or cola. “I try to pair an herb or spice with the ingredient,” Clark notes. Soda Jerk Soda also always uses organic cane sugar and fresh ingredients with as many sourced locally from Washington as possible. Clark adds he uses organic ingredients whenever he can. There are also no preservatives in Soda Jerk Soda. Hipsters everywhere should be lining up for this stuff.

Lemon Lavender is one of the first flavors Clark created and to this day it’s the company’s best seller. It’s also the only flavor consistently available on tap. Fresh lavender flowers from Washington are used in the soda instead of lavender extracts in order to make the soda taste as authentic as possible. What’s really interesting about Clark’s process is that he doesn’t cook down his ingredients. He just uses hot water for steeping the herbs and melting down the sugar. He says he does this to ensure “the flavors are very bright and strong.” The Lemon Lavender soda contains 12.5 % juice. Time to ingest the freshness.

Where to get: Soda Jerk Soda is one of those local-only craft sodas, so you’ve gotta be in the Seattle area or going to the city to get a taste. Clark told us he’s looking into shipping methods, but as of fall 2015, it was still quite a ways off due to high costs for both parties. Here’s a list of where to find Soda Jerk Soda in Seattle.

Nose: Strong lavender. Mild lemon-lime tucked behind the lavender. The scent wavers between sweet, floral, and savory. A big nose on this soda.

Taste: Tart; sweet lavender; lemon. Definitely a floral/botanical soda, but uncharacteristically sweet for a soda in that flavor zone. The flavors here are big and bold. This looks like pink lemonade, but is defined by the lavender taste that permeates each sip. There’s a quick rush of light carbonation at the beginning of the drink, quickly followed up by tart lemon and sweet lavender. This is initially more tart than sweet, which makes it very crisp. The lavender does give the soda a bit of an herbal taste, but it’s a sweet one. While lavender really shines in the first half of the drink, lemon takes over the second half of each sip. It’s interesting; the lemon becomes sweeter, while the lavender begins packing a bit of zing and tasting more savory, along the lines of a tart lavender tea. The lemon and lavender taste fresh and don’t make your taste buds over think. Overall, it’s a pretty even mix of sweet to sour, though I’d give the nod to the former. There’s a lot going on for just two main flavors, but luckily, this artisanal soda isn’t overly complicated.

Finish: Herbal lavender, almost like a tea with subtle tart lemon in the background.

Rating: What makes this soda interesting is the Jekyll and Hyde personalities of its two flavors, lavender and lemon. Initially the lavender is sweet and the lemon is tart, but on the back half of each sip, the roles are reversed. I’ve never tasted that before in a soda that relies so heavily on just two ingredients. Really takes your taste buds for a ride. Reminds me of that one night last year in Vegas… never mind. The standout flavor of the two is lavender. It’s very bold and very floral. Again, at times it’s very sweet, almost a little fruity. Near the finish, it becomes more tart and savory, imparting a botanical flavor. What I want to stress is this: the lavender taste in this soda is not a candied flavor. You can really taste the lavender flowers. Super, super authentic and flavorful. Lemon was a great companion flavor to pair with the boldness of the lavender. It helps reign in the soda’s overall flavor profile and adds a nice zing. For some, this won’t work because they simply can’t adjust to lavender in liquid form. For others, this might be a little too tart or herbal. Personally, I enjoy how the tartness lingers throughout each sip. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing the sweet lemon flavor enhanced in addition to that tartness. Soda Jerk Lemon Lavender is also really wonderful with dark rum for a simple, balanced, and flavorful night cap. Lavender is, of course, known for its sleep properties. The bottom line about Soda Jerk Lemon Lavender soda is that it tastes remarkably fresh and crisp. The two flavors work well in tandem and are bold on the palate. You’d be missing out if you didn’t indulge your taste buds in this unique, split personality of an artisan soda.

Four Stars

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Dry Sparkling: Lavender

History: “I believe we’re creating a new category of soda,” says Dry Sparkling CEO and founder Sharelle Klaus. The Seattle, Washington-based Dry Sparkling is and has been at the forefront of the artisan, lower calorie, natural soda movement. The company began in 2005 and is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary. The bottles are sleek, modern in packaging design. Each flavor is translucent in color. There are only four ingredients in every soda: carbonated water, cane sugar, natural flavors, and phosphoric acid. No flavor contains over 100 calories. And unlike a majority of glass-bottled sodas that are created with the intention of being a nostalgia-inducing sweet treat, Dry Sparkling’s flavors were engineered with more of a culinary mindset. “I know that you can pair food with a nonalcoholic,” Klaus tells us she recalled thinking, adding she sometimes had thoughts like, “I really want a basil soda with this plate of spaghetti.” For the record, I too really want a basil soda, and also a girl who’s a 10, but will settle for a six. Dry Soda has been more successful in manifesting their vision… so far. In fact, according to Klaus, they’re the fastest growing soda company in the nation. Dry Sparkling designed each of its eight flavors so that they pair well with food. You won’t find craft soda classics like root beer or cream soda here. Instead you’ll experience flavors like Lavender, Vanilla Bean, and Juniper Berry. “It’s all about the flavor for us, honoring the flavor or ingredient,” Klaus adds. These are the New-Age warriors of soda.

Despite Dry Sparkling’s many differences from your typical sugary liquid offering, its creation was closely related to a common denominator almost all sodas shares: children. Klaus laughs as she recounts how she couldn’t drink alcohol for almost ten years of her life when she was either having children or nursing them. Like many women with finer tastes than mine, Klaus loves wine, particularly pairing wine with food. Having four kids threw a wrench in the wine part of that equation, so Klaus sought to create Dry Sparkling, a high-end nonalcoholic beverage that could be paired with a variety of cuisines. I find it ironic the brand has a close relation to kids, but wasn’t created for them. That said, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to get your young ones hooked on this instead of root beer floats unless you want them looking like my stepmom in a few years. Sorry. But not really. The company has completely embraced the crossover between the nonalcoholic crowd and the world of artisan spirits. Klaus tells us, “I was watching craft beer and I thought, ‘this is absolutely what has to happen in soda.’” They encourage drinkers to try their sodas in cocktails. There’s even a whole section on their website devoted to drink recipes. “That’s where the innovation comes from…. Soda should be opened up,” says Klaus.

While the company’s name is technically still Dry Soda, and despite Klaus referring to her products as “soda” in our interview, the business seems to be moving away from the term. “Dry Soda” recently rebranded. Their bottles are now labeled “Dry Sparkling,” as is their website (see update at bottom of page). Klaus acknowledges that she realizes soda is a negative word, but also adds she feels “sparkling” better defines the brand because of the bubbles and low sugar content. Today’s review, lavender, was one of Dry’s original four flavors and also the closest to Klaus’s heart. She tells us she worked on it herself, taking a staggering 1,300 (!!!) flavor tests to perfect the recipe in order to achieve a balance of floral and herbal tasting notes. “It’s the one I’m most proud of,” she says. She recommends pairing the soda with chocolate, so we took her recommendation up in our photos. Klaus says this can be a soda even for the less adventurous, noting she wanted to capture the comfort of vanilla in a lavender soft drink. She laughs, adding, “I have four small children under the age of seven, I needed something soothing.”

Where to get: Dry Sparkling is distributed nationwide. You can find it in stores like Whole Foods and Target, among others, but the best way to find the retailer nearest you is to use the company’s online soda locator. You can buy Dry Soda online from Soda Emporium in single bottles and Amazon in 12-packs.

Nose: I understand this is lavender, but I’m smelling ginger beer and some fruity floral notes. That ginger note is distinct. Unexpected.

Taste: Light; mild citrus; floral. This is light and refreshing. No ginger flavor like on the nose. Lavender is an unfamiliar flavor in soda, so your taste buds’ tendencies will be to look for something it knows first, and what we tasted first was a familiar friend: citrus. Particularly lemon-lime citrus. This flavor becomes less and less prominent as you get accustomed to the sweet floral notes in this soda. There’s only 70 calories in a 12 oz. bottle, but the sugar is prominent enough to satisfy the prototypical soda drinker. It’s likely supplemented by the sweet lavender floral notes on the backend of each sip. The carbonation serves as a buffer between the light citrus and lavender flavors. The bubbles are tiny, and come and go in a flash about half way through each sip. You’ll taste a familiar mild citrus up front that gives way more and more each sip to floral flavors with balanced sweetness.

Finish: Light floral notes of lavender. The lavender tastes like a sweet flower at the finish of every sip, and becomes bolder as the drink goes on.

Rating: Soda drinkers are not often the most adventurous when it comes to flavor, even when enjoying craft or artisan soft drinks. We like some sort of familiarity even when dipping our toes in the deep end. Orange and fennel? Why not, because I know at least one of those flavors. Lavender soda? You might get the insane eyes from your friends. But guess what? Dry Sparkling’s Lavender is actually a safe first step for those wanting to venture out into the unknown. There’s a familiarity to it on first sip in the form of a lemon-lime taste. It’s a nice segue into the soda’s main tasting notes that are floral and slightly sweet in nature. This is a crisp and refreshing soda. It’s light and very drinkable. You could down this in ten minutes and be fine. With a flavor this rare though, I’d suggest savoring it a little more to enlighten your taste buds. I suggest the same thing to all women I date and I’m still strongly single, so maybe just trust your instincts. For a soda with only four ingredients, this is actually quite flavorful. For anyone afraid of trying herbal or botanical sodas, I’d suggest getting your feet wet with this one first. It’s not overly bold in flavor and definitely isn’t something you’ll encounter often. It’s fun. It’s refreshing. It’s different. And it’s definitely worth trying a bottle to gauge for yourself.

Four Stars

Update: This review was edited to reflect the name of the company as “DRY Sparkling” instead of “DRY Soda” at the request of the company.