Making my own soda is something I've been interested in for awhile, so I approached Andrew Schloss's Homemade Soda with a lot of curiosity. Primarily...moreMaking my own soda is something I've been interested in for awhile, so I approached Andrew Schloss's Homemade Soda with a lot of curiosity. Primarily a recipe book for soda, with a bit of interesting historical detail and humor sprinkled in here and there, the book is fairly straightforward in approach and the recipes are generally very simple to follow. There are three approaches to soda making and many of the recipes can be made with all three (although some are restricted to only one approach): mixing with pre-bought seltzer, creating your own seltzer with a siphon, or brewing. So far I've only tried the first two, but may try brewing at some point in the future. I've made about 10 of the recipes at this time and have found the results to range from fabulous to disappointing (to be fair, the same can probably be said of many cookbooks since everyone's tastes vary). The cream and juice sodas I've made have been great; the root-beers have been interesting, but with extremely bitter aftertastes, despite seemingly absurd amounts of sugar (this was quite disappointing, because I was most looking forward to the rootbeers). The peanut-butter cream soda was a complete disaster (how much of this was the recipe versus my own ability to make it may be hard to determine).
Many of the ingredients are easy to find, but some are quite a bit more difficult than the author implies, despite hints on where to get them. I live in one of the largest major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and couldn't find most of the basic rootbeer ingredients at any local store, including homebrew stores, health-food stores, etc. I ended up purchasing them online, which was easy and, per volume, probably cheaper than I would have found locally, although I had to buy in a quantity larger than I might prefer when still testing recipes. Plastic bottles for brewing (specifically recommended in the book in lieu of glass) are also difficult to find, because most homebrewers tend to prefer glass and this is what the stores generally carry.
I was a little disappointed in the lack of diet recipes in the book. Schloss discusses artificial sweetners in the opening section and essentially says "they ruin the taste, don't use them." Given the at times very high sugar content (and thus high calorie count) of many of these drinks recipes, a little more support for those who love soda but would prefer lower calorie options would have been aprpeciated. At least all of the recipes use natural sugars and avoid corn syrup.
A minor pet peeve of mine, common to many cookbooks, not just this one, is that many recipes call for things like "the juice of a medium orange" or "the zest of two lemons". I realize this is common parlance, but personally I find it much more useful and helpful to translate these into measurable volumes, particularly since the average size of fruit that one finds in a store today may be quite different (usually larger) than it was years ago (you can look up the approximate values for these concepts online and will often find that what you get out of a single fruit can be 50-100% larger than what the technical volume is supposed to be).
The volumes of the recipes vary a lot, ranging from 1 serving to 3 servings (about a liter) to 1 gallon. In many cases it is not at all obvious why there is so much variation in output amongst the recipes and a little more standardization might have been useful. The last part of the book contains food recipes to go with sodas, but realistically this just felt like filler material to flesh out the final length of the book a bit more.
Desipte these issues, I have quite enjoyed the experimentation with sodas and will continue to do so in the future. Definitely a good choice for soda lovers considering making their own.(less)