By Jeannette Ordas of Everybody likes Sandwiches
Years ago, when I moved away from home, I drank a lot of Coca Cola. I broke out of that bad habit long ago, but now and then I still crave a Coke, especially when there's some rum and lime near by! So when I came across a recipe for an all-natural Golden Cola, I was intrigued. I knew that it probably wouldn't taste like cracking open a can of Coke – plus there's a recipe head note that says the same thing – but I thought it might be close to the hippy colas you can find at most natural food stores.
The recipe calls for an odd assortment of ingredients - some easy to come by, some less so. The citric acid, which gives the syrup a bit of acidic pucker, can be found at specialty gourmet shops but it's an optional ingredient so you could easily leave it out. I also decided to stray from the original recipe which called for sugar and try an all-natural sweetener that you can find at most natural food shops. Xylitol is a sugar substitute that comes from birch trees and can be used 1 to 1 with sugar. This was my first foray into the world of sugar substitutes (rice syrup and agave syrups, aside) and I was happy with the results. There was no bitterness or weird aftertaste and I can only hope that the likelihood of growing a third nipple is pretty low.
So, does the recipe deliver a cola-like flavour? Not really. When the mixture was boiling away on the stove, I could smell a similarity but when I poured myself a glass, I couldn't detect much cola-ness. That said, this recipe still makes for a very drinkable soda. It's hard to pin down the flavour and I think it's more like a ginger ale without the ginger, if that makes any sense. There's something herbally about it and not only is it honey-coloured, the taste is similar to a drink made with honey which is a little surprising. My husband is a huge fan of this soda syrup and can't believe that there isn't any sugar involved. It may be very un-cola-like, but it is delicious, refreshing and doesn't involve sugar!
Hello, all natural fizzy refreshment!
Sugar-Free Natural Golden Soda Pop
(adapted from The Artisan Soda Workshop cookbook)
grated zest of 2 oranges
grated zest of 1 lime
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 star anise pod
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon citric acid (optional)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups xylitol sweetener* (or use regular granulated sugar)
In a heavy pot, combine all the ingredients except for the sugar substitute. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce over medium-low heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the zest and spices. Return the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil, adding in the sweetener or sugar and let boil for 5 minutes, stirring to make sure the sweetener dissolves. Refrigerate and keep in a covered container like a mason jar for up to a week.
To make the soda pop, stir 3-4 tablespoons of syrup into a large glass and fill with seltzer or club soda, stirring well to combine.