Soda. Pop. Soda pop. Coke. Whatever you call it, a cold, sweet carbonated beverage is always a pleasure. Well-made sodas are enjoyable all by themselves, or they serve as a versatile base for cocktails. Here's a look at a few favorite fizzy drinks served around town.
Soda. Pop. Soda pop. Coke. Whatever you call it, a cold, sweet carbonated beverage is always a pleasure. Well-made sodas are enjoyable all by themselves, or they serve as a versatile base for cocktails. Here’s a look at a few favorite fizzy drinks served around town.
Rambling House Soda
Rambling House has led the way in Columbus craft sodas. Owner John Lynch began crafting his sodas in small batches a couple years ago, starting slowly with sales at The Ohio Taproom and a rollout at ComFest. But then his sodas got picked up by the likes of Bodega, The Crest and the Columbus Food League, and since then they’ve been going gangbusters. Lynch creates his sodas from all-natural ingredients, and he doesn’t shy away from bold flavors. His signature ginger beer uses about four pounds of fresh ginger per keg, giving it a big bite. Likewise, his old-fashioned sarsaparilla is rich and spicy, while his Columbus Cola – “the drink that made us into soda brewers,” he says – is flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon, lime and orange. Rambling House has also demonstrated that well-made sodas are a reason to gather. Their Hudson Street home is jam-packed four nights a week, where guests enjoy live music and cocktails made from Rambling House sodas. Regular visitors get to try the weekly rotating sodas, which have included flavors like pumpkin spice, salty caramel and blueberry vanilla.
Frostop Root Beer
The Frostop brand has been around since the 1920s, and while it didn’t get its start in Columbus (it began in Springfield, OH), its operations are now based here. The company once had root beer stands in all 48 lower states, and while nearly all of them are long gone, the Frostop brand is growing again, selling their drinks in stores, online and to restaurants around the country. Their root beer – a sweet and creamy mix that embodies the root beer form – is still the best seller, although their lineup includes a diet version, orange and cream soda, Kansas City sarsaparilla, red birch beer and vanilla caramel cream. The Frostop brand cashes in on the nostalgia factor, too; it hearkens back to days of family trips to the drive-in. If you’ve been to any Columbus Food League restaurant or caught a movie at Studio 35 recently, you know that a shot of whiskey or bourbon plays very, very nicely with the root beer.
In addition to world-class baked goods (can we say donut muffin?!), Sassafras Bakery crafts some of their own sodas in-house. Owner A.J. Perry features her root beer year round. It’s sweetened with honey from Honeyrun Farms in Williamsport, Ohio. The sweet and spicy brew is a perfect pairing with cinnamon rolls, whoopie pies, one of the recently-debuted salads or sandwiches, or, let’s face it, anything on the menu.
LIVE Kombucha Soda
Fans of Columbus-made Luna Kombucha understand the enjoyment and benefits of well-made fermented tea drinks. Austin-based LIVE Kombucha Soda started when owner Trevor Ross wanted to make healthy kombucha that could be enjoyed by the casual drinker. His kombuchas are certified organic, GMO-free, fair-trade, all the good stuff. The teas are sweetened with organic stevia and then flavored like popular sodas. The Pure Doctor, for instance, is marked by cherry, clove and caramel, much like another doctor-named soda out there. Likewise with the Culture Cola, Dreamy Orange and Revive Rootbeer. The bottled sodas are available at nearly every Columbus market: Weiland’s, Huffman’s, Lucky’s, Raisin Rack, Fresh Thyme and Earth Fare – plus every Target in town.
The Winemaker’s Shop
The Winemaker’s Shop has been a mainstay in the Columbus brewing scene for over 40 years. In addition to guiding generations of home brewers and winemakers, owner Scott Francis helped establish Columbus Brewing Company, Barley’s, Smokehouse Brewing and most recently Temperance Row Brewing. He and his family are the go-to for brewing knowledge in Columbus, and they’ve turned their attention to craft sodas, too. They’ve starting taking their wine-based concentrates and force carbonating them. There’s no fermentation involved, so they’re non-alcoholic. Instead the wine bases are turned into fruit sodas like green apple riesling or black raspberry merlot. Catch them during the Clintonville Farmer’s Market from May through October, and at Alana’s Food and Wine on a regular basis.
Look for more craft sodas in-house at spots like Basi Italia, Veritas Tavern and M at Miranova.