If you want a complex natural cola with the flavor of fresh cherries, you may have to do quite a bit of hunting—unless you make your own. It won't taste like Coke or Pepsi, and that's the point. This recipe is inspired by Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain's cola recipe.
Notes: Some grocery stores sell citric acid, but you can also find it at health food stores, canning supply shops, or online. I used a large vanilla bean, about 6 inches long, so if your vanilla bean is very small, use more.
I recommend sampling the cola syrup before adding cherries and almond extract and adjusting to taste if you think you will want a very strong cola flavor—this recipe emphasizes the cherry flavor. Start with 1 part cherry cola syrup and 3 parts seltzer, adding additional seltzer to taste.
- 2 oranges, zest only
- 1 lime, zest only
- 1 lemon, zest only
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 pods star anise, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon citric acid
- 1 fresh vanilla bean (approx 6"), split lengthwise
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander seed, crushed
- 2 cups water
- 10 to 12 cherries
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Place citrus zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, lavender, ginger, citric acid, vanilla, coriander seed, and water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
Line the strainer with cheesecloth and strain the ingredients of the pot, pressing down on the cheesecloth to extract as much liquid as possible. Pour the liquid back into the pot along with both sugars, cherries, and almond extract and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour through strainer to remove cherries. This is your cherry cola syrup. To make the soda, combine 1 part syrup with 3 to 4 parts seltzer, according to taste. Store syrup in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.