I can't remember a time when soda wasn't vilified. Of course, there have been some memorable gimmicks (remember Crystal Pepsi?), but mostly just a whole lot of high fructose corn syrup and not a lot of fun. Needless to say, the idea of returning to a time when soda was without as much baggage is definitely appealing. These three homemade sodas are contemporary takes on classic soda fountain drinks: a rickey, a phosphate, and an egg cream. In the spirit of the soda fountain, they're simple, familiar, and refreshing—and you can make them all at home.
Chocolate Phosphate Soda
Although it sounds like something straight out of eighth grade science class, acid phosphate was an iconic drink additive in American soda fountains. In the late 1800s, acid phosphate began as a sour stand-in for lemon and lime juice because it was less perishable and more accessible than fresh citrus.
Now, it's a bit hard to find, but totally worth tracking down (I ordered mine from the Boston Shaker) and a little goes a long way. The acid phosphate has no discernible flavor, but brings a dryness to and illuminates the existing flavor of anything it touches. In this chocolate phosphate soda, a classic soda fountain drink, the phosphate rounds out the chocolate flavor, muting it and bringing out its nuances at the same time.
Coffee Coconut Egg Cream
I had my first egg cream during my first summer in New York City, at a block party on the Lower East Side. I wasn't sure that it didn't contain raw eggs, but I was hot and it was cold, so I downed it without asking any questions. I am reluctant to call this variation an egg cream because I know that I'm not the only one with a strong and specific egg cream memory. I'm certainly straying from the purest form here, which according to most folks is Fox's U-bet syrup, bottled seltzer, and whole milk. Instead, I swap in homemade coffee syrup, coconut milk, and seltzer for a caffeinated take on this soda fountain standby. The creamy coconut milk brings out the nutty flavors in the coffee nicely.
Blueberry Lime Rickey
This blueberry lime rickey packs just about everything I want in a drink. It's pretty, relies on bold, simple flavors, and has a great name. It also remedies a lot of the problems that help give contemporary soda a bad rap. The vibrant color comes from a homemade blueberry syrup, rather than anything artificial. It's certainly sweet, but like its cocktail counterpart, lime juice plays a starring role and provides plenty of tart balance.