Here at A&H, we covet innovation and appreciate the companies who thrive off of it. Brooklyn Soda Works is a local company based in the New York City borough creating uniquely-flavored “carbonated juices.” To find out more about this process and created flavors, we sat to talk with Caroline Mak of the company.
A&H: Tell us about the beginnings of Brooklyn Soda Works.
Caroline Mak: The company was started by Antonio Ramos and I, a chemist and visual artist, in 2010. We started it as a project to try to make a really fresh-tasting ginger beer. Then we moved onto later carbonated fresh fruit juice—the second beverage we made was Grapefruit, Jalapeno, and Honey, followed by Cucumber, Lime, and Sea Salt (all are fantastic mixers with liquors—we were very inspired by what mixologists, brewers, and winemakers have been doing, and there is no reason why your non-alcoholic beverages shouldn’t be as interesting).
We started off selling our carbonated juices fresh on tap at the Brooklyn Flea, a weekly market in our neighbourhood that has a fantastic selection of food vendors. From there we expanded to wholesaling our beverages to restaurants like Palo Santo and Blue Hill New York.
We now have a 2000 square foot production space in Brooklyn where we produce everything in-house from fresh fruit and herbs.
CM: We don’t particularly like soda, but we love good juices, and there is no reason why you can’t carbonate fresh juice directly. So, instead of making our beverages from syrup (which is how all sodas are made, and which is why they are often over sweetened), we make our own juices from fresh fruit and herbs and then carbonate them by pumping in carbon dioxide.
Our respective backgrounds are important—the best food and drinks come from careful research and a desire to experiment, as well as having the ability to think creatively, never letting what conventional attitudes to a dish (or drink) hinder what you can do with it.
We prefer to think of our beverages as showcasing the best of fruit, herbs, and spices in unconventional flavors, rather than thinking of our beverages as mere sodas—syrupy and intended for children. Inspiration most recently has come from working with a forager, Evan Strusinkski, who sends us wonderful foraged herbs and barks from up and down the East Coast. We’ve made a foraged spruce soda, as well as an entirely foraged root soda (slightly similar to our root beer, but made entirely with foraged ingredients).
CM: We use as much seasonal local fruit as possible so flavors vary tremendously by season.
Apple Ginger (made with fresh pressed apples, fresh ginger juice, and no added sugar)
Hibiscus, Orange Peel, and Ginger
Blueberry with Lavender
Red Currant with Shiso
Grapefruit, Jalapeno, and Honey (fresh-pressed grapefruit juice with a nice kick from the jalapeno peppers, and only sweetened with honey)
A&H: What do the locals order?
CM: We are only available in N.Y.C.
A&H: Who comes up with the marketing strategy for the product?
CM: There isn’t a marketing strategy—we believe in only making the highest quality product using great fruit.
A&H: What are the challenges of running a soda business?
CM: We prefer to think of it as a carbonated juice business. So, our shelf life is 3-4 weeks. We have to be stored refrigerated and we are not in bottles. We focus on selling in kegs, so restaurants/bars hook us up to their draft systems where we are served fresh on tap. This is great for the customer and better for the environment as we don’t have all the waste of the bottles, but makes it hard to be in grocery stores for example, or to get distribution much beyond New York City.
A&H: Where can Brooklyn Soda Works products be purchased?
CM: Currently on tap at:
- Beer Table in Park Slope (they will fill a growler for you to take home)
- 61 Local in Carroll Gardens
- Untitled, Whitney Museum of Art
- Parish Hall, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
- North End Grill, Battery Park City
- Dub Pies, Dekalb Market, downtown Brooklyn
- Mothers, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
- Cafe Grind, Manhattan
- Hungry Ghost, Brooklyn
- Little Zelda, Brooklyn
- Steve’s Ice Cream (Rockaway Beach location)
- Caracas (Rockaway Beach location)
Also available in bottles at:
- Blue Hill Manhattan
- Porsena, East Village
- Palo Santo, Park Slope
Also, we set up our booth at markets like: Brooklyn Flea on Saturdays and Sundays, Smorgasburg on Saturdays, and New Amsterdam market on select Sundays.
Photography Credits: Caroline Mak and Chantel Martineau