Are Homemade Sodas the Next Artisan Drinking Frontier?

Kick off 2011 with a taste of Portland’s most innovative zero-proof beverages.

By Rachel Ritchie December 22, 2010 Published in the January 2011 issue of Portland Monthly

YOU ENJOYED A FEW TOO MANY perfect pinot pairings with your Thanksgiving turkey, merrily binged on Yuletide eggnog, and woke up with a roaring headache from all those gushy champagne toasts on New Year’s Eve. Ah, January. Time to lock up that liquor cabinet and recalibrate. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid your favorite bars in the nascent months of 2011. Because in a consoling streak of clairvoyance, local mixologists have been tirelessly tinkering on the next frontier of craft beverages—a boon to our collective resolutions: the soft drink.

At his cozy, subterranean Japanese pub, Biwa, Gabe Rosen and his team have been experimenting with homemade sodas for nearly three years. “We have a really diverse clientele,” he says. “So we try to have strong offerings in as many areas as possible—we’ve got a big sake program, a vibrant wine list, and it’s great to have compelling soft beverages, too.” Rosen currently lists three house-made sodas on his menu: classic orange, refreshing ume (salted plum), and the strange and wonderful black pepper, which is made with a black peppercorn–infused syrup and has developed its own cult following. But ask for lemon-lime, ginger, or sesame, and chances are they can whip up a fizzy elixir for you—all it takes is a house-infused simple syrup topped with soda water.

With restaurants and bars across town forsaking bottled sodas and going DIY—Nostrana, Whiskey Soda Lounge, Laurelhurst Market, Clyde Common, and the food cart Give Pizza a Chance all offer unique, homemade creations worth seeking out—there’s no better time to explore the softer side of local beverages. Welcome to the new, hangover-free year.

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