If you want to sample a soda without the high-fructose corn syrup, try the ones at these four bars. The sodas come in cocktails and as brisk, fizzy beverages. I love them both ways.
Hank’s Oyster Bar
The 20-seat Eddy Bar at the center of Hank’s on the Hill is where award-winning mixologist Gina Chersevani and her team craft all kinds of cocktails. But her passion these days lies in the short list of homemade sodas on the back of the menu.
Pick a flavor, which might include blueberries or a citrusy fusion of oranges and sage, and then drink it over ice. You also can get creative.
“I wanted to create an environment where the customer is in control of everything,” Chersevani says.
The easiest way is to add a spirit to your soda: The Strawberry Field — made with fruit and sugar water in a Mason jar then punched up with house-filtered soda — is gorgeous with a bit of tequila and lime juice.
“[Soda’s] great with gin,” Chersevani says. “Those bubbles really bring out the spirit. It’s like decanting.”
For $1 more, she’ll add cream and use a long-handled spoon to mix the ingredients into a frothy concoction. I tried the pineapple and white pepper soda with dark rum and cream, and the result was a smooth, easy-to-sip tropical beverage that practically begged for a little umbrella.
Next month, Chersevani will open a soda fountain at the restored Union Market on Fifth Street NE called Buffalo and Bergen, after her mother’s childhood address in Brooklyn. She’ll serve 16 house-made sodas that can be turned into malts, floats and even “an authentic old-school New York egg creme,” with the help of soda siphons, fresh cream and vanilla ice cream. Adults can add rum, tequila or gin to the mix.
633 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. 202-733-1971. www.hanksoysterbar.com. $3. Add $1 for fresh cream or $2 for an ice cream float.
El Chucho mixologist Gordon Banks always used house-made sodas in his cocktails at Jackie’s Sidebar in Silver Spring, but they were for cocktails, not sold on their own. In his job at the newly opened taqueria from the owner of Jackie’s, he’s enjoying experimenting to create sodas that have Mexican influences but global appeal: A bracing spicy pineapple, a blend of savory coconut milk with the gentle bite of kaffir lime, and a surprisingly refreshing cafe del ollo that tastes like a fizzing cold version of the sweetly spiced Mexican coffee. “If you do brandy with that one,” Banks says, “it’s awesome.”
El Chucho’s menu isn’t shy about encouraging diners to “spike” the eight seasonal sodas with tequila and mezcal for an extra charge. Customers get to play mixologist — I paired spicy pineapple soda with spiced rum — and the bartenders are game to go along. Soda-and-spirits cocktails are easy to make.