We'd like to stop carrying sodas entirely, and of course we could. We own the restaurant and can make that kind of decision after all. We also don't want to alienate customers so we've been looking for better sodas to carry.
BTW, this post is inspired by Accidental Hedonist v2.1 who was writing about a new favorite flavored water.
Here's what we need to achieve. We have to replace Coke, Sprite & Root Beer with something we can be proud of and our customers will embrace. We also have to have a distributor who delivers to us. We could have things shipped but after product cost, adding shipping will put prices at a level no one will pay.
Here's what we've tried so far.
Fentimans, British company, professional rep, got us samples right away. Tried Curiosity Cola, Ginger Beer, Shandy and Seville Orange Jigger. We really wanted to like this one. The bottles are nice, the rep easy to deal with but alas, they all tasted a little flat and just weren't it.
Steaz Green Tea Soda in a word, no.
Hank's Beverages Out of PA. Tried Orange Cream, Root Beer, Berry Soda, Vanilla Cream and Black Cherry. The Orange was close, Vanilla Cream wasn't bad, the others didn't make it.
Abita Root Beer (no website) made with Louisiana Cane Sugar sure tasted like it. Not bad but too much sugar.
ROTO Frizzante (no website) citrus & bitters soda. The kitchen crew liked it but we knew the customers wouldn't. At least not those we're trying to appease with the sodas.
IZZE we don't want to carry because the pizza place next door has it and we have a kind of unspoken agreement with them that we won't step on each others toes.
Boylan's Premium Beverages were the best we tried. We'd carry them but the area rep is a half-assed one person outfit who's three hours away and comes to deliver "every month or so". We don't have the space to store cases of soda. Plus he wouldn't get samples to us, we had to buy them in SF. He's also the rep for GuS Grown-up Soda which we haven't tried but I know they serve it at The French Laundry and Per Se. We've got our local beer distributor working on both of these companies to see if they can carry their products up here.
We also haven't tried Jones Soda and haven't called their rep.
Some other qualifications. We'd prefer to carry something somewhat unique so things like Sobe, Tazo teas, etc are out. There are also a lot of juice based seltzer beverages out there like Fizzy Lizzy, The Switch, etc. but if were selling juice and water, I'd make my own. Plus, people looking for Coke don't want juice, trust me.
So, I tried making a batch of ginger syrup and running it through our post mix system. The results including making a horrendous noise of spurting co2 during service were less than successful. I will however try again. I suppose we should also investigate Torani syrups to mix with carbonated water but I know the GM will say it's too much trouble for the waiters on a busy night.
Some of this was prompted by an article in the NY Times by Kim Severson Juice for caviar, soda for foie gras about high end restaurants offering pairings of alcohol-free beverages being paired with tasting menus. Great idea and a really hard sell for us. In an area where dressing for dinner means to most people, scrape the dirt off your shoes we have a hard enough time selling Pellegrino much less convincing people a glass of house-made cherry-lime ginger ale would be great served with semolina-fried oysters and cucumber mâche salad spiked with ginger and loquat.
Some of this was also prompted by Killer Coke which documents murder of union activists at bottling plants in Colombia, SA.
for the time being we have ordered a case each of Baron's Ginger Ale and Ginseng Cola. Not the greatest but a stopgap until we can find the real replacement. I'll also test the waters with some more inventive alcohol-free drinks (according to trade magazine Market Watch, they sell better if you label them alcohol-free, rather than non-alcoholic).
If you know of any great solutions or have insight into how much syrup goes into a glass of soda (I could figure it out but I'm being lazy) let me know.