Drink This: Soda
March 27 2016
“People used to come in here looking to grab a beer, but I think they’ve caught on” says Drew Dayberry, the proprietor of Roaring Pines, a soda fountain in the historic Union Hill neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia. Roaring Pines may be a bit confusing to locals used to bars and breweries that seem to pop up on every corner with an abandoned storefront these days, but Dayberry’s Fountain is joining a long tradition of soft drink counters. As with his historic counterparts, Dayberry situated his fountain within a storefront that sells American made dry-goods. “I want it to be an experience not unlike those old Pharmacy soda-fountains, you come in to buy what you need and grab a drink while you’re here.” It’s this medicinal lineage that inspired their unofficial motto, Snake Oil Free.
Roaring Pine’s selection however, is a bit easier to put back than the medicinal concoctions developed by Pharmacists in the good ol’ days. Borrowing from traditions both local and far reaching, Roaring Pine’s rotating menu places southern American favorites next to forgotten old world recipes and south east asian flavors. It’s a variety influenced by a small but tight-knit community of soda-fiends from around the world, from Pok Pok Som in Portland to Six Barrel Soda in Wellington, New Zealand. These shops, including Roaring Pines, serve not just as fountains, but as distributors of local tradition and flavor – bottling lesser known ingredients into syrups and vinegars for distribution. Dayberry gave introduced us to three of the drinks he’s been excited about lately, using ingredients both exotic and down-home.
First up was a taste of Coptic Times, one of the curiosity-inducing ‘Drinking Vinegar’ on offer. Drinking Vinegars, sometimes referred to as Shrubs, are vinegar based syrups sweetened with cane sugar and flavored with a fruits and herbs. Shrubs sodas were some of the first on offer at those old Pharmacy Fountains, often the tonics were said to have vague health benefits. While Dayberry makes no spectacular claims about the health benefits of the Coptic Times, there is surely a noted increase in happiness. The Coptic Times includes equal parts Satsuma and Buddha’s Hand vinegars for a boldly tangy citrus flavor that, if we’re being honest, makes other citrus sodas look a little lame by comparison. The vinegars are made by Pok Pok Som, a restaurant in Portland bringing the flavors of Thai street food and drink to American audiences (we’re particularly excited to try their Thai Basil Vinegar, which will be on tap at Roaring Pines in a few weeks.)
Next up was a flavor that is altogether too familiar for those of us lucky enough to visit Disneyland as kids, the Dole Whip. Where the traditional method involves the thickly sweet syrup of a canned pineapple topped with soft serve, Dayberry’s variation is a bit more mature. Fresh mint rests in his home made pineapple soda, carbonated with a specially formulated beer gas that gives the drink a smooth creaminess without weighing it down.
Last but not least is a drink that Dayberry assures us we can make at home, that is if we aren’t precious about our coffee makers. The Coal Miner’s Daughter is very much a southern flavor, a Cheerwine cream topped with peanuts. It’s frothy pink presentation has what Dayberry refers to as ‘The Fajita Effect’, once one customer orders one, suddenly everyone in the shop seems to want a taste.
Here’s what you’ll need to make a Coal Miner’s Daughter:
1 can Cheerwine
12 French Burnt Peanuts
Muddler & Glass
Step One – Muddle those peanuts, which is to say crush them to bits. You want the pieces to be small enough to fit through a straw, think large red pepper flakes. If you don’t have access to French Burnt peanuts, any other candied peanuts, such as Boston Baked Beans, will do.
Step Two – You’re going to be using barman’s methods here, measure our four fingers of Milk into your French Press. If you’re wondering, Dayberry keeps his milk in a festive coozie. This is not required for the recipe, but is recommended for kicks.
Step Three – Slowly pour Cheerwine into your french press on the side of the glass, until you have doubled the volume of the milk.
Step Four – This is where coffee purists will really begin to gawk, use the top of your french press to froth the milk and the Cheerwine together using quick up-down motions with the plunger. The goal here is to add as much air and froth as possible.
Step Five – Pour into glasses and top gently with crushed peanuts, these might need a delicate touch as the bigger pieces have a tendency to sink to the bottom.
That’s it. A simple process for a drink that’s delicious and delightfully playful.
While the soda industry may not be due for a revolution, we’re all happy to see at least a little subversion from the standard dozen sodas that seem to be stocked in every restaurant and vending machine around the world. For the most part, these are drinks that were once beloved and were bullied out by those bigger branded drink. Already looking ahead, Dayberry is working on some new Pok Pok Som drinks, brewing up some Coffee sodas, and collaborating with a maker in the midwest to bring in an apple cider based Haymaker, a recipe found in Farmers Almanacs for generations and known among more modern fans as the original sports drink. So while we probably will never finish a full movie theater soda again, we’re happy to embrace the Soda Fountain as it’s meant to be – a place of discovery, good flavor and fun.
You can visit Roaring Pines online, or stop by the shop at 2025 Venable St, Richmond