The Un-Cola: Sugar-Free Natural Golden Soda Pop

By Jeannette Ordas of Everybody likes Sandwiches

Years ago, when I moved away from home, I drank a lot of Coca Cola. I broke out of that bad habit long ago, but now and then I still crave a Coke, especially when there's some rum and lime near by! So when I came across a recipe for an all-natural Golden Cola, I was intrigued. I knew that it probably wouldn't taste like cracking open a can of Coke – plus there's a recipe head note that says the same thing – but I thought it might be close to the hippy colas you can find at most natural food stores.


The recipe calls for an odd assortment of ingredients - some easy to come by, some less so. The citric acid, which gives the syrup a bit of acidic pucker, can be found at specialty gourmet shops but it's an optional ingredient so you could easily leave it out. I also decided to stray from the original recipe which called for sugar and try an all-natural sweetener that you can find at most natural food shops. Xylitol is a sugar substitute that comes from birch trees and can be used 1 to 1 with sugar. This was my first foray into the world of sugar substitutes (rice syrup and agave syrups, aside) and I was happy with the results. There was no bitterness or weird aftertaste and I can only hope that the likelihood of growing a third nipple is pretty low. 

So, does the recipe deliver a cola-like flavour? Not really. When the mixture was boiling away on the stove, I could smell a similarity but when I poured myself a glass, I couldn't detect much cola-ness. That said, this recipe still makes for a very drinkable soda. It's hard to pin down the flavour and I think it's more like a ginger ale without the ginger, if that makes any sense. There's something herbally about it and not only is it honey-coloured, the taste is similar to a drink made with honey which is a little surprising. My husband is a huge fan of this soda syrup and can't believe that there isn't any sugar involved. It may be very un-cola-like, but it is delicious, refreshing and doesn't involve sugar! 

Hello, all natural fizzy refreshment!

Sugar-Free Natural Golden Soda Pop
(adapted from The Artisan Soda Workshop cookbook)

grated zest of 2 oranges
grated zest of 1 lime
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 star anise pod
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon citric acid (optional)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups xylitol sweetener* (or use regular granulated sugar)

In a heavy pot, combine all the ingredients except for the sugar substitute. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce over medium-low heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the zest and spices. Return the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil, adding in the sweetener or sugar and let boil for 5 minutes, stirring to make sure the sweetener dissolves. Refrigerate and keep in a covered container like a mason jar for up to a week. 

To make the soda pop, stir 3-4 tablespoons of syrup into a large glass and fill with seltzer or club soda, stirring well to combine. 

Jan Halvarson


Tricia said...

THANK YOU! This looks great. I kicked a Diet Pepsi habit at the beginning of the year, but unfortunately picked up a Coke habit. I need something to wean myself off of Coke, and water has not been successful. :)

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

You've actually made this sound quite enticing! It sounds rather Christmassy actually! I have to confess to a weakness for cola (it's a great hangover cure . . . don't tell!)

Graceandbraver said...

This sounds amazing! definitely need to try this <3

Yelle said...

Sounds delicious!i was never a cola drinker, but this one sounds super refreshing and a great choice for a summer day.

Mihaeko said...

Lovely thing to have around, especially for guests. It would be fun to play around with flavors. But I would also love to know how to get that cola flavor at home.

Melissa@Julias Bookbag said...

THIS SOUNDS AMAZING!!!!! somewhat akin to Fentiman's Dandelion and Burdock soda, have you ever had that? The herbal flavor is amazing. This sounds equally enticing!! And guess what, I have citric acid from kiddo's science kit!

naomi said...

this looks so yummy! I am a secret soda drinker so I love any version that is slightly less guilt inducing...

Stephanie @ henry happened said...

intriguing! I'm really curious to try this.

mrscamacho said...

Our favorite soda substitute (other than kombucha) is Shrub! You can make all different flavors and choose your own level of sweetness. I love nearly-unsweetened ginger the best, but guava is awfully good. :)