Fizz And Fireworks: Make A Patriotic Homemade Soda For The Fourth

Originally published on July 9, 2013 12:38 pm

If you haven't heard the buzz — or maybe it's the fizz — handmade sodas have been experiencing a full-on revival over the past few years. Whether they're mixed at home with a Soda Stream-like device or made at an old-fashioned soda fountain, the rise of homemade sodas has been driven by a general shift toward less-processed foods.

"Old-timey sodas represent the movement toward higher quality — meaning seasonal, small-batch, local, even organic," Melissa Abbott, director of culinary insights at the Hartman Group, a consumer trends consultancy, told NPR's Allison Aubrey in 2011.

Americans bought more than 1.2 million home carbonators last year, with worldwide sales of SodaStream alone rising to $436.3 million from $289 million in 2011, The New York Times reports. Bartenders and home cooks have used the devices to liven up more than just water. Juices, tea and more can be carbonated, though that may void the manufacturer's warranty.

For the Fourth of July, we asked mixologist and soda fountain entrepreneur Gina Chersevani to help us find a patriotic way into the homemade soda trend.

Last year, Chersevani started Buffalo & Bergen, a soda counter in Washington, D.C.'s Union Market — it features an original 1939 soda fountain that she found and had restored.

"At some point," she notes, "another jerk was standing here and this was their job." Jerk, by the way, is the traditional name for those who manned soda fountains in the 19th and 20th century.

In the summer, Chersevani makes a Red, White and Blue float with blueberry and raspberry syrups, vanilla ice cream and seltzer. She says it's a perfect Independence Day treat.

"Raspberries and blueberries ... are peaking right now, so they're beautiful and bright," she says. "I would say this is as much Fourth of July as you can get in a glass."

Here's her recipe if you want to try this at home. Happy Fourth of July!

Recipe: Red, White And Blue Float

Chersevani makes the syrups in large batches for the restaurant, but the recipes are easily scaled down.

Raspberry Syrup

Makes 12 ounces

4 pints raspberries, mashed

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Simmer all ingredients together in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and strain. Keeps for at least two weeks in the fridge.

Blueberry Syrup

Makes 12 ounces

3 pints blueberries, mashed

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Simmer all ingredients together in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and strain. Keeps for at least two weeks in the fridge.


1 ounce raspberry syrup

2 scoops vanilla ice cream, divided

1 ounce blueberry syrup


Place one scoop of ice cream on the bottom of a tall glass. Add raspberry syrup, followed by two ounces of seltzer water. Add the second scoop of ice cream and then the blueberry syrup. To finish, top off with seltzer.

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Kicking back with a cold soda by the grill is one of the many pleasures of the July 4th holiday. But long before the invention of the bottle cap, put a nail in the coffin of the soda fountain industry, soda jerks ruled. The fizzy concoctions of the Prohibition era, the syrupy Sundays that jammed lunch counters in the '40s and '50s, all are enjoying a comeback in cities from Nashville to Tallahassee, from Philadelphia to here in Washington, D.C., where we snuck behind the counter of Buffalo & Bergen, a soda fountain in D.C.'s Union Market. That's where we got an Independence Day recipe from owner Gina Chersevani.

But first, a little soda jerk vocabulary. What can you make with all those syrups, bitters and creams?

GINA CHERSEVANI: You can get a classic soda, a phosphate, a malted. You can get a float. Then you can get different milkshakes, adult milkshakes, if you want.

CORNISH: Adult milkshakes, meaning spiked?

CHERSEVANI: A little spiked.

CORNISH: Yeah, a little spiked.

CHERSEVANI: A little spiked


CHERSEVANI: In the winter, you can get steamers, which is ice cream, a little bit of soda water and hot chocolate mixed together.

CORNISH: So it's the Independence Day holiday. Is there, like, a drink that you could make for us that sort of screams America?


CHERSEVANI: Yeah. We could do blueberry, raspberry soda float (unintelligible).

CORNISH: Let's do it. Let's do it.

CHERSEVANI: Yeah. Let's do it. OK. Let's do vanilla, vanilla. We're going to get a little vanilla ice cream. So I'm reaching into my freezer. So we're standing in front of a 1939 soda fountain, and we found this in Chicago in a (unintelligible) pulled it out, had it redone. Some of the parts and pieces came as far as Oregon. This drink slide that I'm moving around here actually came from Florida. So this was put back together and is an original. So it really is, at some point, another jerk was standing here and this was their job.

CORNISH: And it's OK for you to call yourself a jerk.

CHERSEVANI: I am a jerk.


CHERSEVANI: I am absolutely a jerk, and I am proud of it. All right. So we're going to get some vanilla ice cream, and we're going to get just one scoop of it for right now. And we're going to put this in a glass, and then we're going to get one pump of blueberry. So that's about an ounce. So then we're going to hit it. We're going to go to the soda jerk, and we're going to put Coors soda in there, just a little bit. It's really blue on the bottom. Now, we're going to put the raspberry on. And then we're going to do about a half a pump of raspberry. And then you're going to take that, and you're going to back with your jerk. And it's basically putting a head on your Fourth of July float.

See, the reason why I think this screams of Fourth of July is because raspberries, blueberries all come into season at the same time, and they finish up their season just around the second week of July, and they are peaking right now. So they're like beautiful and bright and have like this beautiful flavor. So we're taking the spoon, and we're going to put it in the bottom. And then I'm just going to get one straw and put it in there. And I would say this is as much Fourth of July as you can get in a glass.

CORNISH: That is beautiful. It looks like they were all these little kind of clouds on top...

CHERSEVANI: Go for it.

CORNISH: ...from the cream. OK. Here we go. Oh, my God. That's awesome.

CHERSEVANI: Does it make you feel like a little kid, though?

CORNISH: Yeah, it does, totally. It may just be the straw also.


CHERSEVANI: I think having the spoon and the straw...

CORNISH: It does. It does.

CHERSEVANI: ...and being able to eat the ice cream.

CORNISH: I feel like my feet should be dangling from a counter.

CHERSEVANI: But that's now...

CORNISH: Which is...

CHERSEVANI: You should come sit at the counter.

CORNISH: ...why you have a counter.


CHERSEVANI: Because we have this little chairs, and your feet actually don't touch.

CORNISH: Well, Gina Chersevani, thank you so much.

CHERSEVANI: You're welcome.

CORNISH: I feel like I'm now deeply in summer. This sort of made it for me.

CHERSEVANI: Oh. This is awesome.


THE BLENDERS: (Singing) Yes, the song once said let's hit that soda shop.

CORNISH: And you can make your own drink for the Fourth even if you don't have your own soda jerk. The recipe for Gina's red, white and blue float is at


BLENDERS: (Singing) They rock and they roll. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.