Bubble to the Top During Dry January with Craft Sodas

The Ginger Lime Rickey craft soda. Image: Tavistock Group / Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen

Craft sodas outsell other non-alcoholic beverages at Florida bar/restaurant.

Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen in Orlando, Fla., will have no trouble satisfying customers avoiding alcohol this month since the venue’s four non-alcoholic soda waters are perennial favorites.

Chroma is part of the Tavistock Group, a collection of 16 food and beverage concepts. As a whole, the group’s non-alcoholic beverage sales were dropping—one year by $1.3 million, says beverage director Mike Hanley. The sales were converting into water sales, “which isn’t great on the costs side because they are about 26 percent cost, so sales were going down and costs were going up and it wasn’t looking good on the P&L statement.”

So, four years ago, Hanley started to wonder what would work. “I saw flavored waters were doing well in Europe. The difficulty is, Americans love sweet. So, I didn’t think the soft edges of the European market would work… I thought I’d increase the sugar and the oomph. Americans aren’t known for their subtlety, so I bypassed water and went straight for soda.”

Now, Chroma and Tavistock both sell 50 percent more soda water than regular bottled water. “It’s always easier to build on what you’re doing than starting from scratch,” says Hanley. “I wanted to attack the bottled soda market by making flavored soda waters. It’s not a soda but a soda water with 70 percent less sugar than Coke, and they have fresh fruit in them.”

The soda waters are not infused, he explains, but contain pureed fruit, which the bar refers to as “nectar.” This was important because “we wanted to be soda forward, so you get the soda, then the nuance of flavors after,” Hanley explains.

Now the group offers six soda waters, of which Chroma offers four.

The best seller is the Cuban Soda, which is similar to a virgin mojito. It contains sparkling water, mint leaves, lime wedges and simple syrup with a lime slice and mint sprig garnish.

The other three are:

Sour Blueberry Cooler

Sparkling water, house lemonade, blueberry nectar, with a blueberry and lemon garnish.

Ginger Lime Rickey

Sparkling water, lime juice, ginger nectar and two candied ginger slices on a stick and a lime wheel to garnish.

Black Cherry Soda

Sparkling water and black cherry puree with three cherries and a lime wheel to garnish. The garnish, Hanley says, is the most expensive part of this drink, “But it’s important; it is very luxurious.”

Chroma sells around 300 of these soda cocktails in a peak week in the summer—double the number of Diet Cokes it sells. The bar also adds the sodas to iced teas, and the flavored teas make up 30 percent of iced tea sales. It also boosts the price—adding the soda adds another 6 cents to the cost, but another $1 to the price.

The soda waters range from $3 to $6 at Tavistock locations, but at Chroma they run $4.75, with costs of 28 cents to 75 cents. The soda waters sell best at the locations that are the most approachable, Hanley says, “because they have more people who do lunch. At the higher-end locations customers are buying $8 bottles of sparkling water.” The sodas also sell better in warmer climates, he says, and in the summer.

The soda waters have been a success, and they’ve cannibalized sales from traditional sodas rather than iced tea or lemonade, “and that’s great,” says Hanley, “because they’re $1 to $1.50 more and they’re non-refillable, and people feel better for having them.”

These waters may sell well in healthy January, but they’re important to offer year-round, Hanley says. “Non-drinkers want the same options today as alcohol drinkers and everyone’s drinking these waters. Even kids love them and parents love their kids having them since they have so much less sugar.”

Tavistock Group and Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen Ginger Lime Rickey craft soda - Craft sodas for Dry January

Ginger Lime Rickey

  • 0.5 oz. Ginger syrup
  • 2 Lime wedges
  • 5 oz. Soda water
  • Candied ginger
  • Lime wheel

Add ingredients in order listed. Fill soda half way in the glass. Stir until syrup is totally dissolved. Garnish with candied ginger on a stick and a lime wheel on the glass rim.

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