Top Pick Of The Week

September 23, 2008

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Fentimans Soda

Fentimans is ready to show you what soda pop tasted like in the good old days. In Curiosity Cola, Dandelion & Burdock, Ginger Beer, Mandarin & Seville Orange Jigger, Shandy and Victorian Lemonade. Photography by Emily Chang | THE NIBBLE.

WHAT IT IS: Botanically brewed soft drinks from England.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Natural fermentation instills unique flavor and character. The beverages are .5% alcohol by volume, but classified as soft drinks and consumable by children—you don’t taste the alcohol. It’s the only botanically brewed and fermented beverage available in the U.S.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The unfiltered, old-fashioned flavors and physical beauty of the bottles are a treat. Most flavors make great cocktail mixers  as well.
WHERE TO BUY IT:  At many fine retailers nationwide, and

Fentimans Brewed Soda:
Pop Crew Circa 1905

CAPSULE REPORT: Beverages are the fastest-growing category in specialty foods; in the carbonated category, to take just one segment, sales increased almost 12% in 2007 over the prior year and the store shelves are piled high. There are some great 21st century sodas, spanning the range from sparkling juice like Fizzy Lizzy, green tea like Steaz, “adult” sodas with reduced sugar like GuS and Dry Soda, and flavored club soda energy drinks like Hiball.

One hundred years ago, your options for a soda were much more limited. You’d go to the soda fountain at the local pharmacy for a cola, ginger ale, root beer or other flavor. The counter man would pump syrup into a glass, then jerk back the tap of carbonated water (hence, the title “soda jerk”) to create your soda. Bottled beverages for take-out didn’t appear until Prohibition.

But across the pond in England, Fentimans Botanically Brewed Beverages were delivered door-to-door in stone jars. These, too, evolved into individual, capped bottles; today the line, in its Victorian trappings, is available in the U.S. as well. Curiosity Cola, Dandelion & Burdock, Ginger Beer, Mandarin & Seville Orange Jigger, Shandy (real shandy, brewed with beer) and Victorian Lemonade (each bottle containing the juice of 1-1/2 lemons) add charm and great natural taste to the 21st century menu. It’s an enchanting return to yesteryear, without the need to crank up the Model T and putter down to Whitman’s Drug Store. Learn more about Shandy, Jigger and the rest of the Victorian pop crew in the full review below, and why it takes seven days to brew this soda. And take a look at more of our favorite all-natural sodas in our Soft Drinks Section.

THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.


Mix Cocktails With Fentimans—Get Inspiration Here

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Cool Cocktails: The Hottest New Drinks And The Best of the Classics, by Ben Reed. London’s hottest mixologist offers recipes for almost 100 classic and contemporary cocktails, plus advice on equipment and glasses. You can have a party just looking at the stunning photography. Click here for more information or to purchase. The Craft of the Cocktail: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender, by Dale Degroff. A great reference guide from a master mixologist, including 500 recipes (covering almost every mixed drink) and a history of each of the major liquors plus cocktail-mixing techniques and a comprehensive glossary. Click here for more information or to purchase. Williams-Sonoma Entertaining: Cocktail Parties, by Georgeanne Brennan. Fail-proof cocktail parties, including recipes for contemporary appetizers and drinks and decor, whether indoors or outdoors, small or large, even impromptu. Step-by-step work plans and gorgeous photography illustrate how to bring your party to life. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Fentimans: Pop Crew Circa 1905




Some second careers are planned, others are serendipitous. In 1905, Thomas Fentiman, an ironworker from the small mill town of Cleckheaton, in the center of West Yorkshire, a county in north central England. He loaned money to a tradesman, who put up as collateral a recipe for botanically brewed ginger beer. We must assume that it was an exceptional recipe and represented great value to Fentiman—perhaps the same covetousness that people have for our mother’s brownie recipe.

As fate would have it, the borrower defaulted on the loan and Fentiman left the hot business of molten iron to become a quencher of thirsts with ginger beer and, subsequently, other refreshments. Fentiman’s descendants were fortunate. The mill business ultimately dried up in England, but soft drinks stayed put. Today, his grandson continues to produce the Ginger Beer as well as Curiosity Cola, Dandelion & Burdock, Mandarin & Seville Orange Jigger, Shandy and Victorian Lemonade. All are botanically brewed and fermented, in the manner of the original recipe.

Fentimans Ginger Beer
Give a cheer for Ginger Beer. If you like ginger ale, give it a try—it’s a more intense, sophisticated flavor.


Continue To Page 2: Fentimans Soda Flavors ~ Cola


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