The wine list at the Hong Kong restaurant Mirror has two white wines, three reds and four flavored sodas.
What’s more, the executive chef, Jeremy Biasiol, suggests food pairings with each soda, just as he would with wine. Lavender, for instance, goes well with pork, cheese or chocolate; cucumber soda makes for a natural pairing with salad or salmon.
“Like many chefs, when I hear the word ‘soda,’ I roll my eyes,” says Mr. Biasiol. “But if I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t put it on my menu.”
The market for gourmet soda will follow that of wine, says Eugene Wong, the founder of Evolve Enterprises, the sole distributor of Dry Soda, the brand that Mirror serves. “As more people start drinking wine in Hong Kong, the nonwine drinkers will need better alternatives.”
Gourmet sodas aren’t new — over the past decade in the U.S., a number of brands have made strong sales headway, including GuS (short for Grown-Up Soda), Izze Sparkling Juice and Fizzy Lizzy. They are turning up on the menus of high-end restaurants, including Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, which offers Dry Soda and GuS, and Dan Barber’s Blue Hill New York restaurant in Manhattan, which this month is offering adult pop from Brooklyn Soda Works.
Will it catch on in Hong Kong?
“The taste of the soda is good — very subtle, with soft bubbles, little sweetness, and just a tint acidity, but it’s a hard sell,” says David Lai, the chef at On Lot 10 restaurant in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan district. When you sit down in a restaurant, he says, you think of water or wine.
Even so, he is thinking about creating a soda-and-food pairing menu with Dry Soda. “It’s a real issue for people who can’t drink alcohol to not be overlooked,” he says.
And the soda sells well at Mirror, according to Mr. Biasiol. Since Dry Soda first made the restaurant menu in February, it has accounted for 10% to 20% of total beverage sales. For 45 Hong Kong dollars (US$6), a diner gets a 355-ml bottle — enough for two, and the restaurant pours the soda into champagne flutes for extra pizzazz. Customers are encouraged to order a different flavor to pair with appetizers and entrées.
The restaurant still offers traditional sodas, such as Coca-Cola, for customers who demand it. When asked whether he’s thought of a dish to pair with Coke, however, Mr. Biasiol snickered, “Absolutely no. You can go get something at McDonald’s.”