Coffees and sodas tend to be either-or situations. Though they have caffeine in common, the former is traditionally hot, black, and bitter, while the latter, packed with heaps of tooth-melting sugar, most often arrives over ice. But Mark Daumen, manager of The Durham Hotel's coffee program, has created a concoction that magnificently marries the disparate drinks. The Durham's coffee soda is rightfully his pride and joy.
"The sparkling coffee beverage is kind of a quest that a lot of baristas go on," Daumen says. Most of these quests start out sounding fantastic, but in practice they end up disgusting. There's a finer chemistry at play than one might expect.
Each of Daumen's sodas starts with a syrup of his own invention, made from cold-brew coffee, vanilla, and sugar.
"The syrup itself is kind of like magic sauce," Daumen says, adding that he's also mixed it into cocktails and regular milk with delightful results. He developed it after reading up on coffee liqueurs and realizing that the coffee flavor had to be the foundation of the drink, not a mere addition.
Daumen's magic syrup makes the soda a success, yielding a more full-bodied, cohesive flavor than that of most sparkling coffee drinks. He pours sparkling water over the back of a spoon to curtail the carbonation before mixing it with the syrup. Next comes a scoop of chewy ice, the crushed pellets that Daumen swears help make sodas of all stripes taste even better.
The drink was a little flat on his first few tries, but then he figured out the crucial missing ingredient. He tops off each coffee soda with a thin curl of fresh lemon peel. It's not purely decorative—the light flavor wafts through every sip. In fact, Daumen added it to balance the low-acid cold brew.
"Italian espresso will sometimes be served with a twist of lemon, so I used that as a way to add that missing acid component. It turned out to make the whole thing a whole lot more refreshing," he says.
Though the sodas are only available at The Durham, they're not limited to the hotel's guests. Anyone is welcome to come in and get coffee to stay or to go, even if The Durham's luxe layout doesn't immediately make that clear. Whether you're searching for a liquid complement to a lavish brunch, a zippy hangover tonic, or just a light afternoon pick-me-up, this irresistible coffee soda will get you where you need to go.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Waking Soda"