It all started with cola.
That’s according to John Lynch, the owner (along with his wife Jennifer) of Rambling House Soda Pop on East Hudson Street in the University District. After working in a brewery that also made small-batch soda, he turned his garage into a laboratory and started brewing his own concoctions the same way craft beer is made. The goal was to produce a quality drink with a few ingredients.
Lynch admits to liking Coca-Cola and was inspired by a story NPR did several years ago about the original formula for Coke, which used different types of citrus, spices, and cola nuts. They are still tinkering with the cola recipe that started it all. The problem is cinnamon: “It’s been a challenge finding the right proportions,” Lynch said. “We keep scaling it back, but cinnamon is hard to hide.” The other two mainstays on the menu are ginger beer and sarsaparilla. They also always feature a fourth seasonal soda, which changes weekly. Recently it was blueberry, which pairs nicely with Watershed vodka.
One of the principles at Rambling House is to serve only Ohio-crafted beverages, which Lynch admits limits liquor more than beer. Along with the soda offerings they have craft beer on tap and three signature cocktails, each based on a foundation of their soda and Ohio-made liquor. The most popular, the Relentless Mule, takes its name from a local bluegrass band. When designing the drink, Lynch asked the band what they wanted in it and came up with a blend of Watershed bourbon, local honey, and ginger beer.
Rambling House soda is available at several locations around Columbus (see www.theramblinghouse.com for locations, as well as a list of other sodas they’ve featured and a calendar of events). When asked what he recommends for people crafting their own cocktails at home, Lynch prefers ginger beer for its versatility, but allows that cola with whiskey or rum also makes for a good combination.
The following recipes may serve as a jumping-off point should you happen to find yourself with a quantity of their delightful ginger beer or cola. Or, if you’re in the University District, stop in and try one of the signature cocktails and listen to local live music. They’re open Thursday-Sunday, from 6 p.m. until “as late as 1:30, depending on how the band is playing.”
Gin-Gin Mule 10 mint leaves 1 oz. simple syrup ¾ oz. lime juice 1 ½ oz. Watershed Four Peel Gin 2 oz. Rambling House ginger beer Ice Muddle the mint leaves, simple syrup, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add gin and fill with ice. Shake and strain into an ice-filled glass; top with ginger beer.
Not So Dark & Stormy 4 oz .Rambling House ginger beer 1 ½ oz. Portside Distillery Spiced rum Lime wedge Pour ginger beer into an ice-filled glass. Top with rum and the juice from the lime wedge. The Tallulah 1 ¾ oz. OYO whiskey 1 oz. peanut syrup (see below) Rambling House cola Pour whiskey and peanut syrup into an ice-filled glass. Top with cola and stir.
Peanut Syrup This recipe will make more than what’s needed for one drink – it keeps well in the refrigerator. 1 oz. OYO vodka 2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts 1 ½ cups sugar 1 ¼ cups water 1 tsp orange flower water Pulverize peanuts in a food processor. Meanwhile, combine sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Allow mixture to boil for three minutes, then add peanuts. Reduce heat, allowing mixture to simmer for five more minutes. Let mixture sit for at least four hours. Then strain it through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer, discarding peanuts. Add orange flower water and vodka. Chill well before using.