At some point in our lives, we’ve all been scolded for drinking soda. Maybe your mother warned that it would rot your teeth, or your friends told you that even artificial sweeteners have been found to contribute to obesity. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg thought it was such an imperative health issue that back in March he tried to ban super-sized soft drinks served in city restaurants. All this negative news sure makes us think twice about cracking open a can.
But Drink More Good — a new Beacon-based company that produces all-natural soda syrups — is putting the fizz and fun back in your beverages. Having been in the food business his entire career (“my first job when I was 14 was in a restaurant”), owner Jason Schuler began mixing his own soda syrups, which he then combined with seltzer, while working behind the bar at Gleason’s in Peekskill. “I’ve always liked drinking seltzer water with fresh juices in it. I started making the soda syrups because I wanted something with a little more complexity and depth than that,” he explains. The barman was transformed into a business owner last December when he tested a flavor on one of his regulars, who promptly ordered nine bottles to give as Christmas gifts.
Owner Jason Schuler speaks about his product. Above right, chalk signs enumerate the drinks’ health benefits
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What makes Schuler’s drinks so much healthier? To start, they’re made with organic cane sugar and distilled water; there’s not a drop of high fructose corn syrup in sight. That means they have about 30-50 percent less sugar than conventional sodas. Schuler then crushes spice blends with a mortar and pestle and adds them to his concoctions. “They are quite literally hand-crafted syrups,” he says. One ounce of the syrup mixed with seven ounces of seltzer and voilá! A homemade soda. Currently, the company offers three flavors — Kream Kola, ginger ale (with fresh ginger), and root beer — but lemon-lime and orange varieties are currently in the works. A 12-ounce bottle (which yields an equal number of drinks) costs $15.
Drink More Good’s mission not only emphasizes good ingredients, but also doing good for others; Schuler is contractually committed to giving 10 percent of his profits and $4,000 per year to Generosity Water, a nonprofit that funds clean water wells in developing nations. “I did that against all advice from business advisors and family members, but I knew if I was going to make a go at the company, I wanted a heavy philanthropic side to it,” he says. “This way it fully ensures that we fund at least one water well a year.”
Schuler, who has brought two other pals into the business, also sells 16 types of loose-leaf tea, 50 flavors of cocktail bitters, and 75 spice varieties at his bustling Beacon storefront (the products are also available at several local farmers markets). And although the shop only opened in May, he’s already expanding: “Right now I’m in a 200-square-foot space — but I’ve got a 2,000-square-foot space right next to the new Towne Crier [in Beacon].” In the new location — currently scheduled to open in November — he’ll have his own kitchen and hopes to increase production from 324 bottles per week to 3,240. “People are going nuts for the syrups. In the retail store, I’ve turned over my inventory three or four times already,” says Schuler. “There’s this huge demand for it all.”