Unreserved

Making cedar soda with Pow Wow Cafe's Shawn Adler

At Pow Wow Cafe in Kensington Market in Toronto, there’s more than just Indian tacos and corn soup on the menu. The restaurant has started a line of sodas, called Wildside Soda Company, which are infused with Indigenous herbs like cedar and sweetgrass.
Shawn Adler is the owner of Toronto's Pow Wow Cafe, and creator of Wildside Soda Company. (Zoe Tennant/CBC)
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At Pow Wow Cafe in Kensington Market in Toronto, there's more than just Indian tacos and corn soup on the menu. The restaurant has started a line of sodas, called Wildside Soda Company, which are infused with Indigenous herbs like cedar and sweetgrass.

Pow Wow Cafe has been making in-house soda since 2016, but recently decided to start canning it, so people can take it home. 

"We definitely sell out a lot, the soda is outgrowing Pow Wow [Cafe], it's time for it to become its own, spread its own wings and become its own endeavour," said Shawn Adler, owner and chef at Pow Wow Cafe.

"I buy [blank] cans by the thousands now … we currently just write in Sharpie what flavour it is so we know, but labels are coming really soon."

Adler showed Unreserved's Zoe Tennant how cedar soda is made.

"I'm just ripping off the leaves or fronds off of a cedar branch, leaving all the woody bits because I'm going to actually chop the cedar to release as many of the essential oils as possible into our syrup," said Adler.

Shawn Adler cuts cedar, which he will use to infuse a simple syrup for his cedar soda. (Zoe Tennant/CBC)

"This [cedar] comes from my property up north, I just picked this this morning — fresh is best when you're talking cedar."

After cutting up the cedar, Adler puts it into a simple syrup boiling on the stove.

"So this cedar will steep at a medium heat for about half an hour, basically we're making a tea really," said Adler.

"Once all the flavours [are] infused, we'll strain it."

After the syrup is made, it's just a matter of mixing it in the carbonated water.

"It seems that one ounce or so is the perfect amount — a shot glass worth [of syrup] — inside the bottom [of the can]," said Adler, who then runs the can through the canner.

"I'll turn the lever that brings the can up and forces the lid on top … voila."

Pow Wow Cafe owner Shawn Adler hold a can of cedar soda. (Zoe Tennant/CBC)