Local Chai-Maker DONA Moves Into the Soda Business

Americans are drinking less alcohol overall, as proven by the recent wave of “sober” bars and low-alcohol beverages. For entertaining, or simply a low-key treat, we’re increasingly seeking non-alcoholic drinks that feel grown up and a bit fancy. Enter a variety of exciting new soft drinks, like the Spice Sodas from DONA, the Brooklyn-based makers of chai and turmeric blends. DONA’s founder Amy Rothstein brews her sodas in small batches, using fresh, sustainably sourced spices and aromatics to create lively, unusual flavors.

Those whose teeth ache at the thought of standard fountain drinks will find Rothstein’s sodas eminently drinkable. They’re only mildly sweet, with a brisk, refreshing kick. The Juniper Lime with Chamomile and Elderflower is verdant and restorative, like drinking a gin and tonic in an herb garden—minus the gin. Turmeric Honeybush with Orange and Black Pepper is sweet and mellow, with a robust turmeric finish. Arguably the most crowd-pleasing: Pink Peppercorn Lemon—a sophisticated pink lemonade, with the rosy color provided by crushed elderberries.

They’re plenty enjoyable straight-up, but DONA also recommends using the sodas as bases for ice-cream floats or easy homemade cocktails and mocktails. Just add gin to the Juniper Lime soda for a sweeter version of a lime rickey. If you want to get more creative, you can make their luscious-sounding recipe for a Strawberry Pink Peppercorn Margarita with tequila, fresh strawberry syrup, and lime.

Rothstein focuses on sourcing high-quality spices and on increasing supply chain transparency. For example, DONA purchases their turmeric directly from a farmers’ collective in Diriamba, Nicaragua, ensuring that growers actually see the full profits of their labor.

DONA receives the organic, sun-dried turmeric whole and grinds it in-house, resulting in a spice with high levels of anti-inflammatory curcumin. If you’re forgoing alcohol, you might as well go the extra step toward optimum health.