When I first started going to Governors Island, 12 years ago, I had to bring a backpack with a bottle of water and a sandwich. Now there are actual vendors with great stuff for sale to eat and drink. To kick off my feature series about the people and places on the island, I’m starting with the Brooklyn Soda Works. Caroline Mak was good enough to answer my questions. They will be in the same spot as last season, on Liggett Terrace.
How would you describe your product line?
We make fresh juice sodas – we don’t use any syrups and don’t make anything from concentrate. We fresh press the fruit ourselves, then carbonate the fresh fruit juice. We have a rotating line of fresh sodas; we use as much seasonal and local fruit as possible. For example in summer we’ll have Blueberry Lemon (made with fresh, local blueberries and fresh lemon juice); Watermelon (which is 100% raw, fresh pressed watermelons, no added sugar); and Rhubarb with Thai basil (local rhubarb with the aromatic herb, thai basil, and lightly sweetened with organic cane sugar). Everything is served fresh on draft.
How long has BSW been around, and how did it come about?
We started in spring of 2010, so we’re almost 5 years old! It started as a fun weekend project – we decided we both wanted to start brewing ginger beer and began by experimenting with different ways of carbonation (fermentation versus force carbonation). We then realized that we could force carbonate all different types of fresh fruit juices – that you could make a great bubbly beverage without using a syrup or concentrate. We made a grapefruit with honey, spiced with jalapeno, then tried a fresh cucumber, with a dash of lime and sea salt. Both of these were fantastic mixers and it was fun to make cocktails with them. Since then, we have expanded our operations to several different mobile locations from Spring through Fall, and we wholesale in kegs to various bars & restaurants. We also just launched our Apple Ginger in 12-ounce bottles.
Why do you like being on Governors Island?
I love the idea of a little refuge just off the southern tip of Manhattan, and so close to Brooklyn, that is so incredibly different. It’s like the backyard that we all sort of wish we had. The programming on the island is great too, and draws a lot of diverse people – from artists to young families.
What’s new for 2015?
We’re always working on new flavors. We have over 30 so far, but every year we’ll come up with something fun! Look for fun pairings of fresh fruit and herbs and spices…such as our Tart Cherry Cola. We make the cola from scratch ourselves using real spices, then we pair it with fresh tart cherries – it’s pretty great if I may say so myself! Also, we’ll be offering our 1-liter bottles on Governors Island. This way, you can pick up a 1-liter bottle and take it to Picnic Point with you to enjoy.
What will your days/hours of operation be?
Saturday and Sunday (plus Memorial Day and July 3rd) from 11am to 6pm.
Thanks, Caroline! Look for Brooklyn Soda Works at Liggett Terrace this season. Check out their site (with online store). Follow them on Twitter and on Instagram.
Kevin C. Fitzpatrick has written and edited seven books with ties to New York history, including "The Governors Island Explorer's Guide" and "World War I New York: A Guide to the City’s Enduring Ties to the Great War." Kevin is a licensed sightseeing guide and has been leading walking tours since 1999. He resides in Manhattan.