Editor's note: Every week, we'll spotlight a culinary treat found around Dallas-Fort Worth — whether it's a new opening, a dish at a restaurant, or a grocery find.
Dish: Live Soda probiotic soda
Location: Grocery stores
According to the internet, kombucha is the fastest-growing product in the "functional" beverage market — functional being drinks that have some healthy-ish benefit aside from quenching your thirst.
Forbes did an awesomely comprehensive story on kombucha in 2017 — one that is going to make this Dish of the Week a lot easier to write. They trace the journey of this ancient Chinese beverage "brewed with an unappetizing yeast disc" to become the massively popular beverage it is today, with sales estimated to reach $1.8 billion by 2020.
People drinking kombucha and other fermented and probiotic things are pursuing what is called "gut health" — basically, trying to get the bacteria inside their intestines on track. (Hint: Quit dairy.)
Austin-based Live Soda was founded in 2012 with a lineup of kombuchas, as well as sparkling vinegar drinks. In spring 2018, the company moved closer to traditional sodas with a new line of carbonated soft drinks that contain probiotics.
Live Soda Probiotic Sodas come in five flavors: cola, ginger, lemon-lime, root beer, and "Doctor."
According to the blurb on the side of the can, Live Soda was created as "a soda without sugar or junk that was loaded with flavor, bubbles, and a little something extra: probiotics."
It contains "billions" of probiotics, zero calories, no caffeine, and no sugar. Instead, the sodas are sweetened with two things: erythritol and monk fruit extract.
Monk fruit, also known as lo han guo, is a small round fruit grown in southeast Asia.
Erythritol is a zero-calorie sweetener that's become popular and is viewed as less problematic than aspartame. Dr. Axe says that it can have up to 80 percent of the sweetness of sugar, but it's noncaloric and does not raise blood sugar levels. There's also, of course, questions about whether it's so great, but hey, it's not aspartame, which itself was not saccharine. It's always something.
It's a viable option if you want something lightly flavorful, not too sweet, and makes you feel like you're doing something good for yourself instead of consuming a bunch of sugar.
If your palate is accustomed to intensely flavored, heavily sugared sodas, Live Soda might seem pallid. Personally, I like the subtlety.
The "Doctor" — which takes on Dr Pepper — is especially good, with the same sweet and spicy flavor. The ginger is an accurate re-creation of ginger ale, which tends to be a subtly flavored soda, anyway.
Probably the more noticeable differences in flavor intensity are in the root beer and cola. The Live Soda versions are both good, but their subtlety might be more obvious because we're so conditioned to get hit on the head when we drink beverages with those flavors.
If you're currently drinking LaCroix flavored sparkling waters, hello, you're the target market. And then anyone who's into zero-calorie but is concerned about aspartame and its ilk.
A 6-pack of 12 oz. cans is $4.99.