The Soda Pop Reuben

Oh boy, what has he done this time.


Read Time: 7 minutes
The first draft of the Green River soda bread.

A friend of mine who works at Sprecher Brewing Co. recently brought me some of their craft sodas to enjoy (you can buy soda from that link). Thanks, Tim!

Disclaimer: This is NOT sponsored, but I didn’t pay for any of the soft drinks that are mentioned in this blog post.

Tim dropped off a sampler pack which included Sprecher Cherry Cola, Orange Dream, Root Beer and Cream Soda as well as a few bottles of Green River soda. They’re all great sodas or pop (depending on what you call soft drinks where you live), but instead of just drinking them, I wanted to use them in a sandwich.

Empty soldiers from the Soda Pop Reuben.

I knew I was likely releasing the sandwich a few days before St. Patrick’s day and in a passing discussion, over a couple of Dovetail Brewery pints my friend JP shouted out “Irish soda bread!” and I snatched that idea and I decided to focus my plan on that.

The closeness on the calendar to St. Patrick’s Day and the “Irish soda bread” suggestion got me thinking about corned beef and cabbage, so my new plan was to make a corned beef Reuben, but also attempt to incorporate the Sprecher sodas as much as I could.

Read on to see what I did.

Green River “soda” bread

Chicago dyes their river lime green every St. Patrick’s Day and it’s a huge party downtown and in the loop. This photo is from my friend Lisa’s balcony in 2017.

First, I made soda bread. Get it?

This is NOT Irish soda bread, but it is bread made with soda. 😎

I’m not sure if it’s well known that Sprecher now makes Green River soda, but they do. They acquired the brand in October 2021. Green River was invented in 1919 and it remained a very popular soda fountain syrup in the Midwest throughout the prohibition era and after. At one point it was the #2 fountain syrup behind Coca-Cola. Green River soda has had an interesting history since then and you can check some of that out on Wikipedia or on the Green River soda history page.

Every year the city of Chicago designates the Saturday prior to March 17th to be the official St. Patrick’s Day celebration. There’s typically a parade and they dye the Chicago River neon green for the event. It’s a huge party and I’m lucky enough to have a friend who lives right above the river, so I’ve gotten to see the green dyeing from a great vantage point (Shoutout to Lisa!).

Green River soda is not named after the St. Patrick’s Day tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green, because that didn’t get started until 1962.

Green River is a caffeine-free citrus soda, similar in flavor and sweetness to Mountain Dew, but with a lot more focus on the lime flavor.

At first, I just tried to make green bread (see the photo above) but then I decided with the ingredients I was planning to use for a Reuben, I should embrace a marble rye style of bread. So, I made two doughs, colored one green with the Green River soda and then rolled them into a loaf.

This bread turned out well. If you eat it on its own, you can tell that there’s some extra sweetness and lime flavor, but it’s not overwhelming. If you check out the recipe, you can see that I remove the honey from the part of the dough that is hydrated with Green River soda, which probably helps to mitigate the extra sugar. When the bread is used in a sandwich, it’s not super obvious that part of it is made with a sweet soda.

3 hours and 5 minutes
Green marbled "soda" bread

A soft but green marbled soda-based bread will leave you with a fun sandwich option. The sweetness in this bread is present but not overwhelming, lending to an enjoyable final loaf.

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Ok, I put soda in bread. What next?

Cherry cola corned beef

Corned beef is a big hunk of brisket that is brined in a bunch of spices for 5 to 10 days or so and then washed/rinsed off the brine and it is then braised in water/liquid until it is very tender.

I brined my brisket for five days like traditional corned beef recipes and then just replaced all the water in the boiling/braising process with Sprecher Cherry Cola like a totally normal person would do.

During the thinking process involved in making this sandwich, I started looking into the history of corned beef. Specifically, I wanted to know if it was invented in Ireland. I found this article from the Smithsonian about that. Turns out, corned beef wasn’t invented in Ireland, but due to Ireland having a salt tax 1/10th that of England’s and a surplus of cows/beef, the Irish could afford to make a lot more brined corned beef and they did.

Regardless of the origin, I doubt that any Irish folks have braised their corned beef in cherry cola, which is unfortunate because it’s pretty good.

This is a 3-pound brisket, getting ready to be corned. You’re seeing it prior to the five days of brining and 3.5 hours of cherry cola cooking.
Adding the cherry cola to the 5-day brined and rinsed beef for braising.
Corned beef is braised to a point where the meat starts to pull away from the surrounding muscle fibers. This is how it gets its traditional look when it is cut thinly against the grain.
When you cook corned beef in Cherry Cola, the outside stays a little sweet, but the inside is still beefy and salty. It works great in this situation because the soda doesn’t overpower, but sneaks in in an occasional bite leading to a fun flavor experience.

Of all the recipes shared in this post, this one is the winner. The outside of the corned beef has some sweetness that just blends in with the salty meat. If you try this recipe, make sure to reserve some of the liquid that the beef is braised in to keep the slices of corned beef extra moist in the refrigerator.

124 hours and 20 minutes
Cherry cola corned beef

Cherry cola lends slightly fruity and sweet notes to this savory corned beef. Tender slices make for a super enjoyable sandwich experience.

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Orange Dream sauerkraut

Yes. I made sauerkraut with orange cream soda. Was it a great idea? No. Was it terrible? Also: no. Let’s just say I will probably not make Orange Dream sauerkraut again. It didn’t ruin the sandwich, it just contributed a bit too much distracting citrus sweetness.

I’ll just say that I ate the Orange Dream sauerkraut in one sandwich and then I switched to a basic cabbage slaw that I made.

I’m not going to post and share a full recipe, but it’s easy enough to recreate if you’re following at home. All I did was add half of a thinly sliced cabbage to a medium pot over medium heat. Then I added 1/2 cup of Sprecher’s Orange Dream soda and 2 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar. Two teaspoons of salt were added and then I cooked it down until it was soft, but the cabbage still had a little bit of crunch. I stored it in a mason jar and then when it cooled down a little, I placed it in the fridge until sandwich time.

This was a pivotal moment in my life.
If you’ve never made sauerkraut with orange cream soda, maybe you haven’t fully lived.
Sweet but slightly tangy, orange-flavored and colored kraut is what we ended up with here. Look at all that krauty orange cream soda loitering in the bottom of that jar. Mmmmmmm.

Root beer sandwich sauce

This is basically just my special sauce recipe, minus the diced pickles and pickle juice, plus a little root beer because everything can use more sweetness, caramel and vanilla flavors. Right? Reuben sandwiches typically have Russian dressing and some that you’ll encounter have Thousand Island. Since this is a wacky sandwich in the first place, I figured I’d do whatever I wanted, and I made what I think of like a root beer and mayonnaise based dressing/sauce and introduce root beer to the mix.

These photos are from the testing phase when I was still trying to make things work with pickles. Root beer and pickles aren’t friends.
It wasn’t terrible with the pickles, just weird.
Here’s the final root beer sauce that honestly is a fun addition to a sandwich or burger.

Note: If you really wanted to recreate this sauce, use the recipe below and leave out pickle juice and diced pickles and add a tablespoon of root beer (drink the rest).

5 minutes
Special sandwich sauce

Great substitute for mayonnaise but way more flavorful. Perfect on a burger or even as dipping sauce for fries and onion rings.

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The Soda Pop Reuben sandwich

Ok, now we will put all these ingredients together and make a sandwich. Sorry to say I didn’t make a specific recipe for this one, but here’s the order I put ingredients together in:

  • Top bread slice
  • Root Beer sandwich sauce
  • Orange Dream kraut
  • Swiss cheese
  • Cherry Cola corned beef
  • Root Beer sandwich sauce
  • Bottom bread slice
The prep for a Soda Pop Reuben. Green River marbled bread, Cherry Cola corned beef, Orange Dream kraut, Swiss cheese and Root Beer sandwich sauce.
Orange flavored kraut is something else.
If you zoom in this close, you can barely tell that this entire sandwich is made from soda pop.

The first day that I made this sandwich and set it up for photography, I did not toast the bread. I wanted the swirl to show through. The bread in this sort of sandwich stays soft which is both good and bad for this situation. In future sandwiches, I tested multiple bread toasting options. None were good at keeping the bread green, but they all worked a little better for keeping the structure of the sandwich and better for texture.

Totally untoasted bread, but this was still a good sandwich. The orange cream kraut wasn’t the best and it tried to steal the show, but overall, I’m still happy with everything.
This one was griddled in a pan and it had the cabbage slaw that I made later and it was a much more balanced sandwich.
Bread griddled hard, but the sandwich turned out great The meat and cheese were super warm, and everything melded together very well.
Bread toasted in the toaster oven this time.
Back to the original untoasted bread Reuben, but the angle of meat and cheese just worked out so well, I had to take a photo. Don’t get me wrong, this was still a good sandwich, the bread was just a bit soft, which isn’t traditionally a characteristic of a Reuben.

Soda pop recap

This was a good sandwich week. A corned beef Reuben is a fantastic sandwich. Maybe one day I’ll make a serious attempt at making a classic one that isn’t made from soft drinks and write about that experience.

If you’re a soft drink fan and want to try Sprecher’s sodas, you can buy them in their online store. And this week, Green River soda is currently on sale.

Check back next week when I’ll be going fishing for my next sandwich!


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