Move over kombucha! Artisanal soda is riding a wave and Jack’s Soda is surfing into the limelight with a series of refreshing flavours and a brand-new Gatineau-based facility that will allow co-owners Mathieu Guillemette, Joël Beaupré, and Mathieu Nerbonne Lachaine to boost production to meet the thirst of soda lovers across Quebec and — most importantly to us — Ottawa.
The trio got the keys to the new facility last spring and have spent the past few months fitting it up. Previously best known for their artisanal tonic and ginger syrup, beloved by pro bartenders across the city, they have decided to expand their repertoire to include a line of more accessible sodas.
Their sodas have decidedly grown-up flavours — subtle, not-too-sweet, and perfect over ice or as part of a fizzy cocktail. Jack’s Rhubarb, for example, gets its signature tang from rhubarb stalks macerated with sumac, while Jack’s Blueberry pairs blueberries from Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean with a squeeze of lime. Both get their sweetness from Quebec honey. Other products in the lineup: ginger and tonic (sodas) and ginger and tonic (syrups). Can we call this a healthyish refresher?
City Bites caught up with the three owners to find out what this new facility means for their business — and how their future is shaping up.
How three guys became soda makers
Beaupré, who works at La Baccara, and Guillemette, who’s at Atelier, first met when both worked together at Café Henry Burger. Guillemette then spent time in Montreal, stopping by to visit his old friend a few years ago on his return to Ottawa. “We were hanging out in my kitchen drinking cocktails,” says Beaupré. “And we started talking about how we could make better syrups.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Their first products were syrups: Jack’s Tonique, made directly from cinchona bark, fresh lemongrass and ginger, local honey, and dried lavender flowers, and Jack’s Gingembre, using freshly pressed ginger juice, lime juice, honey, and Sichuan pepper.
The syrups were popular with bartenders, but their retails sales were even higher. “That surprised us,” says Beaupré. They decided to expand into sodas to further appeal to the retail market.
As the workload increased, their friend Mathieu Nerbonne Lachaine joined the team, focusing on upping Jack’s Soda’s social media presence.
Look for more flavours to pop up on shelves as the owners use their expanded space to experiment with crab apples and other seasonal fruits this fall.
“We like to work with flavours that highlight their terroir,” says Beaupré. Adds Guillemette: “That’s how we came to use rhubarb and sumac together in the rhubarb soda. We don’t want to do classic flavours like cream sodas.”
Guillemette says his fall schedule also includes plans to create a special-edition soda for his workplace, Atelier, which will feature passion fruit, Chef Marc Lepine’s favourite fruit.
Where to find it
Distribution expansion is ongoing, but Jack’s Soda is available at Seed to Sausage, Bottega Nicastro, and Massine’s Your Independent Grocer.
Restaurants and hotels that regularly have their sodas on their drinks lists include Andaz Ottawa, Alt Hotel, E18hteen, and El Camino.