Mike Gulley has a plan, a partner and a product. He’s run the numbers, prepped countless test batches and — after three years of development, false starts and testing the water efforts — he’s ready to make his small batch, all natural, less-sweet pop commercially available under the new brand name Old City Soda, which was formerly known as Cleveland Soda Works. The goal is to launch this summer, and he hopes there will be a storefront cafe-type location, too. But you don’t have to wait that long to taste his stuff.
Gulley will set up shop at the first Cleveland Flea of the season. On Saturday, April 12, he’ll be pouring and selling his non-alcoholic ginger beer — a drink that explodes on your tongue and leaves a tingle behind — as well as Cinchona bark and lemon grass tonic, fruity flavors like grapefruit and a cinnamon version.
The pop-up market, held in the parking lot and garden of Sterle’s Country House on East 55th Street, is a terrifically fun event dedicated to all things local, handmade, vintage, repurposed, artistic, edible and curious, making it the perfect match for his liquid creations. A bartender by trade, Gulley will also be mixing up some adult-only cocktails, featuring his own carbonated beverages including a Moscow Mule and a wonderful version of the Dark and Stormy that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. And if winter continues to resist giving up up its grip, he promises there will be hot toddies, too.
Right now, Gulley’s soda-making is a side venture and he spends most nights and weekends as fruit peeler, brewer and bottle filler. But the 29-year-old hopes that soon he’ll be able to concentrate on bringing us “the most unique crafts sodas out there.” Just thinking about it makes me thirsty.