Drink Local: Ouzon All-Natural Soda.

{Photograph taken from www.greeksoda.com}




“What about an ouzo flavored soda?”

~Phil Broikos, co-owner

WHO: Anastasia + Phil Broikos

WHAT: All natural Greek Soda. Makings in Dundee, NY. Non-alcoholic. Pairs nicely with alcohol. (Submit cocktail concoctions online!)

WHERE: Made in Dundee, NY (syrup)

WHY: Where ingenuity meets culture meets calculated risk meets why not

BUY: Grocery Stores. Restaurants. Check by Location Here. I found mine at Abundance Cooperative Market! Also at Wegmans (all of Monroe County).

SAY: OUZON (pronounced “OO-zone”).

EVENTS: Like on Facebook: OPA! Originals. Check for all Events. 

Greek Fest – Going on Now! 

Annunciation of the Greek Orthodox Church on East Ave: Thurs | Fri | Sat | Sun

Natural. Refreshing. Unique. Delicious. Anastasia Broikos, co-owner of OPA! Originals along with husband Phil, is everything Ouzon Soda oozes. Add to this: Effervescent. Inviting. Sweet. I met Anastasia at Abundance Cooperative Market during Earth Day Birthday. Tiny table near the entrance of bulk foods. Crowds clamored. Like me, I’m not sure they knew what for. I suppose exuberance. It flowed. From Anastasia, the petite woman originally from Queens, with a genuine smile + boisterous laugh. And from her clear, bubbly cups. At that juncture, it was Grand Central. Photographs. Pleads from Abundance for more. Old people. Young people. Laughter. I pressed the cup to my lips. Dainty bubbles fizzed. In that moment, I felt like family.

Family. Because Ouzon Soda is family. Engineered in 2009. Incorporated into OPA! Originals by 2010. Winner 1 year later in 2011 of the Beverage World Bronze BevStar Award for Best Carbonated Soft Drink. Managing a household with 2 beautiful girls, now 4 + 6.  Anastasia + Phil, Greek-Americans with complex ties to their heritage, truly run a family-owned company.

“I’m constantly pulling Barbie dolls out of my files,”

~Anastasia Broikos, co-owner

Both successful professionals (Anastasia in print media + Phil, a lawyer), put aside these careers + pursued a vision. As Phil explains, the Broikos’ decided to “give it a year.” With “calculated risk” as their strategy and “value judgement” as their guide, Anastasia + Phil navigated this epic endeavor. I’m tempted to say that Ouzon Soda was inspiration from the gods. But well, I think Phi’s father had more of a role.

“What is uniquely Greek?”

Go Greek. Phil is a Rochester native, + his dad worked as an engineer at Xerox. Happening upon a Greek inspired premium soda was a journey–a calculated one–before anything else. I’m no marketing major, but with 2 simples questions it’s evident that Phil carved out ingenuity by identifying a niche product with existing platform.“What is unique?” “What is the speciality [to each culture]?” Next, he + Anastasia invented. “What is uniquely Greek?” Oregano. Feta Cheese. Greek Wine. Greek Whiskey. Greek flavors. Greek ingredients. Greek products. Non-Greek still-popular products. Anastasia + Phil populated this matrix and, after ditching their diaper truck idea (someone sniffed it out 1st), they imbibed the ingenuity behind Rivella, a famed Swiss soft drink. Thank. God.

A Greek Ouzo Liqueur Inspired Soda.

Invention. Phil doesn’t actually love the taste of ouzo, an aperitif that is practically the national liqueur of Greece. The connection? Ouzon Soda tastes the way ouzo smells. (Genius.) More importantly? Both Anastasia + Phil love all-natural. The About page on their website www.greeksoda.com explains it best:

OUZON (pronounced “OO-zone”) soda is a premium all-natural sparkling beverage based on the flavor profile of ouzo, the unofficial national liqueur of Greece. The proprietary syrup for OUZON is meticulously handcrafted using pure cane sugar, and is infused with certified organic star anise to impart subtle notes of licorice.

By wishing upon a star is exactly how Ouzon Soda went from promise to pop. Ouzo liqueur smells refreshingly crisp, but the heavy taste doesn’t follow. Anastasia + Phil needed to capture a way to project this signature taste from anise, a Mediterranean herb responsible for the licorice undertones, and had to do it naturally.

All Natural. Made Local.

No Corn Syrup. Anastasia + Phil came up with the recipe for Ouzon Soda in their very own kitchen located in Penfield, NY. (Official headquarters of OPA! Originals. Unless you also count Starbucks.) They needed star anise, the Asian spice (not the Mediterranean herb), and they needed it to make a tea. When Phil reverse engineered this, the rest flowed. Cane sugar creates an all-natural syrup and: Opa!  …Too predictable? Well, Ouzon Soda is not.

  • certified organic star anise

  • star anise tea made in upstate NY (Dundee)

  • cane sugar … made from scratch

  • natural citric acid as a preservative

No corn syrup. No sodium benzoate (an artificial preservative). No chemicals. Just pure, homemade, all-natural, premium ingredients. As crystal clear as the Ouzon Soda they create.

OPA! Originals

Godliness. When Anastasia + Phil started OPA! Originals + invented Ouzon Soda, they did not just become entrepreneurs. Anastasia + Phil–married, with children, starting a business–became an entrepreneurial deity. What do we get?? Ouzon All-Natural Premium Soda. Whose taste + purity + authenticity embodies the very standards + traditions, culture + nuances the Broikos family generates. Godliness. Infused into every single last drop of Ouzon Soda.

Drink Local

With OPA! Originals located in Penfiled, NY, the makings of Ouzon Soda started in Dundee, NY, and with Ouzon sold all over Monroe County: Anastasia + Phil Broikos make Rochester, NY a city among the gods. Truly, we thank you so much.


(had to.)

Now head over to your nearest retailer + drink for yourself!






Music Local. Liana Gabel and Rest + Heal.

{All Photos taken from Liana’s Website. All energy + soul. See for yourself.}




“I like the challenge of making my feet more percussive.”

tap dancing

Liana tap dancing + using her feet as an instrument.

From: Rochester, NY {Ogden}.

High School: Churchville-Chili.

Grew Up On: Italian songs + arias sung by her Nono Tony.

Muses: Dreams, The Natural World, People.

Pop Corn: Fav snack – home popped pop corn with coconut oil, salt, pepper, + nutritional yeast.

Eco Friendly: 1.5 years living in a cabin without running water, without electric/gas heat, with a composting toilet, and baths in a local stream when warm enough.

Tap Dancing: Classically trained singer who plays guitar and uses her feet as a percussive instrument.

Home: New Paltz.


Liana knows how to move energy because Liana is all the good energy.


4.5.2014 : Bug Jar. I 1st met + watched Liana perform the same night I saw this powerhouse. Liana entranced me. While she sometimes plays with her band who are also members of their own band Los Doggies (heard on her Rest + Heal), when I saw Liana at The Bug Jar on Monroe Ave, she played alone. Center stage. Guitar holding. Feet shuffling. Notes rising + falling. Energy moving.

“I love to move energy when I have the power to with music and performance.”

And move energy she does. She moved me. I meandered to the front. Rooted my feet. I let Liana’s words + timber + tone + notes wash over me. Then I let them move me. The juxtaposition of her obviously well trained voice to the simple, raw, + real humanity of her lyrics to the complexities of her sounds. I had to know more.

playing and grass

I would watch Liana give a concert in the tall + wild grass.

Liana Gabel + her “Rest & Heal” Album is 1st to spotlight a #MusicLocal series. 

What a true honor to write this interview about Liana Gabel and her music. Her experiences, meaningful + talent, so deep: this is why we #MusicLocal. To know + experience artists like Liana and music like “Rest & Heal.”  Truly, I’m tempted to just copy/paste the email Liana sent to answer my interview questions. Her words and story, that rich. But then again, you can just catch a performance + meet her yourself, yes??


Between North Chili and Spencerport, Liana grew up in the town of Ogden {I call everything Rochester, so}, and she graduated from Churchville-Chili high school. After a semester at Monroe Community College, Liana graduated with a degree in Jazz Studies as a vocalist from SUNY New Paltz. Liana explains she became classically trained “more out of necessity than anything.” While “not ever a big fan of” classical training, Debussy and Puccini are Liana’s favorites within the genre. {Girl got class.}

liana + scarf

Classically trained + grew up on Nono Tony’s opera.

Roots. Nono Tony. Before World War II hit, Liana’s grandfather, who immigrated to Rochester in 1965 from Bologna Italy, studied to be an opera singer. Cook, tailor: when the war hit, Nono’s school closed down and he took other odd jobs to support his family. “Although he was never able to make it a career, my grandfather was always singing,” Liana writes. “Neither of my parents were musicians, but my nono sang opera, and would sing me Italian songs and arias as a little girl. Those are some of my first music memories.”

“but my nono sang opera, and would sing me Italian songs and arias as a little girl.”

While her parents worked, Liana sang for Nono Tony and Nona Pasqua. Nono’s favorite? O Sole Mio. “That is the song he first taught me. My Nono Tony was my first true musical inspiration and the only musician in my family.”

“the guys would always play guitars. I thought if they could do it, I could too, so I started taking lessons at Stutsmen’s.”

Musician. Until Liana, that is. Aside from her classical training + writing songs with her “entire range in mind,” Liana also plays guitar and percussion with her feet. “I consider my feet an instrument,” Liana writes me, “although I am still learning to use them as one,”. Inspired to learn guitar by her sister’s boyfriend’s band, Five Mile Line, Liana spent hours alone in her room listening to CDs and–Bob Marley’s Redemption Song–Liana learned songs from her favorite writers. Another reason I dig Liana?? “I also couldn’t stand watching or hearing the television (still can’t),” she explains, “so it was the best way I could tune it out in my family’s home.” {I relate girl. No TV in my apartment.}

guitar palying II

Strumming the heart strings.

“I just write lyrics. I have been writing lyrics for as long as I have had crushes on boys I think.”

Writer. By now, you know that Liana is a storyteller. “Once I got started on guitar, I began writing,” she recalls. As previously admitted, this entire post should  be cut + pasted directly from the email Liana sent, her words and images and experiences, that compelling. And natural. And real. As are Liana’s lyrics in Rest & Heal. Here’s an excerpt from the interview I sent Liana where I totally fangirl hard + break form with the interview questions:

UNIQUE WRITING STYLE – YES. I AM OBSESSED WITH YOUR WRITING STYLE. “Big Sur” is currently my favorite and, from the first syllable, you showcase your story telling/narrative capabilities. And you construct it with the impact of flash fiction. Beginning a song with, “Nearly,” that word alone, frames everything. Compelling. I love it.

Then there’s “Better” where you use the most common everyday interaction that everyone probably purposefully forgets—and so of course you choose this, because we can all relate to it and yet we all neglect it and so you draw attention to it for a) a cause and b) to get our attention—and you turn an entire lifetime into 1 mini-vignette; 1 persons’ “otherness” into needs we all have. I mean. That is genius storytelling. And you do it lyrically. Incredible.

rest and heal

Rest & Heal Album Art. Print by Artist Carla Bartow.

(Print: Artist Carlow Bartow)

Soulful Tune. “Big Sur” + “Better” are just 2 of 10 songs I absolutely love + respect. Liana writes: “‘Big Sur’ is a big favorite on the album. I have heard this from many folks.” Yes. Because “Big Sur” makes listeners feel like we’re at Big Sur, even if only vaguely familiar with its locale {Nor Cal}. The subdued melodies and subtleties softly lull listeners into the throws of our own emotions. I want to listen to “Big Sur” like I want to breathe the air of a “nearly full moon,”. I want to ask all of the questions “Big Sur” poses, with my last dying breathe. I love this song. You do, too.


  1. New Paltz. Anyone down for road trip? A) Liana lives + mostly plays there. B) I love New Paltz. Swear if I’d known more about it, I would have gone to college there. (Sorry Pittsburgh.)
  2. Gabel Fest. August 16, Churchville, NY. “[O]nly the best Rochester music fest ;).” {Direct quote from Liana.}
  3. Lilac Fest. Let’s get Liana in for the line-up next year!!
  4. Jazz Fest. Not yet … but Liana will make it happen. Her music will make it happen.

“I usually describe my music to people as ‘jazzy folky pop rock,’.”

Healing + Restful. I’ve listened to Rest & Heal almost every single day coming back and forth from work. I cannot thank Liana enough. Stories. Lyrics. Notes. Voice. Rhythms. Lessons. Love. Throughout this incredibly trying month in an already very messy year, Rest & Heal has helped me do exactly that. This will be the best $10 you ever spend. Trust me. Trust Liana. This woman, 26, knows life.

“I am ready to go wherever music takes me. I know it will take me to many wild and beautiful places with incredible people.”

Here’s to some “jazzy folky pop rock,” + some of the best Local Music we will see + hear. Here’s to “Rest & Heal,” which, I promise you, we all could use.

guitar playing

Wild + beautiful places. Wild + beautiful Liana.

Thank you Liana!!