Early in the summer we were at BevMo and came across their section of bottled soda. Given that we weren’t planning much else for the summer I suggested that we have a soda sampling event.
We ended up picking 10 bottled sodas, driven more by whim and attractive labels than any systematic approach. We put them in the fridge out in the garage and, over the course of the summer, pulled them out one by one to give them a try.
I’ve ranked them here, though there was some disagreement over the ranking. But, being the person who is putting together the post, I get the final word.
In ascending order of likelihood of us purchasing again in the future, here are the sodas.
10. Black Lemonade
Distributed by the people at RealSoda.com, this drink certainly lives up to the “black” part of the name. As you look at it in a glass, the center is an inky black, while around the edges there is a hint of color, as though it is trying to escape the darkness.
Or maybe it is trying to escape the flavor.
Not content to go to extremes for color, they also went over the top on the flavor front, with a very sour version of lemon. No sweetening for you!
While the lemon is authentic, it was too bitter for the whole family and thus ranked last.
9. Choco Fizz Chocolate Soda
Chocolate and soda are two flavor mediums that never quite work together for me. There was an outburst of chocolate sodas in the late 80s that you might remember if you are old enough. But it was a pretty quick outburst, so you might have missed it even if you are the right age.
This was a reminder as to why that rise of the chocolate sodas was so brief. There is simply something unwholesome about a carbonated chocolate drink. It lacks creaminess.
And this soda really tasted like liquid Tootsie Roll, and we have long debated what flavor a Tootsie Roll really is, because it certainly isn’t chocolate.
This was rejected by everybody but myself after the first sip. I gamely finished my glass, but I wasn’t going back for seconds. My apologies to the people at Zuberfizz, but this just wasn’t our thing.
8. Jack Black’s Blue Cream Soda
Blue cream soda is the most mis-understood of the cream sodas. Blue just isn’t a color that suggests the same flavor to everybody. And so you get some that think raspberry is the way to go. Others follow the snow cone tradition and go for a bubble gum flavor.
Jack Black (and I don’t know if it is that Jack Black) appears to have decided that color and carbonation were what really mattered. It was very blue and fizzy like no other, but the flavor was ambiguous. It was almost the opposite of the black lemonade, which a very strong, if very sour, lemon flavor.
Here there might have been some bubblegum, or some raspberry, or perhaps a touch of mint. It was hard to distinguish. The carbonation alone was overwhelming the flavor.
There were no strong negative reactions to this soda, but nobody wanted seconds either.
7. Jeff’s Vanilla Soda
An attempt to put a New York egg cream in a bottle. Heresy to some, I am sure. This being the vanilla version, you had to really like vanilla to partake. I am, apparently the only one in the house that fits that bill. I finished off my glass, and then had to finish off everybody elses. None went to waste, so it ranks above the previous three, but even I wasn’t clamoring to go out and buy some more. Information about this soda is available at Get Creamed, which certainly has a Times Square sound to it… 1980s Times Square.
6. Filbert’s Banana Soda
From Filbert’s Root Beer Company, this is banana soda.
And banana it is. It has a very strong, deep, rich banana flavor. Almost an banana liquor in texture.
Universally praised for its flavor, nobody could finish more than a very small glass of it. It is too rich. A whole 12 ounce bottle might last me a week at my maximum rate of consumption.
Still, you cannot argue with the banana flavor. It might make a good base for a banana milkshake.
We have here the victory of socialist style over substance, a true metaphor for the fall of communism.
I picked this particular soda, drawn to the slogans on the bottle like a sophomore poly-sci student. And such slogans! The bottle says:
Join The Party
Get Hammered & Sickled
A taste worth standing in line for!
Drink Comrade! It is this or the gulag!
Surprisingly Satisfying Simple Soviet Soda
Misha, chill down this bottle & chill out!
Our 5-Year Plan: Drink a bottle a day for five years and become a hero of socialist flavor.
All of this on a clear bottle of a pink-ish red liquid and featuring a hammer a sickle, a bust of Lenin, and some Cyrillic lettering.
And the flavor? Sort-of grapefruit-like in a proletarian sort of way. Drinkable, but no worker’s paradise.
Worth it for the bottle.
4. Sprecher’s Puma Cola
This is a contentious choice. My daughter ranked this number one, but I am writing the blog post, and for me it only makes it to number four. (The picture shows it elsewhere in the lineup, more proof of our rankling over this issue.)
Sprecher has a decent cola here, something not easy when going caffeine free, with a heavy cinnamon secondary flavor. For my daughter, this was a winning combination. For me, it was Safeway Cragmont cola from the 1980s, or two flavor revisions ago for the Safeway house brand soda.
3. Frostie Cherry Limeade Soda
I should have photographed all of the bottles full, but I only thought about it after we were well into drinking them. This soda is a beautiful red color. And it tastes pretty good. The cherry and lime flavors go surprisingly well together. This is the point on the list where hit sodas we might purchase again.
2. Kickapoo Joy Juice
Another soda living on a retro image. Claiming to be “The Original Dogpatch Recipe” and featuring Al Capp-like artwork on the label, it is essentially a variation on Mountain Dew. Mountain Dew is a popular brand at our house, and this is close enough to it, only in bottled form. It tastes better than the current Mountain Dew in a can, but not quite as good as the Mountain Dew Throwback that Pepsico has been selling this year. When Throwback is finally gone, I might go looking for another bottle of this.
1. Orange Crush
I decided we had better have a ringer in the group, a soda I know would go down well with the family. Well, the rest of the family. I’m not big on orange as a flavor, having a citrus allergy thing going on, but my wife and daughter were all over this. We went back and bought a six pack of bottles and then my wife started picking up cans at the grocery store for treats. It tastes nearly as good out of the can I am told. So while hardly fair, this was the #1 choice.
And that was our sampling.
Next time I think we’re going to head down to the Mexican grocery store and grab some strange candy. I have a strange fascination with those chicken flavored lollipops.