Soda. Pop. Whatever - just don't call it Coke.
February 13, 2003 10:14 AM   Subscribe

The Best Soda You Never Had: Inspired by Miguel's thread, I went in search of some links about exotic beverages - specifically, the carbonated ones - and many of my leads ended up back at this one place. Cel-ray, Jones' Bubble Gum, Stewarts' Orange Cream - all there, and plenty more... It always seemed to me that Mexican sodas tended to be far far more diverse than the standard cola / diet cola / lemon-lime / orange / root-beer selection you typically see anywhere in America. Unfortunately, they fail to mention my absolute favorite, which is Cuban, and is called Materva (scroll down about a third of the way).
posted by wanderingmind (55 comments total)
Fanta Grape
Shasta Fruit Punch
Got me through many a childhood neighborhood soccer game.
posted by vito90 at 10:17 AM on February 13, 2003

Paging jonmc's stomach...
posted by i_cola at 10:19 AM on February 13, 2003

Yeah, soda is cool - the Stewards brand soda's are fun. You can find a lot of odd-brand bottles of soda in NYC delis.

I've actually stopped drinking soda since I transferred schools and moved out - I've discovered it's not really the sugar that hooks a lot of people. I've been drinking a lot of water, but also sugary stuff like Apple Juice and Kool-Aid and I've realized that I still miss soda for one big reason - the carbonation. When I feel like having a soda, I don't think of the sugar or the caffeine; I think of what the bubbles feel like when you drink it. It's really weird.
posted by tomorama at 10:19 AM on February 13, 2003

Ernest. Ernest floats kick ass.
posted by lumpley at 10:29 AM on February 13, 2003

I may just be lucky, or perhaps Stewarts is more popular up here in Frozen Canada, but it really isn't all that exotic to me. In my hometown in southern Manitoba everyone from local coffee shops to the IGA carries it. There's also Cherries 'n' Cream, which is also good.
posted by Monster_Zero at 10:30 AM on February 13, 2003

I happen to love ginger ale. My first favorite was Vernor's until I tried Blenheim's. mmm.... bubbles plus that spicy ginger twang! The added advantage is its also good for a tummy ache.
posted by SweetIceT at 10:30 AM on February 13, 2003

But look out for this stuff. It's nasty. It tastes disturbingly lifelike.
posted by lumpley at 10:32 AM on February 13, 2003

Just a few weeks ago we went to dinner at the Rodizio Grill and I tried a guarana soda. That's some good stuff.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:38 AM on February 13, 2003

I spent one summer in Brazil drinking tons of Guarana.
posted by iamck at 10:38 AM on February 13, 2003

My step-grandparents used to bring cases of Moxie home from Massachusetts every year. I was strangely compelled to drink it, even though it tasted like rubber bands.
posted by padraigin at 10:38 AM on February 13, 2003

Oopsie. Wanderingmind already mentioned the Cel-Ray.
posted by lumpley at 10:39 AM on February 13, 2003

Stewarts' is local for me, too (in California), and I absolutely adore their ginger beer. You want a spicy ginger twang, it's there in spades... I haven't tried Blenheim's to compare it yet, and I think I ought to.
posted by wanderingmind at 10:40 AM on February 13, 2003

Blenheim is indeed fine, as is D&G ginger beer. These, along with many Mexican sodas, Mexican coke in the old bottles and guarana are available in NYC at the excellent Kitchen Market (though not unfortunately from their website).
posted by liam at 10:44 AM on February 13, 2003

I lived in Bolivia for years. Besides the usual American flavors of pop we had papaya. Not that it really tasted like papaya, mind you. There was also guarana soda from Brazil.

When I was in El Salvador I had Cola Champagne, which has a sort of vanilla/bubblegum flavor to it.

Locally, I recently tried Leninade, which has a very amusing Soviet motif and a tasty citrus flavor. And it's not cloyingly sweet like Jones. Another favorite is Boylans.

The nice thing about "premium" sodas is that they use real sugar. It makes all the difference in the world.
posted by O9scar at 10:45 AM on February 13, 2003

Ale 8 one. Giner Ale with a bit of twist and a lot more bite. more ginger too. ..and more caffene.
posted by tomplus2 at 10:49 AM on February 13, 2003

Trader Joe's has a lovely Spicy Lemon Soda--it's got capsaicin in it. It's so good.

Here in California, microbrew sodas are a dime a dozen, I'm afraid. Likewise Mexican sodas. Mmmm...a carne asada super burrito at Taqueria CanCun, with a Mexican Coke. F-ing-A good.
posted by padraigin at 10:52 AM on February 13, 2003

A summer camp staple when I was a kid was Grape Nehi, if only for the largely unsubstantiated rumors that every once in a while, one of the bottles would ferment and turn alcoholic.
posted by yhbc at 10:55 AM on February 13, 2003

Can you get the Portuguese Sumol sodas in the U.S.? They're still made the old-fashioned way: real fruit, no colourings or preservatives, almost no carbonation. A better class of Orangina - except you can buy 2 litre bottles for less than two euros/dollars. Brilliant with vodka - specially the pineapple!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:55 AM on February 13, 2003

I've had the Jarritos Tamarindo a couple of times. What I was really intrigued by, however, was the Jarritos Jamaica. For some reason I thought it was going to be coffee-flavored (it's actually a cherry-type thing).
posted by deadcowdan at 10:58 AM on February 13, 2003

My wife recently brought home some yogurt soda from a local grocery store. Worst. Beverage. Ever. And I like yogurt. It was more of a sour yogurt than sweet and smelled like a barnyard. Tasted no better. I tried in vain to get the name and a link. Sorry.
posted by krtzmrk at 10:58 AM on February 13, 2003

And, of course, any discussion of out-of-the-way brands of pop would not be complete without mentioning Towne Club out of Detroit. They were great, although their flavors were pretty pedestrian. Their selling point was on price - about $0.25 a bottle. Sadly, they went belly-up in the mid-80s.
posted by deadcowdan at 11:02 AM on February 13, 2003

Speaking of Orangina, I recently bought some orange flavored and lemon flavored San Pellegrino sodas that were just delicious and in the same vein as Orangina.

Not terribly extraordinary, but we do drink a lot of Hansen's in our house.

And my favorite root beer of all is Henry Weinhard's. They make an orange cream and a black cherry soda as well, but I have no time for such things.
posted by padraigin at 11:10 AM on February 13, 2003

i always liked China Cola. in fact most of the Reed's stuff is pretty good.
posted by goddam at 11:15 AM on February 13, 2003

Ironbeer. It's good like woah. And it's soda, not beer. It's cuban, and I could only get it in the Miami area. I mean, I had a hard time getting it in Lauderdale. It's NOWHERE in Sarasota where I am now.
posted by taumeson at 11:26 AM on February 13, 2003

If you've never had Irn-Bru, you owe it to yourself to try some.
posted by boltman at 11:26 AM on February 13, 2003

Perhaps the worst soda in the world is Coca-Cola's Beverly, a bitter aperitif from Italy. Check out people's reactions after they drink this horrible concoction.

Does anyone remember Orbitz soda? They had the domain name before the annoying pop-up ad company got it. Bad, bad, bad.
posted by Frank Grimes at 11:29 AM on February 13, 2003

The south is chock full of off brand beverages:

Ski and Double Cola
Sun Drop
Bubba Cola
posted by Pollomacho at 11:31 AM on February 13, 2003

damn you, goddam and padraigin...hehe.

I've boycotted coke and pepsi for about 15 years or more now. tried some of reed's products that we found in our local hippie store, and absolutely love the china cola (screw you american corn subsidies, sugar rules!) and the cherry cola and apple/ginger/etc. are all excellent as well. natural ingredients + lack of chemicals is wonderful.

the international foodmart in joisey citty sells the pellegrino limon & arancia...definitely a nice alternative to orangina, not nearly as sweet. but they only carry the cans or small rome, we were able to buy it in 1L bottles, as well as a blood-orange flavor that I haven't seen in usa. actually the foodmart has tons of interesting sodas that we haven't gotten around to trying yet. we did try one cola from india, but it had a very odd aftertaste, bleh.

can't stand moxie although friends from boston swear by it. same goes for malta goya, ugh -- and we tried something similar from the same hippie store called "soma"...basically another malt soda but with lemon and other herb flavorings...not so good.
posted by dorian at 11:32 AM on February 13, 2003

I've had Ironbeer, Taumeson. A Mexican grocery up in Berkeley stocked it - the same place, in fact, that I bought Materva. I've been back and they seem to have neither...

And Goddam, Reed's Ginger Brew is what got me started on it (had it at Zachary's out of curiosity and loved it). Stewarts is roughly the same caliber as Reed's Extra.

posted by wanderingmind at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2003

I've had Ironbeer too--there is a Cuban restaurant in downtown Phoenix around the corner from my old office building that offered that and a few other Cuban sodas, including Cawy (citrussy goodness!)

Dorian: Oooh, blood orange Pellegrino. Looks like I'm going to have to comb the Bay Area Italian grocers for that, and if I don't have any luck I'm just gonna have to go to Italy.

I do like me some sodypop.
posted by padraigin at 11:42 AM on February 13, 2003

tomplus2 -- as a Kentuckian, I take great offense to misinformation that you've supplied concerning my favorite beverage. One simply has to look at the Product Info Page in the link you provided, to know that Ale-8 has less caffeine than a Pepsi.
posted by Lusy P Hur at 11:42 AM on February 13, 2003

A place here in Dallas specializes in speciality sodas...I'm actually drinking a Frostie Cherry Limeade right now. I had never realized how many varieties of 'exotic' sodas there were.

And if you haven't had Dr. Pepper as it was meant to be, you're missing out.
posted by amandaudoff at 11:48 AM on February 13, 2003

Big Red, a Texas favorite, fascinates me. It tastes just like bubble gum that you can drink. Do not confuse with cinnamony Big Red gum. Wild.
posted by GaelFC at 11:48 AM on February 13, 2003

As a kid growing up in Houston, I remember being able to buy Big Red and Dr. Pepper gum. It was a big brick, like Bubblicious gum, but with hollow center filled with soda syrup. Pure sugar goodness. Everytime I go back, I'm on the lookout, but I guess they've stopped making it. (The Dr. Pepper gum, by the way, was very very bad, but the Big Red gum was excellent)
posted by thewittyname at 11:55 AM on February 13, 2003

Nobody's mentioned birch beer yet!

Goya ginger beer is another with capsaicin in it. It's not as lush as a Reed's, but it bites nice.

Tiramisu made with quality root beer (here's a recipe) is delicious, plus it's good for kids or Mormons! (Well, I mean, not good for them. It's cream, sugar, and raw eggs, for cryin' out loud. It's not good for anybody. But noncaffeinated and nonalcoholic, so.)

Anyhow I like it best with homemade root beer.
posted by lumpley at 12:14 PM on February 13, 2003

7-Eleven now has Slurpee gum, with either filled or liquid centers (I forget which), in wild Slurpee flavors. It's not Freshen-Up or Chewels, but it's trying.
posted by GaelFC at 12:47 PM on February 13, 2003

How about the worst carbonated beverage ever?
posted by mattpfeff at 1:02 PM on February 13, 2003

matt, I think I'm going to hurl!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:07 PM on February 13, 2003

And to buy all these sodas you've never had, right from the comfort of your computer...the soda pop stop offers the widest selection of sodas I've ever seen. If you're in Los Angeles, you can go to the actual store, which is incredibly bizarre- it's an entire grocery store, but all the shelves are stocked only with soda.

I would have to place my own personal vote for cheerwine, which is very, very sweet. And very, very good.
posted by faustessa at 1:19 PM on February 13, 2003

Asian fruit sodas are pretty good. I looked high and low for a decent online seller but couldn't find any. But my favorite flavor is mandarin orange. Several companies sell mandarin orange soda, among them Sac Sac. Asian sodas tend to taste less like corn syrup and more like whatever fruit they're actually supposed to be.
posted by halonine at 1:32 PM on February 13, 2003

I spent one summer in Brazil drinking tons of Guarana.

Guarana is without a doubt the best (or at least the most addictive) soda in the world. When I was travelling in Brazil I had at least 3 Guaranas every day. Unbelievable stuff.
posted by einarorn at 1:35 PM on February 13, 2003

padraigin: there was one other san pellegrino flavor that we have seen in the states, namens 'chinotto', but it is a brown color and comes from some weird variety of orange. I don't think it's the same as the blood-orange flavor, which I remember to be a vivid bright red-orange.

blasted europeans get all the good sodas, and we get stuck with sugar-water (oh wait, I mean corn syrup water ...)

I do miss living in sf....Cost Plus always used to have interesting sodas and beers now and again. would be nice if there was at least a trader joes in manhattan...
posted by dorian at 2:39 PM on February 13, 2003

oh the pellegrino limon is definitely some good stuff, but for the last year or so we have been making our own lime soda. aka, best. soda. ever.

get yourself some fresh limes and squeeze them. you will be tempted to squeeze the hell out of them to get all the juice out but try not to...if you squeeze too hard, the juice will be bitter.

mix it with your favorite sugar. we prefer turbinado but it does not dissolve easily...fructose powder works a little better.

pour the juice/sugar mix over ice, then fill with chilled selzter water or whatever.

you will have to experiment to get the sugar and juice levels right for your taste, but once you do...damn.
posted by dorian at 2:47 PM on February 13, 2003

I heard recently that Dr. Pepper was coming out with pina colada flavored milk. Wuh? Has anyone else heard of this?

Minnesotans will remember politician and plywood magnate Rudy Boschwitz and his Flavored Milk stand at the Minnesota State Fair. Root Beer milk was the best seller, I think. All were fairly gross, but as kids, we tried 'em all.
posted by GaelFC at 2:50 PM on February 13, 2003

dorian: we have a few trader joe's over here in jersey.

you can find some good shit at wegmans too. they definitely have pellegrino. i'll have to check for the blood orange.
posted by goddam at 3:09 PM on February 13, 2003

I know self-linking is not really approved behavior, but I can't really find a good link to this stuff:

Calpico Fermented Milk Soft Drink

I liked it. My wife did not.
posted by mccreath at 3:21 PM on February 13, 2003

ooh, see now you're just taunting me. no car == no consumeristic jaunts into jersey. the trader joes is a bit out of the way, but there is ok bus service up to the yaohan or mitsuwa or whatever it's called these days.

but thanks, we will definitely give the wegmans a try next time we are down princeton way (next morel season, maybe...)
posted by dorian at 4:52 PM on February 13, 2003

Anyone else unlucky enough to have tried Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge soda?

The horror... the horror...
posted by John Smallberries at 5:04 PM on February 13, 2003

Mmm, orangina.
posted by rhyax at 5:15 PM on February 13, 2003

The best draft root beer, is Schell's 1919.
posted by yonderboy at 6:35 PM on February 13, 2003

It's rare that I get any, but I do have a fondness for Sidral Mundet which tastes like generic apple juice (not the good kind) with just a little tiny bit of carbonation. It doesn't feel as bad (or cavity inducing) as regular soda. Then there's red cream soda, the extremely un-PC (and completely faux cherry-flavoured) Cherikee Red or Peach Nehi which are both increasingly difficult (if not downright impossible) to find in stores. I find that Peach Nehi, is especially good with Cooler Ranch Doritos, but that might just be a personal thing.
posted by Dreama at 7:16 PM on February 13, 2003

br. brown's cel-ray is delectable. i was introduced to him in a jewish deli in des moines. i was assured it was the only place in the city to get it. i fell in love. i didn't know i was cool to be liking it till now. as great as it is, it's even better as a mix for almost any alcohol ever.

and ale 8 one can stay in kentucky forever. pith.
posted by kid_twist at 8:06 PM on February 13, 2003

canfield's used to cause me so much consternation as a child. a friend's or cousin's family osj always used to have it around by the case.

young dorian> ooh! chocolate soda!'s diet?! don't you have the normal kind?
cousin/friend/etc> nope
young dorian> did you run out?
cousin/friend/etc> nope
young dorian> but why do you only buy the diet kind?!
cousin/friend/etc> there is only the diet kind, they don't make a regular kind
young dorian *boggles*

so damnably tempting yet so evil. chocolate soda: I wanted to have it so badly. diet: only withered chain-smoking grownups drank diet soda. for the longest time I absolutely could not comprehend nor accept that they only made a diet version -- I thought that some supermarket, somewhere must sell the regular kind.

to my credit, I never actually tried the stuff.
posted by dorian at 8:10 PM on February 13, 2003

I tried the Canfields once when I was a kid. I actually liked it , but it didn't compare to an icy cold bottle of Yoohoo.
posted by SweetIceT at 9:11 PM on February 13, 2003

Oh yeah, my grandma was into the Canfields chocolate soda stuff. It was kinda weird. Although a friend of mine once found some of this Korean coconut soda that no one except one friend of his would drink, but he loved it.
posted by dagnyscott at 11:43 AM on February 14, 2003

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