In the world of soda, you’ve got your Straight Soft Drinks — your Dr. Peppers, your 7-Ups, your Coca-Colas. Then, you’ve got sodas that are a little more out there, your Kinky Pops. These include Mr. Pibb, Fanta and Cherry Coke. Then there are those of us who reject the sodanormative standards that society would like us to live by and drink Alternative Lifestyle Sodas.
Here’s a ranking of fourteen of these sodas that I’ve had recently, from best to worst
1. Jeff’s Amazing New York Egg Cream Chocolate Soda
This soda was dang good. I didn’t realize it was an egg cream when I first bought it, so I was delightfully surprised at it’s wonderful chocolate flavor and smooth creaminess. Now, there is milk and cream in this soda, so that might turn some people off, but I loved it. I’m definitely going to buy more of these the next time I see them. They talked about egg creams on that episode of The West Wing where President Bartlet asks that religious right radio host how much money he can sell his daughter into slavery for. 10/10 Toby Zieglers
2. Saranac 1888 Shirley Temple Flavored Soft Drink
This soda reminded me of when I was a kid and my Grandpa would make Shirley Temples for my siblings and me at the bar he had in the family room of his house. Red flavored sodas are some of my favorites, and this was a really nice new addition to that roster. Lovers of Cherry Coke, Wild Cherry Pepsi, Mountain Dew Code Red and Big Red should definitely drink this instead. 9 and a half Bittersweet Memories/10
3. Capt’n Eli’s Blueberry Pop
This was just plain excellent. It was super smooth, even to the point of being soothing. If a soda has too much carbonation, that can be a real turnoff, but this one had a terrific amount. Like, this pop would match up great with spicy food. Aside from being ridiculously smooth, it’s got a super great berry flavor —not too sweet, not to strong. Who knew that Carmen’s dog was so good at crafting creative and delicious sodas? 9 Carmen’s Dogs/10
A nice cherry soda that uses real cane sugar. Of all the red sodas I’ve had, this is the darkest. If the soon-to-be-mentioned Squamescot Cherry Cola is regular Femme, Strawberry Fanta is Tomboy Femme and the previously mentioned Shirley Temple soda is Retro Femme, Cheerwine is definitely Hard Femme. 8 and a half Cherry Femmes/10
5. Melba’s Fixins Strawberries & Cream Soda
Like I said, red-flavored sodas are my favorite. This one was pretty similar to a lot strawberry sodas I’ve had (and loved) except it was more smooth and creamy (which, I mean, makes sense based on the name). It also was less sweet than most mainstream sodas, so that made for an easier drink. Melba’s Fixins is this brand of like, “Grandma Sodas” I think? They make a lot of pie and dessert flavored drinks. Good job, Melba, you sure know how to make a quality soda pop. 8 Sweet Old Grannies/10
6. Melba’s Fixins Peaches & Cream Soda
This was also pretty good and thematically similar to the Strawberry & Cream soda. Except with Peach flavor instead of Strawberry, so it was somewhat more mild. It reminded me of this Syfy Original Picture Anonymous Rex where dinosaurs didn’t go extinct, they just wear these “hard light hologram” suits, or sometimes just rubber suits, to look like humans (it makes absolutely no sense). Anyway, all the dinosaurs give off these unique dino pheromones, and the female lead smells like Peaches and Cream (well actually, hers are fake as she’s a human who was adopted by a dinosaur so she has to pretend to be one or the other dinos will kill her. Like I said, it makes no sense). I’m pretty sure this was my first peach soda ever, so that was pretty cool. 7 and a half Dinosaurs Disguised as Humans/10
7. Squamscot Old Fashioned Beverages Mistletoe Mist
This was some sort of citrus drink, which let me down based on the name because it gave absolutely no clue as to what the flavor would be. It’s supposed to have “taste of spruce beer with a subtle fruity undertone” but it really tastes more like lemon-lime with maybe some tangerine mixed in? I mean, sure, I get an orange in my Christmas stocking just like any other girl, but this was no orange soda. Not Christmasy at all. I maybe would have enjoyed this more if it were marketed differently. This seems like a really good picnic soda. 7 Winter Picnics/10
8. Squamscot Old Fashioned Beverages Cherry Cola
Now, colas usually aren’t really my favorite, but as far as they go, this was pretty darn good. It definitely has a much more “cherry” flavor than most cherry colas that I’ve had before. Again, this soda, as many Indie Sodas do, uses pure cane sugar. Does that make it more healthy or more flavorful? I really don’t know. 6 and half Pure Cane Sugars/10
This tasted a lot like the Mistletoe Mist (and even had a very similar color, except redder, obviously) but as you can probably tell, it was marketed a billion miles differently. This bottle of soda is full of little jokes and slogans like “Get Hammered & Sickled!,” “A Taste Worth Standing In Line For!” and “Join the Party!”. 6 and a half Communist Manifestos/10
9. Jack Black’s Blue Cream Soda
Don’t be fooled by this soda. I thought it would taste like blue, but apparently, it’s only colored blue. I was excited, I thought it would maybe be blue raspberry, maybe blueberry, maybe even bubblegum, but it was none of those. Just plain cream soda flavor. Like, I’m a pretty big fan of cream sodas, but this was an average cream soda with nothing special about it other than the color, and so it left me disappointed. Inside the cap it says “Stay away from crack, drink Jack Black.” It’s like a Snapple fact, but not a fact and not about Snapple. 6 Wastes of A Good Idea/10
10. Melba’s Fixins Apple Pie Soda
Now we come to section of sodas I didn’t like as much as I thought I would. Also, the third (but last) Melba’s Fixins soda. I do like some other apple sodas (like Apple Beer and Sidral Mundet), but this one had a base flavor in the back of it that made me not enjoy it as much. It was still alright though. 6 Not As Good As I Thought It’d Bes/10
12. Mr. Q. Cumber Sparkling Cucumber Beverage
I bought this because I remembered the comedian Chris Gethard recomending it. Now, I’m a big fan of cucumbers (they’re one of my top ten favorite fruits) and I think this seems like a really hip soda, but this pop was not for me. Maybe the cucumber flavor was too strong or the mixture of the cucumber with the carbonation was too weird, but something just rubbed me the wrong way. However, I did have fun with this soda and, being the way I am, I could easily see myself buying this again to try to convince myself I like it. 4 I’d Drink This If I Wanted To Look Cools/10
13. Candy Cane Train Holiday Soda
The first soda on the list that I truly did not like. This one kind of tasted like a candy cane, and kind of like Peppermint Schnapps but it was much, much sweeter and the carbonation made it go down much less smooth than even the alcoholic Schnapps. I love candy canes and I love Schnapps but I did not love this. I only drank a little before giving the rest to my brother and father. 3 I Should’ve Just Had Schnappses/10
14. Lester’s Fixins Peanut Butter & Jelly Soda
I’m pretty sure Lester’s Fixins is like, the “manly” counterpart to Melba’s Fixins, as they have flavors like Bacon, Coffee, Buffalo Wings and Ranch Dressing (oh no, no, no, no). Anyway, this soda, while it did pretty much have the flavor of Peanut Butter & Jelly, was horrible. Honestly, though, I don’t really know what I was expecting. I guess sandwiches just shouldn’t be made into sodas. I could barely drink two sips before I had to stop. I never want to drink this soda again. 0 Gross Disgusting Nasty Huge Mistakes/10
You should try the Maine Root sodas too! They have all kinds of flavors and are fair trade certified. and are about as queer as a soda can get. And they are made in Maine just like Captain Eli’s(which I also love).
Someone should go back and do Autostraddle reviews of all the West Wing episodes!
Wow oh wow, all I want is to collaborate with Mey on this. 10/10 Mrs. Landinghams for this idea, Max.
Yes! This would be wonderful!
I’m a big fan of Orange Cream Sodas, and I can recommend a few.
The best is Henry Weinhardt’s Orange Cream. It’s hard to find outside of the Pacific Northwest, but it’s the gold standard for the perfect mix of creamy to citrus.
A close second, easier to find in the Midwest, is Goose Island. They also make a grape that’s not bad.
If you have to, for national brands Stewart’s isn’t bad. I also like their lime a fair bit.
Unlike Mey, I love flavored sodas EXCEPT for red. You can have all the red ones! I’ll take the purples and oranges and greens.
I’ve always been a little disappointed with Jones sodas. Aside from their novelty flavors their main ones are a bit too heavy on carbonation and weak on flavor.
I tried a lot of local brands when I lived in Virginia and none of them were good enough to remember. West Coast is king for alternative lifestyle sodas, for sure.
I agree with you r.e. Jones sodas. I really wanted to like the Green Apple soda but it was too sour and not flavorful in any other way. Like, sour was the only flavor.
I had goose island a couple of times when the bar my gf worked at went through a sadly short phase of stocking it…here in the UK. I lived it! Highly agree and I’m not an orange can usually.
I love rubsrb
I wrote out ” I love this local organic rhubarb soda made with cane sugar”. I don’t know why my phone didn’t register it all, but ey, maybe I Iove rubsrb too ;)
I don’t know why your phone did that either but I’m glad it did because I am laughing so hard gooD LORD
Please start a #rubsrb tag trending on Twitter. We’ll all act like it’s a real thing– the very LATEST, HOTTEST thing– and see how many people we can a) confuse and b) get to jump on board blindly.
I will personally attest that Kim Kardashian has a case of #rubsrb delivered to her house every day.
Also, it helps you lose weight. #Droz
Okay okay, thank you for this post. I love cute little indie sodas, and I’ve actually had that cucumber one and I didn’t think it was bad. I have yet to try an egg cream but it’s on my to-do list (also I found a recipe for them and really want to try making them. Anyone done it before?).
My favorite alternative-lifestyle soda that was not mentioned here is Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew. I am having a love affair with ginger right now and YOU GUYS. This stuff is the best. Think ginger ale only with like 10x more ginger and 10x less weird aftertaste.
yessssssss it’s so refreshing but makes your gullet feel so warm
“26 grams of fresh ginger root for a stronger bite.” <3 My favorite, next to Sioux City Sarsaparilla.
I bring 4 packs of Reed’s to parties instead of beer…
looks like a beer bottle, and no.one.will.ever.know.
Thank you Mey! This is so relevant to my interests. I am going to order Leninade for sure.
May I humbly submit Loganberry drink for your consideration? It’s a Western NY thing and it has a sweet, mized berry flavor.
More info: http://mix96buffalo.com/what-is-loganberry-the-story-behind-the-unique-buffalo-drink/
Loganberry is not carbonated so I like to mix it with seltzer water.
This is so hilarious and amazing and I love it. So much more whimsical and delightful than wine tasting! I love egg creams (they remind me of being a child and reading Harriet the Spy) so I will try that chocolately business. Where do you even find these sodas?!
I got most of them at a Bevmo in LA and then got the rest in a Fred Meyer’s in Idaho.
There’s this place called the Fizzary in San Francisco
I did have one of the flavors of Leninaide before and it was refreshing enough to not have the other bottle of soda I also bought(forgot which one it was, but it was some neon blue drink). Also, you know have me curious about ranch dressing soda. If it’s vegan friendly I plan to try it out.
you are just so great.
Sprecher makes the most fabulous Cherry Cola with real cherry juice – if you like red soda you have to try this!
I live in Cheerwine territory (North Carolina) where cheerwine is a pretty big local pride thing- it’s one of the last majorish sodas not owned by Coke or Pepsi, for one. I don’t know if I would describe it as cherry exactly- it’s sort of grenadiney-bubblegummy? Either way, it’s cool to see it’s started to be available elsewhere (ps, if we’re talking about cherry femmes, your lipstick is GREAT and POWERFUL)
Any UK based alt life soda, or pop as we call it, drinkers other than me about? I am a huge fan of Fentiman’s botanically brewed anything. So dandelion and burdock, ginger beer, cloudy lemonade, rose something something. It’s all gorgeous and yummy. I also love bundaberg root beer. Molasses-tastic.
I want to apply this ranking system to literally everything about my life.
Sodas? No, no, this here is pop you’re talking about.
Here, it’s all technically Coke.
Pop in the UK also…unless you’re in Glasgow, Scotland where this would be Juice.
Here (New Zealand), it is soda.
My faves are
Bundaberg Ginger Beer
Schweppes Indian Tonic water (I love Quinine and don’t even need gin don’t shoot me!)
Lemon and Paeroa (Paeroa is a place in the North Island where it produces Spring water, so it is spring water) by (dang it) Coca Cola.
Royal Crown Draft Cola
CHEERWINE! CheerWine is glorious. I wonder when I’ll ever see it again..
I live two blocks from a grocery store. Willing to be a Cheerwine mule.
If only for the purpose of putting that on a résumé
I love things that taste red, so this is incredibly relevant to my interests.
Are you related to Marceline the Vampire Queen, by any chance?
You would have gotten along with my brother during his (very long) stage where red Kool Aid was the only thing he would drink.
“I guess sandwiches just shouldn’t be made into sodas.”
I am taking this as a personal challenge
The float possibilities!
10 overexcited minions/10
mey this is all wonderful
i’m off to soda myself into a stupor while watching Anonymous Rex which is available on youtube for $2.99 and stars Sam from True Blood (who apparently appears only in media products about closeted supernatural creatures)
i love Anonymous Rex and actually if you enjoy the movie (it’s really bad but fun+ridiculous) it’s based on a book series by the same guy who wrote Matchstick Men and Repo Men (though his book Repo Men is based on is called The Repossession Mambo) that’re really incredible
I am currently in love with Blenheim gingerale. It’s so gingery it’s spicy. I just looked it up to make sure I spelled it right and they describe it as “goe[ing] down as smoothly as a firecracker exploding in your throat”
as Mey’s brother i can vouch for the Peanut Butter & Jelly soda being awful. it set a new standard for bad soda tastes
(also everyone should watch Anonymous Rex)
I love Cheerwine!!
When I was in undergrad in south Georgia, this replaced Mr. Pibb and Dr. Pepper. Now that I live in the Midwest, I desperately crave it u.u
How did I never think of Shirley Temple in a bottle? It’s just ginger ale or Sprite with grenadine. And so delicious. Dirty Shirleys are also good; don’t judge me. Shirley Temple + vodka = happy Rachel.
Do you not add orange juice to Shirley Temples??? Is this a Canadian thing??
Never heard of that. It must be a Canadian thing.
I’ve always thought Cheerwine tastes like a really old-fashioned cough medicine.
And I thought the Eli’s bottle said Elvis and got very excited. can someone make Elvis soda? PB and banana, I guess?
I’ll second then Bleinhein vote. That’s some intense stuff. It comes in a spicy variety, which my grandfather always said would put the hair on your chest (also capable of doing so: mincemeat, shine, chow chow).
I must find egg cream soda. When I moved here, I did a series a weird Google searches to find out if there was anywhere that had it.
So you’re saying my love of Cheerwine may be related to my enjoying the flavor of cough syrup? Interesting.
Well . . .
To be fair, I used to fake coughing spells to get orange-flavored cough syrup. And I like Orange Crush. So maybe there is some sort of correlation here? Scientific, of course.
I love egg cream sodas and make them all the time! It’s so simple. Make rich chocolate milk and then add seltzer. Sure, you can get traditional chocolate syrup but any will do. I do like it if the seltzer is really fresh and bubbly. I have the soda stream so I make it really carbonated!!
Egg creams remind me of living by Tompkins Square park in the 90s. This deli sold them for 50¢ and I would get one daily.
Recently took my 5yo to Johnny Rockets and they have egg creams on the menu. But when I heard the waiter (!) ask another waiter if there were eggs in them I decided not to order one there. No eggs!!
I tried Dang! That’s Good Butterscotch Root Beer not too long ago and it was AMAZING. Tasted exactly like Butterbeer, in my opinion, which I had a craving for after coming back from WWOHP. It fulfilled all my wildest hopes and dreams.
Has anyone ever tried saparella? My poppop always asks for it at restaurants, jokingly, because many people don’t know what it is and he thought it sounded funny. I’ve never tried it, but the name sounds awesome :)
It’s good, actually– very similar to root beer, but I think it must have some extra somethings in it as well. I know of an independent soda works locally that makes it, but I’ve never see sarsaparilla sold by any of the “big-name” brands (not that that means anything). I’ve always had the impression that it was old-fashioned; like you, I heard my older relatives talk about it like it used to be common, but I seldom see it.
the wikipedia article on sarsaparilla is rly interesting if you like botany and history.
Sioux city Sarsaparilla is my favorite soda. Lucky for me they sell it at the convenience store right next to my house.
If you ever find yourself in CT, or know anyone in the area, I highly recommend Foxon Park Sodas. They are an amazing local company that uses real sugar, and you will find it sold at every New Haven pizza place. They have two red flavors(cherry & strawberry,) other fruity flavors, some dark sodas/standard flavors, an Italian soda called Gassosa, and the god of all sodas white Birch Beer.
I’m also a huge fan of Sidral apple sodas and most Jarritos flavors. All hail Jarritos guava.
I work for Saranac and seeing this on my fb news feed just blew my mind. Worlds colliding.
i don’t like soda — it makes me hiccup real bad. i just came in here to say i love your lipstick, mey.
I gave my uncle-in-law who I do not like very much the lester’s fixins ranch soda and buffalo wing soda for christmas. You know, so he can have ranch with his wings.