Month: February 2015

Old City Soda: Lemon Soda

History: Old City Soda is one of the new kids on the block in craft soda. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, Old City Soda’s owner, Mike Gulley, sought to harken back to the way soda used to be made in the old days with craft and care. He wanted to blend the old methods with new ideas, flavors and fresh ingredients. Gulley started making ginger beer back in 2011 at a Cleveland restaurant called Paragon. That led to a soda-making series at The Cleveland Flea. If that site doesn’t tickle your inner-hipster, then you aren’t drinking enough green smoothies or wearing enough accessories. In 2013, he launched his own soda line. Like several newer faces in the craft soda industry, Gulley targeted his beverages to pair with alcohol. What really stands out are the flavors. Lemon soda? Cinnamon soda? Hibiscus? Who does that? And most Old City Sodas clock in at under 100 calories. The company name even has a cool little backstory. “Altstadt” was a common name in Gulley’s family ancestry. It stands for “the old city.” In fact, his grandparents still maintain a newsletter called the “Old City Beacon.” The bear you see on the company’s soda bottles even comes from the family crest. It’s all cyclical… revolutions, my friend. Here’s a note for all you health-conscious folk; to ensure freshness, the company does not pasteurize or use preservatives in its products. You actually have to keep the bottles refrigerated or the ingredients go bad much faster. The time from bottling to your mouth is only a matter of days. Flavor potency and authenticity are what this new kid on the block prides itself upon.

Where to get: Gulley and his business partners are still a small operation. They’re working on distribution at the moment. Until then, they’re open to larger orders directly through their website. You can also subscribe there to get the latest updates.

Nose: Lemon meringue pie; lemon juice; light key lime.

Taste: Lemon juice, light sugar. This is lemon soda, not lemon-lime soda. It’s simple and light. That said, the lemon flavor is strong on the first couple sips. Could overwhelm some people. The flavor is very natural. This tastes like someone squeezed a bunch of real lemons in here, which is nice and refreshing. (The soda does contain 20% juice. You’d swear it was more). The more you drink this, the more the sugar comes through. A majority of Old City Sodas contain under 100 calories, so the sugar is never going to be a critical part of the flavor, but it does a nice job mellowing out the strong lemon you get in the beginning. This soda was geared toward being a mixer and when mixed with alcohol, the lemon is nearly perfect, light and full of citrus-infused flavor.

Finish: Pure lemon juice that tails off into a faint key lime flavor. If you drink this quickly, the carbonation brings out more of a bold sugar flavor in the finish.

Rating: This is a soda that lives two lives. On its own, it’s the ultimate sipping soda. A beverage that amplifies in flavor and drinkability on every sip. However, this is also its potential downfall with consumers. The lemon zip is abrupt and up front on the first couple drinks. It’s a little, “Hey, I just met you and you can’t put your hands there yet.” But give it time, baby. It’ll woo you as you get to know it better. The lemon really mellows over time. It’s highly suggested you take your time with this beverage as opposed to downing it in 10 minutes. The lemon has a nice, natural flavor and a palatable amount of zing. It probably isn’t something you’d consistently drink on its own unless you’re a citrus buff, but it’s nice for a hot summer day. This soda has another side though, the one for which it was intended. On its own, its a summertime sipper, but pair it with vodka or gin and this becomes a liquid party. In fact, Gulley noted this is basically an instant Tom Collins in a bottle, minus alcohol. He was right. For those who think the natural lemon flavor might be too strong to drink as a soda, it really lightens out in a cocktail. Its lemon punch cuts the alcohol, yet provides considerable refreshing citrus flavor. Careful, drinking too many happened to us happens. For those who enjoy citrus or those who enjoy sipping beverages, give this a try on its own. For those who’re looking to have a good time and like their nights in a highball glass, try this with booze. And if you don’t like either of those, then we probably shouldn’t hang out.

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Vermont Sweet Water: Maple Soda

History: When you think of Vermont, let’s be honest, one of the only things that comes to mind is maple syrup. And maybe cold weather. People love maple-flavored things. Donuts, bacon, ham, candy… why not soda? Vermont Sweetwater in Poultney, Vermont (we checked, it’s real) is here to answer your maple needs. These people LOVE maple syrup. Case in point, the company’s signature product, maple seltzer, was born out of an idea brothers Bob and Rich Münch had after literally just drinking sap. But honestly… what else do you do in a town of less than 2,000 people? Eventually, customers wanted a sweeter, bolder version of the maple seltzer. So in 1996, the family created maple soda. Each 12 oz. bottle contains one ounce of pure Vermont maple syrup. Not maple cream or maple root beer, just maple. This baby really relies on the maple syrup to power its flavor because the only other ingredient in it is carbonated water. Out of the nine flavors Vermont Sweetwater produces today, their maple seltzer and soda still power the business.

Where to get: You can oder any of the company’s sodas on its website in either 6-packs or cases of 24. Or if you have some weird aversion to buying outside of bigger retailers, Amazon also has the hook up.

Nose: Odd odor; funk; watered-covered pancakes.

Taste: Bitter; funk; watery syrup. Their are only two ingredients in this soda: carbonated water and maple syrup. The maple flavor comes through at the end, but it’s mostly absorbed by the carbonated water. The result is a watered-down, funky maple taste that is hard to take in. Unpleasant and abrupt. This does not taste like maple syrup. It doesn’t taste like maple cream soda. It doesn’t even taste like artificial maple flavoring. It does, however, taste like maple syrup and water. The flavor permeates the sinuses immediately and rushes to the back of the throat with a carbonated punch. This soda will KO you in the early rounds.

Finish: Harsh, watery maple; shocking.

Rating: We were tremendously excited for this, and it’s with deep regret I must say it was a steep letdown. This is that feeling you had in high school after you worked up all the guts to ask the amazing girl from calculus to prom, only to find out some douche asked her that morning. It was supposed to lead to great things. It could’ve maybe even been the best night of your life. And now you have to ask Betsy, the weird girl who sits behind you and is into anime. That’s how this feels. I don’t know if Vermont Sweetwater is into anime, but this soda is the weird cousin of cream soda that you settled for instead. Its scent is straight funky and its taste doesn’t really improve on the scent. The biggest problem is that the two ingredients put together are a disaster void of decent taste with no sophisticated flavors for the palate. There are no “notes” of flavor. The smell, taste and finish are all almost identically strange and shock the senses. This was borderline undrinkable for us, and it could REALLY use some added sugar. For a company named “Vermont Sweetwater,” the most critical aspect missing from this is sweetness. If you just truly love maple syrup or have a passion for Vermont, then try this. The concept is really noble. The company is commended for sticking to its roots, for being “natural,” but damn, this needs a little sugar to enhance the maple syrup inside. What you get instead is fizzy water-flavored maple syrup. If that sounds up your alley, then maybe you’re the reason BevMo rated this five stars. Clearly, its users didn’t feel the same. If you want to be adventurous, go for it. If you just love guzzling maple syrup… then that’s weird, but go for it. We didn’t finish the bottle. It’s debatable if it was possible.

Reading Draft: Creamy Red Birch Beer

History: Reading Draft is a classic, 100% American-made, old-school soda company that’s had roots in the soda industry since 1921. Located in Reading, Pennsylvania (pronounced Red-ing), the business has been through several different phases of ownership. In 2004, it was purchased by  Martin Radvani, but his wife was the driving force. After cashing out of his own previous business, Radvani’s wife got tired of seeing him sitting around the house. When the two met with a banker about the possibility of purchasing Reading Draft, Radvani’s wife said “Give him a check” before they’d even had time to discuss. He pulled out his pen because “happy wife, happy life.” Despite the exchanging of hands multiple times, the company is still known for its handcrafted “Pennsylvania Dutch” flavor. Ah yes, now you’re intrigued. So what does that mean? Well, even the Radvani’s have a hard time putting it into words. It’s a combination of things. On its founding in 1921, Reading was a city heavily influenced by German immigrants who had settled throughout the northeast. The Germans liked their beverages made simple with a bold taste. Ever had German beer? It’s delicious and jammed with flavor. It’s that German, err, “Pennsylvania Dutch” influence that led to Reading Draft’s signature soda: beer… well, birch beer. The company actually makes four variations. Reading Draft birch beer comes in regular, white, red cream, and blueberry. The company is proud of its soda’s emphasis on flavor. “It’s an adjunct to local beers,” says Radvani. Another component unique to Reading Draft’s methods is its style of carbonation. We’ll spare you the science, but the bottom line is that their sodas are infused with lots of pinhead-sized bubbles instead of the traditional carbonated bubbles that are about the size of an eraser head. This is done to ensure a smoother mouth feel. As with most craft soda, Reading Draft uses also pure cane sugar in their recipes.

Where to get: Reading Draft soda is available through the nation. Radvani encourages the public to contact their nearest distributor to ensure the safest method of shipping. That said, the company is open to placing custom orders directly.

Nose: Cream soda; light wintergreen breath mints; yellow cake.

Taste: Creamy wintergreen; minty vanilla; sugar; soft mouth feel. This is interesting for birch beer. You’re greeted right away with that classic wintergreen flavor found in almost all birch beers, but it’s so much lighter in Reading Draft’s Creamy Red. The wintergreen only lingers for a few seconds before giving way to a light classic cream soda taste. Interesting, considering this soda is as burgundy as cheap furniture from the 70’s. You’d expect maybe a red cream bubble gum taste, but it’s definitely just vanilla tinged with mint. When we say wintergreen, don’t think mint or spearmint, despite the photo above. WINTERGREEN LEAF IS HARD TO FIND, OK?! Sorry. Basically, wintergreen is that flavor of candy grandma always has in her glass bowl that’s been there for like seven years. Hence, it’s an acquired taste. Yet, this is surprisingly easy-drinking for birch beer. The more you drink this, the bolder the flavors become. The cane sugar really helps to accentuate the mint up front and the creaminess at the end. Reading Draft does use more sugar in this recipe as opposed to their original. When paired with ice, the wintergreen really mellows out, while the creaminess becomes more noticeable.

Finish: Creaminess that rises on the back of the tongue and evaporates into wintergreen that lingers until the next sip. By the end of the bottle, the creamy aftertaste becomes more mint and less vanilla. Unique and smooth.

Rating: Typically, birch beers are an acquired taste due to their strong mint flavors found in birch oil. I liken birch beer to being the scotch of the soda world because you’re usually older by the time you start enjoying it. But this is something even kids would probably like because of its blend of traditional vanilla flavor with the classic wintergreen taste. Reading Draft’s use of extra sugar in this particular birch flavor is really nicely done and acts as a flavor enhancer as opposed to shocking the drinker’s taste buds. Kudos for pulling that off. However, the increasingly strong mint finish leaves the drinker’s taste buds a little disoriented and longing for more creaminess. While we still can’t really give you a tangible answer of what “Pennsylvania Dutch” flavor is, we can definitely recommend this deep, dark red concoction. Surprisingly easy-drinking for a soda that’s known to be a sipper. Only lumberjacks from the Northeast drink birch beer fast. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a lumberjack to like this. A must-try for connoisseurs of birch beer for its unique take on an old original. If you’re not big into mint, this may not be for you. This is still birch beer; it’s still minty. If you’re looking for something different, but aren’t in the mood to get really experimental and try a soda with something like white balsamic in it, this is your bottle. Just don’t spill it on your clothes. It will look like you killed something.

Waynesville Soda Jerks: Grape Soda

History: Sometimes you choose the craft soda life and, well, sometimes it chooses you. Wait, are we in a Matthew McConaughey car commercial now? “We fell into it,” says Chris Allen, one of the co-owners of Waynesville Soda Jerks. Chris and his business partner, Megan Brown, always wanted to be self-employed. From Waynesville, North Carolina, they’re surrounded by a great local farmer’s market community. The soda idea slowly grew on them. Literally. Very tart wine berries grew outside their North Carolina home. Chris and Megan wanted to see if they could turn them into something flavorful. So they bought a Soda Stream. Eventually they graduated to more sophisticated flavors and took their stuff to the farmer’s market. That’s all it was intended to be. They just wanted to start an “adult lemonade stand,” said Chris. A few months later in April 2013, they launched a successful Kickstarter campaign. Here’s the crazy thing: they both still work part-time gigs at Frog’s Leap Public House. The two say they’ll be transitioning Waynesville Soda Jerks into a full-time business as 2015 progresses. Every flavor they make is based on local ingredient availability and the seasons. Some of their creations include fruit-based sodas like Strawberry Rhubarb pie and Blackberry Serrano pepper. But one they’re very proud of is a classic that slowly seems to be losing footing in the craft soda community: grape. Chris’s grandmother would make her own grape juice using concord grapes from the family property so the kids around the house would always have something to drink. Chris and Megan worked tirelessly to get the flavor just right. The result is the soda we’re reviewing here.

Where to get: Currently, their sodas are hyper-local around the Waynesville, North Carolina area. The two say they’re working hard to get products approved for distribution. However, they don’t want to spread throughout stores and grocers nation-wide. “We’re not looking to be the next big boy in the soda business,” says Matt. The two feel it wouldn’t be genuine to their local business model. That said, they’re hoping to have their soda available for purchase online by April 2015. Custom orders are available in the short-term by calling (828) 278-8589.

Nose: Welch’s Grape Juice.

Taste: Wow. This tastes exactly like lightly carbonated Welch’s Grape Juice. It’s immaculate. It tastes fresh and authentic. No weird, metallic or artificial aftertaste like most grape sodas. This is a simple soda that doesn’t try to be more than it is, and that’s where it succeeds. It doesn’t have any hidden flavor notes. It tastes like grape, more specifically, real, carbonated grape juice. Don’t think sparkling grape juice. It’s not quite that carbonated. The light carbonation works just right and really lets the grape flavor shine.

Finish: Refreshing; real grape juice; light bubbles that dance on the back of your tongue.

Rating: This is simple, yet brilliant. The flavor is everything grape soda should be. You’ve never had grape soda this fresh. This is the cute girl next door you weren’t sure whether or not had a boyfriend who you asked out and it was everything you imagined. You could drink this in groves. We definitely did. Go out of your way to get this. Bravo, Waynesville Soda Jerks. Literally, no complaints. We look forward to more flavors in the future. We have one bottle of this left. Not for long.

 

Doggone Good Soda: Irish Cream Coffee

History: In 2008, Bill King and his son opened a sandwich shop in Orange, California. They wanted something unique to pair their grub with, so they decided to sell vintage soda from all over the country. They got such great feedback that in 2012, they decided to start making it themselves. King searched and searched for the right production equipment, but wasn’t getting the results he wanted. So, Bill King built the damn thing himself and eventually got his apparatus approved for use. He literally built a one-of-a-kind soda machine over a year-and-a-half that goes through the entire production process of making and bottling the soda. Eventually, he wants to franchise the concept of this machine out and sell it to other bottlers who can then create their own flavors and sell them in their local area. As for his own soda business, King wanted Doggone Good Soda to be about creativity and having a good time. “You can experiment. It’s a fun business,” he says. The company is known for its wide variety of both classic and artisan-inspired flavors, as well as its unique swing top, wax-coated bottles. King produces over 30 flavors from root beer and vanilla cream to rose dew and red currant soda. They can also do custom labeling for things like weddings, events, gifts, etc. What’s particularly interesting about Doggone Good Soda is that if you’re willing to place a large order of 200-300 bottles, they’ll work with you on creating a flavor. So look alive, soda jerks! Your wildest dreams could become a reality! As King says, “We’re taking soda to a different level.”

Where to get: Doggone Good Soda is sold locally in Orange, California, but King and his son are working on making it available through their Web site for national sales. Until then, King encourages customers who want to try their stuff to call the company directly to place orders over the phone at (714) 865-1848.

Nose: Melted butterscotch chips; fresh sugar cookies.

Taste: This is wild. Tastes absolutely nothing like it smells. You start with a lightly roasted coffee-cream soda flavor that winds and sloooooowly turns into more of a burned caramel taste. As noted on the label, the company uses coffee beans from a local roaster called HapiBean. The coffee really does come through on the tongue. The carbonation is subtle and doesn’t distract from the flavor. The amount of sugar used here is noticeable and does distract from all the subtleties you could probably get in addition to what’s already there. Coffee is such a nuanced flavor and the sugar here masks that a little bit. That said, there’s no syrupy aftertaste and Doggone Good Soda should be commended for making such a complicated soda that isn’t overwhelming. The caffeine on this puppy isn’t a pulse-spiker, but whoa, it comes in quickly.

Finish: Bailey’s irish cream that slowly turns into vanilla-infused, dark-roasted coffee beans. It’s a long finish for a soda. The flavors dance around and change much more like a scotch or fine bourbon than a craft soda. Complicated and distinct.

Rating: Doggone Good Soda’s Irish Coffee Cream Soda is a must-try for the craft soda connoisseur simply because it’s different than anything you’ve ever put in your mouth. Coffee drinkers will likely love this stuff. We did feel that the amount of sugar used in the soda’s syrup hid some of the extra flavor opportunities that may have been possible. Still, there’s so much going on here (in a good way), that we urge you to contact the company and place an order. Also, the bottles are dope and reusable. This is exactly what it says it is: coffee cream soda. What isn’t advertised: it’s a flavor roller coaster.

Rocky Mountain Soda: Colorado Cola

History: The guys at Rocky Mountain Soda are about as chill as you can get. They work in Denver. They have a skateboarding culture influence. And one of the principle operating partners goes by “Moose.” But for as laid back as they seem, Rocky Mountain Soda is serious about what goes in that bottle. Like many in the craft soda game, their background is in fine spirits. They also operate Peach Tree Distillers. Moose says their goal was to make an “all natural soda with good ingredients. It’s just a bunch of guys who were stupid enough to start a soda company because we love it.” In 2007, they started making their sodas a little differently – with local beet sugar as opposed to cane. However, due to GMO and chemical concerns with the beet sugar, the company has since switched to using evaporated cane sugar in their sodas. They do not use sodium benzoate. “We wanted ingredients we could pronounce.” The company produces a variety of flavors from Colorado Cola to Palisade Peaches and Cream. It’s still a small operation, employing only five people. They keep a good sense of humor about it; “Pepsi spills more soda in a day than we’ll make in a year.”

Where to get: Your best bet is to contact the company directly online. It’s also available in many RocketFizz retailers.

Nose: Vanilla; cherry; faint cinnamon.

Taste: Smooth; light vanilla; creamy nuttiness; faint cherries and cinnamon. One of Rocky Mountain Soda’s starting points for their cola was an old classic: R.C. Cola. If you’ve never had it, R.C. Cola is an older-style cola that’s very soft on the palate. Rocky Mountain Soda took that concept and used it as a blueprint here. On the first sip, you’re greeted with a pleasant soft vanilla taste with subtle cherry nuances. If you weren’t looking for it, you might miss it. It’s very creamy for a cola, but not quite foamy like a cream soda. The smoothness is what’s most striking. There’s no bite or sharpness to this; very drinkable. Once you get past the initial vanilla-cherry taste, there’s a distinctive nutty flavor that still leans towards the vanilla side of things.

Finish: Light cherry cola; cinnamon. The nuttiness you get in the body of this soda likely comes from Kola Nut, and once that fades, you’re left with a nice, soft cherry flavor. Not cherry as in Cherry Coke that punches you in the face like that dude in middle school did, but a lovely, vanilla cherry that you could watch Netflix with all night. A very faint cinnamon flavor also darts about until you take your next sip.

Rating: This is cola done well. It’s simple and drinkable enough for the casual soda fan or child, but has enough nuances to make it intriguing for the craft soda connoisseur. If you gave me one word to describe this soda, it would be “pleasant.” It’s incredibly pleasant. You see my typing away on my laptop up there? That’s stressful businessman work. The Colorado Cola kept it real pleasant for me that night. Back to the flavors. The vanilla nuttiness combined with the subtle cherry and cinnamon notes really make this soda stand apart from other colas. Its smoothness lends itself to be guzzled quickly. Don’t. Please don’t. Enjoy it. And adults: maybe even throw some Whiskey in there if it’s a successful Friday night… or a rough Monday. Pro tip: this soda’s flavor profile is dramatically affected by ice. I strongly suggest you drink it chilled from the bottle. Now, up your cola game. Go find this. Go buy it.

Homer Soda Co. Maple Root Beer

History: Warning: nostalgic and heart-warming story incoming. Homer, Illinois is a town of about 1,000 people. It’s a small, farm town. Life is simple there. In the early 2000’s, an antique shop popped up in the city’s Historic Main Street Building and made vintage sodas available. The public reception was so strong, the soda selection began expanding. And expanding. And expanding. Until they had over 500 sodas. If you do the math, the amount of people in Homer, Illinois only outweigh the number of unique sodas in the city by a ratio of 2:1. It’s small. Eventually, the owner was forced to close the shop due to personal health reasons. Kate Boyer didn’t want to see it go and stepped in to run it. Eventually, she bought it. Boyer’s love of local community eventually led her to gear her company’s business model towards wholesaling, so other small communities could get these cool, vintage sodas too. Today, Home Soda Company is one of the most recognizable retro soda distributors in the nation. Every year the company puts on the Homer Soda Festival where people can try up to 100 craft sodas from across the nation. The event attracts upwards of 10,000 people and de-cuples (10x) the city’s actual population. Picture a bunch of soda geeks drinking shot glasses of craft deliciousness and eating BBQ as bluegrass music blasts their ears until they forget how much sugar they’ve ingested. ‘Merica. It wasn’t until January of 2015 that Homer Soda decided they wanted to actually make their own soda. Inspired by a 400-tree maple grove about three miles from their town in Homer Lake, Boyer and her co-workers settled on Maple Root Beer. A portion of the proceeds from every bottle goes back to an interactive program at Homer Lake designed to educate children about maple syrup. The kids also get to run around and tap the trees for their pancake-topping magic. The company’s maple root beer uses a natural maple syrup extract and is GMO-free. A fun aside: the original founder of the antique shop is now the mayor of Homer, IL. The more you know…

Where to get: The best way for you to find Homer Soda Company’s Maple Root Beer, among a boat load of other sodas, is to go online to their Web site where you can purchase it directly. It should also be available within a couple months on Amazon.

 

Nose: Sugary root beer; syrupy maple that fades into light butterscotch

Taste: Initially very sweet. Classic root beer bite that fades within seconds, giving way to sweet maple. Homer uses an all-natural maple extract in this baby and the flavor holds for several seconds before a sweet, caramel butterscotch flavor takes over and really coats the palate. If you swirl it around in your mouth, the root beer flavor lingers longer. Not much in the way of carbonation. This isn’t one of those foamy root beers you see in commercials. I’d say if this had more bubbles, the classic root beer notes would shine more as carbonation typically enhances flavors with a bite.

Finish: Butterscotch that morphs back into classic root beer. The more you drink, the more the root beer flavor eventually comes through, but butterscotch really seems to dominate the overall flavor profile and finish.

Rating: If you enjoy sweeter root beers, this is probably up your alley. If you’re into more of an earthy, sarsaparilla sort of thing, this will probably overwhelm you. A little too syrupy for me without enough of a crisp, bite. More butterscotch than maple in my opinion. Kids and root beer enthusiasts are likely to be more receptive to its flavors. Here’s the deal: I would have a one-night stand with this and then call it back four months later when I wanted to feel young again. Tip: Mix this with a mid-tier bourbon and pour over ice cream for a sweet, spicy treat.

 

Caamaño Bros: High Noon Sarsaparilla

History: Caamaño Bros Soda was the idea of a couple young guns, Sebastián and Alejandro Caamaño. One day, their father, Christopher Caamaño, a chef with a rich family heritage and culinary background, took his family to a restaurant where he was delivered a carafe of water that tasted different. The restaurant told him they carbonated it themselves. With the benefit of an extensive background in the restaurant business, Caamaño decided that with the Berkeley, California area “having the best municipal water in the world,” he’d do the same thing at his home. For reference, the San Francisco area sources their tap water from High Sierra snow melt. Trust me, we don’t know what it means either. But it sounds nice. Long story short, his kids realized if they just added sugar and flavoring to their homemade carbonated water, they’d have soda. So in 2010, Caamaño Bros Soda was born. Christopher Caamaño chose a childhood favorite, sarsaparilla, with which to begin. The home testing blossomed into a lemonade-esque stand in front of a horticultural nursery. Eventually sponsors of local farmer’s markets, as well as restaurant gurus began telling them to take their production to the next level. Today, their soda business is still 100% a family operation. “Our whole promise was to turn the clock back 80 years and make soda pops the way they were intended,” said Caamaño. The family named their first beverage “High Noon Sarsaparilla.” It continues to be the staple of their business. And it isn’t exactly easy to produce. The family sources 14 different ingredients from five different continents. It’s a true vintage sarsaparilla, modeled after the way it used to be made in the old west. Here’s a quick, fun history lesson. In 1960, the. U.S. banned sassafras oil and a substance it contains, safrole, due to the psychotropic effects of safrole. What I’m trying to say is, the government didn’t want you tripping balls off sassafras or the products it could be used in, like sarsaparilla. MDMA is actually rendered from safrole, Caamaño says with a laugh. Needless to say, the family does their research. They family, however, does not do MDMA.

Where to get: Caamaño Bros Soda is distributed mainly throughout the Napa Valley, Sonoma, Oakland and San Francisco areas. It’s also available in Western BevMo outlets. The “High Noon Sarsaparilla” can also be ordered online from various retailers.

Nose: Light; earthy; vanilla; sassafras root.

Taste: Vanilla; sassafras; creamy cola; sweet, earthy notes (yes, I know that’s a contradiction). Soft vanilla and sweet sassafras root begin in this complicated flavor profile. Caamaño and his sons put an enormous amount of research, effort and money into their ingredients. For example, they source their sarsaparilla root from a farm in Jamaica. A gallon of that ONE ingredient alone costs them $500 a gallon. The recipe went through over 60 different drafts. You can taste the difference. As the soda progresses, it transforms, giving it a balanced, creamy cola flavor with just a hint of root beer. It literally begins to taste like cola as opposed to sarsaparilla. You get a little bit of light cherry in there too. This soda morphs as you get to know it, kind of like my ex-girlfriend, except the changes in my sarsaparilla don’t give me nightmares. Caamaño recommends drinking this with lots of ice. As the ice melts, the flavor once again morphs back to more of a root beer, this time with a little bit more of an earthy, creamy flavor. It’s light. The sugar amount is perfect. It isn’t syrupy and has just the right amount of creaminess without going overboard. All in all, this is spectacular.

Finish: Light; creamy vanilla with some lingering earthiness; then mild cherry-vanilla cola. It changes back and forth as you drink it.

Rating: This has all of the right dynamics going for it. It manages to maintain a creamy, smoothness that incorporates a variety of flavors without being too carbonated or too sugary. The root beer bite is perfect. It’s there, but isn’t overwhelming or too sharp. The blend of vanilla, sassafras root and creamy cola flavors take this levels above its competitors. It’s so easy to drink for a sarsaparilla, you’d swear it was a cola if you didn’t focus on the ingredients. Caamaño Bros place an extreme emphasis on their ingredients and its obvious their research and diligence has paid off. This is soda porn. You won’t even want to tell your friends about this. This is your special weekend girl you fly in from the West Coast who’s way out of your league, who you just lucked out with. This is the best sarsaparilla we’ve ever had, hands down. Find the Caamaño family. They’ll spread the love. Sorry, we have to go keep cheating on other sodas with this one now.