Month: August 2015

Lorina: Pink Citrus Lemonade

History: Throw on your best dress wear, get out the fine china, and put your pinkies in the air because we are about to get into some high-class soda. Glistening a soft pink hue in its 750 ml swing-top bottle sits a soda so sophisticated, you’d swear it was some sort of champagne. And it is. Sort of. Not really. Lorina brands itself as “the champagne of sodas.” It’s French. No wonder it’s so fancy. Lorina is the kingpin of gourmet soda in France, and it’s been around since 1895. That was the year Victor Geyer invented Lorina’s famous lemonade in the little village of Munster, France using local spring water, beet sugar and real lemon juice. To this day, Geyer’s name still appears on the neck of the bottle. According to Lorina Marketing Coordinator Maëlle Mauvieux, the company’s soda recipes are all still their original formulas, sans preservatives. Those were removed to ensure a healthier soft drink. All Lorina soda is made with real beet sugar, “water from the Vosges,” no GMO’s, no caffeine, and no artificial flavors or colors. An interesting note about Lorina is that the company divides its soda into two different lines: the high-end “French Prestige Icon Collection” and the more casual “Parisian Style Soda Collection.” The former comes in a tall glass swing-top bottle. Mauvieux notes that each bottle is still homemade and hand-plugged.

Today the company is headquartered in Paris, France and produces seven flavors of soda. According to Mauvieux, Pink Citrus Lemonade is the company’s top-seller, followed by blood orange and lemon. She goes on to make an unexpected claim about the pink citrus lemonade, saying “I think you’ll notice the lime…. It’s not like a sparkling lemonade,” but instead is both sweet and tart. At this point, we weren’t sure what we were getting. I don’t think my sister knows what she’s getting in her future husband either. But I guess five months in prison isn’t that long. Maybe they’ll be serving the “champagne of soda” at their wedding. We asked Mauvieux why this was Lorina’s tagline and she told us that the soda has small champagne-like bubbles and was confident that its carbonation would “meet U.S. customer expectations.” Lorina is undeniably beautiful to look at and the company certainly exudes confidence in their products. It’s up to the Pink Citrus Lemonade to back up the talk.

Where to get: Lorina is distributed worldwide. You can buy it online via Amazon or even Wal-Mart.

Nose: Smells strongly of lime, kind of like a limeade from Sonic.

Taste: Lime; tartness; citrus; sweet lemon. This is has a bold citrus bite. You can taste the authenticity of the lemon and lime juices. It starts with the lime, which is interesting considering this is labeled as a lemonade. The lime is quickly followed up by fine little champagne bubbles that intensify the tartness of the juice. There’s a tart bite that’s distinctly citrus and not harsh. This washes away in favor of a sweet, slightly dry lemon. This might be a bit of a reach, but the second half of the sip has very much the mouth feel of a dry wine with sweet lemon in place of grape. Still a lot of citrus to the lemon flavor, more than you’re used to in carbonated lemonades. Again, that authenticity is there. The faster you drink this, the more of a bite you’ll get from the lime and lemon.

Finish: Lemon juice that weaves between sweet and sour with the sour notes slightly more present. Interesting considering the lemon flavor in the soda’s body only has sweet tasting notes. A very nice, complimentary finish.

Rating: This is what all citrus soda should strive to accomplish. Lorina has crafted a bold lemon-lime soda with sweet fruity notes in the background that justifies the “Pink Citrus Lemonade” name. There’s a tremendous balance of sour and sweet. The lime is immediate, bold, and tart in its citrus flavor. The lemon follows up in a fashion that’s distinctly more citrus soda than lemonade, while maintaining a balanced sweetness to counter the lime. I wouldn’t even mind seeing a little bit more of the sour profile dance around in the second half of each sip. Lorina’s Pink Citrus Lemonade is crisp, tart and refreshingly honest in its flavors. The French taught us all how to kiss and they’ve once again created something we all want to put our mouths on. The bottle is elegant, the swing top is sophisticated, and the liquid is delicious. If we had to muster a comparison, I’d say Lorina’s Pink Citrus Lemonade is what Sprite could be if it were made with all-natural ingredients and added a little fruitiness. Lorina is France’s number one carbonated beverage brand. It’s apparent our French counterparts understand the soft drink industry. America may be the superpower of soda, but we’d be well-served to steal a few tricks from the French soda jerks. Do we approve? Oui. Merci, Lorina.

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Six Barrel Soda: Celery Soda

History: The American influence is everywhere, and sometimes even when it isn’t, people will go out of their way get it or make it up themselves. For example, if you’re an American, you could travel 16 hours around the world to the beautiful island country of New Zealand and you’ll still find a little piece of home at a joint called Six Barrel Soda. “I have always loved old school Americana stuff…. Soda has such a great history and there is so much to work with flavour wise,” says Six Barrel Soda Co-founder Joseph Slater. Founded in 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand, the business came about after Slater and his childhood buddy and business partner, Mike Stewart, started serving increasingly popular homemade teas and sodas at their bar in Wellington. They quickly realized they were onto something and moved away from the bar to put all their energy into the soda business. But first, for those of you unfamiliar with New Zealand, a brief lesson. Here are three things we think you should know. 1. As mentioned, it’s gorgeous. 2. They filmed the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movies there (I bet they’re so sick of hearing this one). 3. And most importantly, they have THESE things. Apparently something survived the Jurassic period. Stay the hell away from them. That is a real, living thing. If you see one, you won’t be. Moving on. Slater says craft soda hasn’t quite hit it big over there the way it has in America. In essence, these guys have cornered the gourmet soda market over there and they’re trying to do it in a way that ensures they stay on top by using premium ingredients, real sugar, and no preservatives. They also just have that artisan feel nailed down. Just look at their website and packaging. There’s a sophistication to their presentation.

But just as important to their business model is the willingness to be different. “We also try to do flavours that people might not have tried before or are unique to us. Our Celery Tonic is probably our most iconic flavour, we use celery seed, cucumber, apples, ginger and fresh celery,” adds Slater. Now don’t let the label “tonic” fool you. Their Celery Tonic is actually a soda. And how can you let a man who makes his own soda by hand ship it to you from across the world and not review his most popular product? That said, we’re reviewing the sarsaparilla. Just kidding, we’re reviewing the celery soda. (Immediately I realized this joke didn’t work because of the title and photos in this post. F#%k it, I’m leaving it in.) Currently, Six Barrel Soda has five bottled flavors with a sixth seasonal flavor that rotates. If you hit that link, you’ll also notice they produce a line of soda syrups. The shop also serves coffee and fries, but their commitment is unquestionably on liquid. In their own words, “We’re drink makers not chemists.” And in an age where “flavor chemists” are becoming more popular, it’s interesting to see the Kiwi’s making soda Americana-style with more good ole fashioned elbow grease than a lot of soda companies here in the states. Or something like that. And according to Slater, you might just see Six Barrel Soda pop up in America some time in the future. So stay tuned.

Where to get: According to Slater, Six Barrel Soda supplies “bars, restaurants, cafes, grocery and gift store across NZ, Australia, Singapore” and soon, Korea. Americans, your best bet is to email the company and see if something can be worked out. Six Barrel Soda sells their soda online and ships throughout New Zealand.

Nose: A balance of celery and apple juice with the celery becoming more prominent the longer you sniff.

Taste: Celery seed; apple juice; cucumber. Six Barrel Soda Co.’s Celery Tonic tastes light on sugar and rich in celery. You can really taste the celery seed as well as the cucumber. For a soda with two vegetables in it, this is refreshing and palatable. The apple juice provides a mild sweetness. The celery flavor lingers the longest. The cucumber provides some slightly bitter notes. The carbonation is very, very light. The ginger isn’t obvious in the flavor profile, but if you search for it, it’s there.

Finish: Lingering celery with a stronger cucumber flavor than in the body of the soda. Not sweet or savory. Right in the middle.

Rating: Celery is a vegetable you’re 100 times more likely to find in soup, but Six Barrel Soda Co. has no time for your culinary limitations. This is a soda made with two vegetables, but luckily doesn’t taste like vegetable soda. The primary flavors you’ll taste will be celery, apple juice and cucumber. All of them are mild. Celery is the most prominent, but don’t sleep on the cucumber, the soda’s most refreshing element and one that becomes more prominent throughout the duration of the drink. The apple juice does a nice job providing a sweetness, but I’d love to see the flavor more emboldened in the drink’s overall flavor profile. The celery and cucumber are both distinct, while the apple seems to be cast in a supporting role. I think a stronger apple would work really well with those two flavors. That said, Celery Tonic is a pleasant surprise. You don’t often expect a soda with a vegetable on the label to be something you want to drink, but I’d definitely down one of these on a hot day. Fans of botanical sodas or ones off the beaten path are almost sure to love this, but we’d recommend it to any sort of soda connoisseur. It’s an inventive take in an industry where innovation is half the battle to its customer base. Keep fighting the good fight, Kiwi friends.

Bickford’s: Sarsaparilla

History: Bickford’s is a brand rooted in tradition. Since 1874, the South Australian company has been producing its famous cordials. The company makes a whole host of other products too, including its Bickford’s Old Style Soda line of seven different flavors. One of the most popular is sarsaparilla. Says Bickford’s Brand Manager Beverley Reeves, “Sarsaparilla is the fastest growing in some of our overseas markets perhaps because the flavors are different from those that consumers there would normally be familiar with.” According to Reeves, the soda’s recipe is still the same as it was decades ago. Like America, the Australian soda scene continues to evolve. Reeves adds that there is a “shift from mainstream to more differentiated flavours and brands with a story.” In the end, it’ll always come down to taste and Bickford’s Sarsaparilla was designed with a bold licorice flavor in mind. Knowing that, I wouldn’t expect this to be particularly fluffy on the palate. Previously, we reviewed their creamy soda that has a touch of raspberry. So Bickford’s definitely seems to be a company that makes traditional flavors with nontraditional tastes. A fan favorite in its native country, Reeves gave us the inside scoop that Bickford’s is soon coming to America and will debut in October. We’ll keep you posted when and where as soon as details become available. In the mean time, there’s ice cold sarsaparilla waiting for you.

Where to get: In Australia, you can find Bickford’s Sarsaparilla at “most major supermarkets and convenience stores,” according to its website. Now you might pay some hefty shipping outside of Australia, but you can also buy Bickford’s Sarsaparilla online via Sippify.

Nose: Strong black licorice; anise. There’s a mild hint of root beer on the nose, but this smells very, very rich in licorice. Pucker up.

Taste: Licorice; anise; sarsaparilla root. This is definitely more of a botanical sarsaparilla as opposed to a creamy one with lots of vanilla. You’ll really notice the sarsaparilla root flavor in this drink. It’s bold and very herbal. There’s a semisweet sensation encapsulated by frothy bubbles that coats the tongue as the sarsaparilla flavor fades. At brief points in the soda, there’s even a little bit of a cola flavor, but this is a sarsaparilla anchored by strong sarsaparilla root, sassafras, and licorice flavors. The licorice isn’t as pronounced in the flavor profile as it is on the nose, but really shows up in the aftertaste. Definitely black licorice flavor, but not overly strong.

Finish: Tart sarsaparilla root with lingering notes of licorice.

Rating: Bickford’s sarsaparilla is a stark departure from American takes on the flavor, utilizing a strong herbal flavor profile instead of a smooth, creamy one. The tasting notes that stand out most are unmistakably sarsaparilla root and licorice. The sarsaparilla flavor is stronger, but the licorice is particularly noteworthy. Coming in near the end of each sip along with a wave of champagne-like bubbles; it’s a commendable use of a flavor that often overpowers the soda experience. Another aspect that stands out is the tartness on the finish. It’s a crisp herbal reminder that reinforces you’re definitely drinking sarsaparilla and not root beer. I could’ve used a sign like that during my second engagement If you’re not a fan of botanical sodas, you’re not going to enjoy Bickford’s Sarsaparilla. This is a soft drink for the slightly more adventurous soda connoisseur. It isn’t particularly sweet and relies more on its herbals flavors to impress its drinkers. The sugar, while lower in the flavor profile, is noticeably crisp. Bickford’s Sarsaparilla should be a hit with lovers of botanical sodas and die-hard sarsaparilla drinkers. It won’t be for everyone, but this soda knows its niche and leaves an Australian footprint in the sarsaparilla marketplace.

Bec Cola

History: Regardez comment la fantaisie nous commençons la première phrase de cet examen en français. Don’t worry, the rest is in English. If you didn’t immediately go to Google Translate, that says “Look how fancy we are starting the first sentence of this review in French.” We have the humor of an eight year-old. I know. Bec Cola out of Montreal, Quebec in Canada, however, is not eight years-old. The company began recently in 2014 with humble ambitions. It was about making an organic product with human values behind it, while highlighting Quebec at the same time. Says Bec Cola founder Olivier Dionne, “We firmly believe that the organic philosophy is very important, both for the consumer and/or our land. We wanted to create a soda line free of chemical preservatives and replace refined sugars by Quebec’s wonderful resource which is maple syrup.” Cola with maple syrup. Honestly, we’re talking abooot Canada here… did you expect this soda not to have maple syrup in it?? Since we’re stereotyping Canada right now, let’s keep it going by presenting another: Canadians are nice. This is very true. I know this because when I visited Toronto, beautiful women would speak to me and there wasn’t a judge involved. Bec Cola is also very nice and apparently has nothing to hide because they told us every ingredient in their soda. They are, as follows: “water, organic maple sugar, organic vegetable sugar, citric acid (from lemon), organic caramel color and organic cola flavor.” There was even a smiley face at the end of that answer in Dionne’s email to us. Pretty friendly, eh? According to Dionne, Canadians are the eighth highest drinkers of soda in the world at roughly over 26 gallons per person a year. It’s not quite America’s numbers, but like in the 50 states, soda has a bad rep in Canada because most of it is made cheaply with ingredients that make your insides resent you. “With reason, sodas have a very bad reputation. We intend to change this, by bottling only quality organic ingredients,” Dionne adds. It seems like artisan soda is catching on with our neighbors to the north. Let’s find out what Canadian cola tastes like.

Where to get: Bec Cola is sold throughout a majority of Quebec. Check out the company’s store locator here. If you’re in Canada, you can also buy it online from Terroirs Quebec.

Nose: Nutmeg; cinnamon; cola. Definitely a nuttiness on the sniff.

Taste: Cola; nuttiness; cane sugar. There’s a classic cola flavor to this with some slightly sweet, fruity notes. What’s most prominent is the nuttiness on the second half of each sip that’s accompanied by the distinct flavor or real, crisp cane sugar. The nutty flavor has some nutmeg notes going on, but I’m guessing it’s really just the maple syrup interacting with the sugar. The carbonation in this is very soft, and unlike most colas, it comes at the end rather than blasting your mouth before you even taste anything. This is a soft cola with subtle, different flavors from the ordinary and the nuttiness is a nice touch.

Finish: Nutmeg and kola nut with lemon and undertones of sweetness. You finally get that mild lemon flavor at the end of some sips, but it isn’t consistent.

Rating: What makes Bec Cola a success is the balance of classic and atypical cola flavors. On the first half of each sip, you’ll taste traditionally bittersweet cola flavors, while the back half is anchored by subtle fruity notes and a distinct nuttiness. We can’t really taste the maple as a standalone flavor, but we assume those fruity and nutmeg flavors are created by the way the maple syrup plays out in the soda. There’s also some spice notes in this that we can’t place, but work well. Gives off kind of a fall flavor. Bec Cola would go nice with an oaky bourbon or in a cold glass full of big ice cubes. I’d like to see the maple stand out a little more distinctively to make this feel super Canadian. I want this to be so Canadian that you’re only allowed to drink it while riding a moose to Tim Horton’s. Those nutty notes are a nice change of pace. Look, at the end of the day, cola is cola. It’s the hardest flavor to make stand out from the crowd. Bec Cola isn’t completely off the beaten path, but it’s off the trail enough for you to invest in this Canadian concoction. Check back this fall for new flavors from Bec Cola.

1642 Cola

History: “Canadian people must have their own cola.” The thought kept running through the mind of 1642 Cola founder, Bastien Poulain. He admits the inspiration behind his creation stemmed from the fact that “there wasn’t a real Canadian coke.” A born Frenchman, Poulain now resonates most with Montreal and thus, wanted a cola that truly represented the city. This is the reason for the name 1642 Cola. For all you non-Canadians, 1642 was the year de Maisonneuve discovered Montreal. Poulain studied the business model of Breizh Cola in France, another soda with a strong regional identity that now commands 20% of the cola market share there. Armed with some knowledge, he really committed to the concept of being true to Montreal with his soda. Poulain notes “the ingredients are all made in Québec” (the province Montreal is located in). Another interesting note: instead of cane sugar, 1642 Cola has “Québec beet sugar” in it. 1642 Cola has some competition with Bec Cola for the king of Cola in Montreal. As the company looks to the future, Poulain says they’re working on a tonic and stevia cola. 1642 Cola is allegedly “a taste of Montreal.” I heard the same thing from a young lady I met there a couple years ago. Hope I don’t end up at the doctor’s office after this experience, too.

Where to get: To check out where 1642 Cola is sold in Québec, check out the company’s online locator. Canadians and Europeans can also buy the stuff online. Americans… as with many fun international sodas, your best bet is to contact the company and beg… at least for now.

Nose: Smells like classic cola, a little reminiscent of Coca-Cola, actually.

Taste: Crisp carbonation; classic cola flavor. The flavor here is pretty standard in terms of what you’re used to with cola. I’d say Coca-Cola is a pretty fair comparison. We’re not tasting the maple syrup influence. If anything, there’s a little bit of nuttiness on the back end, but it’s very minor. Some slightly fruity notes emerge in the body of each sip the more you drink it, but not enough to convince you this is drastically different from classic cola. This is straightforward in terms of cola: big, fizzy carbonation with classic cola taste.

Finish: Classic cola with a little bit of acidity from the bubbles.

Rating: 1642 Cola wanted to make a Canadian Cola because America had its own and their country didn’t. Poulain noted “there wasn’t a real Canadian coke,” and it seems he’s drawn heavily off classic American Coca-Cola. The flavors are as close to each other as we’ve come across in two unrelated brands. It really does taste like Canadian Coke in the most literal sense. There’s a classic crisp, slightly bitter head of carbonation in the beginning, followed up by traditional cola flavor. There’s some nutty notes near the end of each sip, but you have to really search for them. For a cola made with maple, we’re not tasting it. It must be very, very subtle… like my third marriage. If you’re in Canada and pining for something different that still reminds you of America, 1642 Cola should be your go-to. If you’re really wanting to taste that maple influence, you’ll have to have better maple senses than we did. 1642 is solid and works well as a mixer. A bottle here and there should tide you over.

Santa Vittoria: Limonata

Santa Vittoria Limonata 1History: When talking about the culinary capitals of the world, you’ll hear several cities in Italy mentioned. Florence, Rome, Bologna. Food is basically a religion in Italy. One culinary element you might not automatically associate with the Italians: soda. Santa Vittoria is attempting to change that notion. You’ve heard of Italian soda, but this review today is literally a true Italian soda. Santa Vittoria bottles all of its soda in Italy and offers four flavors: chinotto, aranciata, aranciata rossa, and limonata. First and foremost though, Santa Vittoria is known for its premium mineral water. The company saw soda as an opportunity to offer another high-end product, particularly in restaurants and cafes. “The inspiration behind launching a range of Italian Sodas stemmed from the desire to provide a total product offering for our clients who strive to serve the best beverages in their venues,” says Santa Vittoria Senior Marketing Manager Josh Passaro. Americans might already detect the similarities between Santa Vittoria and San Pellegrino Sparkling Beverages from the name to the flavors to the nutritional information. If you’re in this boat, on the surface, you’re not wrong. What stands out about Santa Vittoria sodas, Passaro says, is that they “contain 12% fruit juice, no preservatives and are combined with sparkling Italian water.” So in essence, you’re kind of getting the the water for which they’re known for free. It’s like a buy-one-get-one sale where you don’t resent yourself after leaving the store. In terms of popularity, Passaro says chinotto (bitter orange) and aranciata rossa (blood orange) are the top sellers. For all this talk about Italy, here’s a delicious little fact: Santa Vittoria, while bottled in Italy, is headquartered in Sydney, Australia and distributed in Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and portions of the Asia Pacific region. And now it’s reached America. Soon it will reach my mouth.

Where to get: According to Passaro, Santa Vittoria is mostly sold at physical locations. You can also purchase Santa Vittoria Soda online here and here. Americans, your best bet is emailing the company.

Nose: This is a lemon soda, but it definitely smells of musky lime.

Taste: Tart citrus; pungent lemon; mild sugar; light carbonation. On first sip, you get slammed with intense citrus and lemon, and then a small wave of light bubbles. The citrus element is where you’ll taste a little sugar, while the lemon is bold and tart. There’s a sharp acidity to this. You could even call it astringent. This is noticeably more bitter than American citrus sodas, but calling this a citrus soda would be incorrect. This is unmistakably lemon soda. The lemon is tart and acidic, leaving a bite on the back of the tongue. You can certainly taste real lemon juice in every sip. You do get a little hint of lime throughout the drink, but we’re uncertain if it’s actually an ingredient. The sugar is mild. Santa Vittoria really chose to highlight bitter notes with Limonata.

Finish: Mostly tart lemon that tastes authentic with a little bit of lingering sugar. Highly acidic and might sting the tongue on some drinkers.

Rating: The Italians love their citrus fruits. The entire Santa Vittoria soda line is based on them. So we went with traditionally the harshest: lemon. The company’s Limonata soda definitely captures the essence of what you’d think a carbonated lemon would taste like in liquid form. It’s tart and bitter. There’s a sweetness, but it’s really an afterthought when assessing the soda as a whole. I think it would be fair to compare this to San Pellegrino, which I’m sure may have already crossed your mind. What you’re going to taste here is lemon, and to a lesser degree, citrus. The lemon tastes real and it is; you can literally see the pulp in every bottle. It’s also strong and reminds me of squeezing a real lemon with sugar on it into one’s mouth. The citrus element is sweeter and tastes like a combination of lime and faint grapefruit. Santa Vittoria’s Limonata isn’t going to be for everyone. The sour notes might make your face muscles tighten up harder than a botched Botox session. On the flip side, for those who enjoy a bitter soft drink, this should be right up your alley. Compared to American sodas, this one really feels European and has a lot of the calling cards: mild sugar, tart notes, bold fruit flavor, and lax on carbonation. Personally, this is a little bitter for my tastes. I wouldn’t mind seeing the sugar dialed up a bit. The tart lemon works really well. It just needs an element to help reign it in. But for a lemon soda, this is very solid. It really nails the main flavor. We’re just not quite certain how ready America is for it.

Glam Cola

History: Nermin Çelik wanted to invent a soda that existed, in her own words, “in this realm between weirdness and brilliance.” Çelik and her family live in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, Germany, a flashy area that inspired the name “Glam Cola.” It’s a clear cola that might remind a few readers of Crystal Pepsi. But Glam Cola is designed to taste “fresh and more elegant than common cola,” says Çelik. You can’t have a soda called “Glam Cola” and not explain the name first. But the inspiration behind the soda’s creation came from Çelik’s children. She notes “I saw them drinking it in alarming quantities and the huge amount of sugar worried me.” Newsflash: it isn’t just America where soda has a bad reputation. Unable to find a replacement that satisfied her motherly standards, Çelik decided to make one herself and by March 2013, Glam Cola hit the market. Looking at the label, Glam Cola is an interesting mish-mash of flavors: cola, lemonade and ginger. It’s also devoid of phosphoric acid and contains a large amount of caffeine at around 53 mg in a 12 oz. bottle. This is very similar to Mountain Dew. So, low sugar and lots of caffeine. Yeah, definitely sounds like a soda for kids. Glam Cola is not made with cane sugar and instead uses fructose (not high-fructose corn syrup… there is a difference). Another big marketing point for the soda is that it’s vegan-friendly. Çelik adds “Glam Cola is not only vegan but also halal and kosher.” I think this also makes it the most politically correct soda on earth. Çelik is currently at work on new flavors, including rose and lavender. No word on how glamorous those flavors will be, but we’re about to get pretty with the original.

Where to get: For a list of where to purchase Glam Cola, check out the store’s online locator. The brand is in the midst of expanding sales to Eastern Europe, Russia, and China. At the time of this review, Glam Cola is not sold online. If you are outside of Germany, your best bet is to contact the company.

Nose: Traditional cola; mild lemon; light cinnamon.

Taste: Bitterness; cinnamon; lemon. This is quite bitter for a cola. It has a very nontraditional taste. Surprising considering it smelled quite a bit like cola with notes of lemon. And there is definitely some lemon in this that you can taste, but there’s also ginger and I don’t quite taste that element considering how powerful ginger typically is in soda. Some of that bitterness may come from the ginger and lemon, but I think what you’re primarily tasting here is actually the caffeine. We all know caffeine can make you hyper, but most of us don’t know what it tastes like. Raw caffeine is very bitter. It really comes through in the flavor profile here. There’s no cinnamon in this, but the combination of the cola and bitterness create a flavor that’s very similar. Overall, this is nothing like an American cola. It isn’t particularly sweet and is noticeably bitter.

Finish: Bitter cinnamon with mild, traditional cola notes.

Rating: Glam Cola is a clear cola that tastes way outside the normal realm of what’s expected from this particular category of soda. The label of “cola” evokes a certain expectation of flavor and this is nothing like anything to which you’re accustomed. Sodas outside of America are often less sweet and more bitter. This certainly fits that bill. We were told the primary elements in this are cola, lemon and ginger. You definitely taste traditional lemon and cola influences, though they’re both subtle. What isn’t as subtle is the bitterness. It’s harsh. The combination of ingredients creates a cinnamon flavor that when mixed with the lemon and cola notes, just enhances the soda’s overall bitterness. Americans are likely to be turned off by the lack of sugar. I mean, look at how many of us have diabetes. The flavors just didn’t work for us. It’s as simple as that. Glam Cola has a fancy name and a foreign flavor that doesn’t beg for a second date. She’s the beautiful German vixen you found at the club in stilettos and a sequin dress, but just doesn’t have much personality. Now, any fans of bitter sodas out there should give this a shot the next time your travels take you to Deutschland. As for the rest of you, looking will tide you over. Glam Cola is beautiful to gaze at, but its flavor isn’t so glamorous.

Joia: Pineapple Coconut Nutmeg

History: There is an undeniable link between the craft beer and craft soda movements. No one would debate you if you argued micro-brewed IPA’s, stouts, and lagers led to the renaissance of soda and sparked the craft and gourmet trend in soft drinks. But what about cocktails? One could argue there’s more creative wiggle room in that atmosphere and more flavors for mixologists to morph. Former Kraft and General Mills marketing executive Bob Safford certainly thought so. Now Bob Safford doesn’t drink. Still, he saw all these herbs and spices and flavors going in to unique, artisan-based cocktails and thought, “why not soda?” Well, if you want something done right… you know the rest. Not an expert an soda, Safford connected with Joe Heron, who did have a background in carbonated beverages. And in 2010, Safford founded Boundary Water Brands as a starting point to refine his ideas for a sophisticated craft soda with, in his words, “complex, adult-oriented flavors.” “For Mark, it was highly personal,” said Joia co-founder and mixologist Carleton Johnson. A year later, Joia All Natural Soda was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The name, pronounced “Joy-a,” was created with the intent of expressing the company’s passion and joy for their products inside each bottle. Joia launched with four flavors that were whittled down from over 100(!) recipes. Today there are six and all of them incorporate combinations of fruits and spices and are void of “preservatives or stabilizers. Nor are there any artificial ingredients or flavors.” According to Safford, the sodas are complicated to keep stable during production because they contain so many different elements. Sounds a lot my wife at the end of every month. According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, in 2011, BevNet named Joia the soda of the year. We chose to review their Pineapple Coconut Nutmeg because who doesn’t like to get a little tropical when it’s hot out? One thing we like about Joia is their commitment to quality. “I believe that the majority of beverages that are consumed will always be about taste and refreshment… and that’s where Joia excels,” says Safford. It’s a good start; now let’s see what our mouths think.

Where to get: To find the nearest physical outlet to you where Joia is sold, use the store’s online locator. For the rest of us, Amazon and Soda Emporium have the hook up online.

Nose: Pina Colada; pineapple juice; coconut oil.

Taste: Pineapple; coconut; citric acid. This tastes like a liquid piña colada. The pineapple-coconut combo that forms the basis of most piña coladas is definitely prominent. Pineapple is up front. There’s a little bit of a bitter bite to it that I’m guessing is the nutmeg’s influence. Coconut comes next, infusing itself into the pineapple and creating that signature tropical flavor. The coconut stays long after the tart pineapple colada flavor fades and has some creamy notes attached to it. The carbonation is full of petite, little bubbles that help intensify the soda’s citric acid. The nutmeg is subtle, but you’ll take away the pineapple-coconut flavor most from Joia’s tropical elixir.

Finish: Tart pineapple-coconut that fades into a creamy, sweet piña colada flavor.

Rating: I often find myself fantasizing of lounging on the beach, staring at models, sipping on piña coladas, not worrying about my diet and letting the beads of sweat drip off me, forming a puddle of satisfaction in the sand. Then I remember it’s Monday and my 350 pound boss waddles in and pushes my deadlines up because that’s life when you aren’t on the beach. Joia must know these things. They’ve created a soda that transports you to a tropical paradise from any average setting. Pineapple Coconut Nutmeg exhibits a bold, tart pineapple flavor before transitioning into traditional piña colada and finally fading out with creamy coconut. The nutmeg is a minor player, but it adds a tartness to the pineapple and some nuttiness to the coconut. Fans of pineapple, coconut or piña colada flavors will love this little slice of bottled paradise. One area we think there could be improvement in is that tartness I mentioned. The citric acid in this is strong at some points. I think if that was toned down, the tropical flavors would shine more and the subtle flavors would be more apparent in the profile. Not everyone will be a fan of its tropical fruit flavors, but those who like fruity soda aren’t likely to be disappointed. Coconut and pineapple are both underutilized flavors in the world of craft soda, and as more and more natural sodas continue to pop up, companies will be looking to Joia as a blueprint. Drink this over ice with a straw or chilled straight out of the bottle. Hot weather is also an ideal pairing. And if you’ve had a Monday like me, throw some rum in there. Enough of those and you’ll be daydreaming of beaches and models again in no time.