History: Before Spite and 7-Up, there was Howdy. Orca Beverage President and Owner, Mike Bourgeois, calls Howdy the “original creators of the lemon-lime category.” In fact, Howdy Lemon-Lime was the primordial soda recipe from which 7-Up eventually evolved. The company originally began in 1929, and according to Bourgeois, back then Howdy was made with seven ingredients. I don’t think I need to explain the connection further. Here’s the weird part: one of those seven ingredients was lithium. Bourgeois tells us the soda was originally marketed as a “Bib-Lable Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda.” He goes on to tell us that lithium was used at the turn of the century as a mood-altering stimulant, thought to “give you a lift.” He offered up cocaine as a comparison. Good. Because there’s nothing I like with my lunch more than an ice cold lemon-lime soda chocked full of angel dust. Really makes the rest of the day go faster when I do my afternoon accounting work with a heart rate of 200 BPM. As you might imagine, lithium has since been regulated out of the drink. Bourgeois did not specify when Howdy went out of business, but notes the company had been dormant for many years until around 2010 when Orca Beverage reactivated the trademark due to its rich history. Orca has done this several times since the Mukilteo, Washington-based soda distributor began in 1987 because it wants to preserve the nostalgia of retro soda as much as possible. It is now the sole producer of Howdy. Currently, the company boasts around 120 different brands. Bourgeois says in the case of Howdy, “It was a natural niche for us to cultivate.” He adds that the recipe has been reformulated to be more modern and clean and uses pure cane sugar and real lemon and lime oils. Even the logo is the same as the original. “It’s more flavorful. It has a little more of everything in it,” Bourgeois says at the end of our conversation. Time to taste the history.
Where to get: Howdy Lemon Lime soda is distributed nationwide at retro soda retailers. We suggest checking your nearest Rocketfizz retailer. You can also purchase it online at Amazon (via Orca Beverage) and Soda Emporium. And if you’re a retailer looking to sell soda yourself, or you’re just a dude wanting a bunch of soda at one time, Homer Soda is your go-to.
Nose: Classic lemon-lime smell, leaning more towards the lime side of things. Fragrant pine scents as well.
Taste: Lemon-lime with an emphasis on lime. Howdy tastes like 7-Up with bolder flavors. The lime is much more dominant than the lemon. Still refreshing and light, but heavier and sweeter than your day-to-day lemon lime soda. Definitely more acidic as well, but not anything that’s going to overpower you. The lime becomes bolder as you drink it. Fairly straightforward in terms of lemon-lime flavor, again, with more lime than lemon.
Finish: A wave of tart lime followed by a smooth, sweet lemon flavor. That tartness outlasts both flavors and lingers until the next sip.
Rating: Howdy is classic, old-school soda. Not complicated, not sophisticated, but reliable. Howdy Lemon Lime is the Toyota Corolla of craft soda. Always dependable when called on and will get you where you want to go. This in-review ad brought to you by Toyota *cash register noise*. Howdy definitely tipped the scales toward lime in this soda. You still get the lemon, but the lime is bold and continually increases in flavor as the drink goes on. The carbonation is nice and works really well to compliment the soda’s flavors. It’s refreshing. The sugar is probably a gram or two high, but nothing you can’t get past. The only complaint we have is the lime. At times when it reaches its strongest points, it takes on a bit of a pine flavor, something that makes me feel like a lumberjack lost in the woods. I’m just trying to drink a soda, not chop down trees. So maybe juuuust tone down the lime a little. Or perhaps up the lemon. But Howdy Lemon Lime is a classic and it has staying power for a reason. It won’t blow you away, but it’s flavors are crisp and refreshing. I’d recommend it for a hot day out in the sun.