History: Three-hundred years after the pilgrims made their way to New England in the early 17th century, the British made their contribution to modern American craft soda in what would become Yacht Club Bottling Works. Current Yacht Club President John Sgambato tells us over the phone that Yacht Club originated in 1915 and was brought over from England to Providence, Rhode Island by the Sharp family. It was a “roll your sleeves up” and go to work type business. Sgambato says the family found a well to source water for the soda and went from there. To this day, the company still uses its own water supply, which Sgambato says has great characteristics for carbonation. Their website expands on this idea a bit, saying “Its natural temperature is 45 degrees, which allows carbonation without the use of cooling towers that can be bad for the environment.” If I’m being honest, I don’t really know what that means… but it sounds nice. Sgambato’s grandfather, also named John Sgambato, started working for Yacht Club in 1935 and the Sgambato’s have owned the business since 1960. “We were doing it long before people called it craft or artisanal or gourmet,” he says. And he’s not lying. Yacht Club has always used pure cane sugar in its soda, even when others began switching to corn syrup for a period of time when its price became vastly cheaper. Good on them because when it comes to soda, the sweetening agent is one of those things you just can’t skimp on. Drinking corn syrup soda is like sleeping on a lumpy bed: the clients or women you’re trying to impress will never come back. Ahem. The Sgambato family has introduced many flavors to the Yacht Club line since they took over in 1935, but we felt like our first Yacht Club review needed to be one of the originals. Cream soda was one of a handful of flavors the Sharp family brought over. Sgambato notes that old cream sodas used to be made with condensed milk and vanilla. Because of shelf life issues, bottled cream sodas can’t be made that way today, but Yacht Club still tries to replicate that style of flavor. Sgambato tells us, “We wanted something that was more true to form to what it (cream soda) used to taste like.” The company’s not-so-secret ingredient? Pure alcohol extract of vanilla. Sgambato believes this gives the soda a pure, high-quality vanilla flavor. And don’t worry – there’s no alcohol in Yacht Club Cream Soda. When it comes to taste, Yacht club Cream was was designed to be “smooth almost like a vanilla ice cream.” The company also makes all of its syrups in-house, a task many businesses source out to flavor houses. Sgambato closes our conversation, simply saying “There’s not many places in the country that make soda the way we do.”
Where to get: Yacht Club soda is sold mostly in the southern New England region. To our knowledge it is not sold online through any outlets, though the company is considering creating an online store. Yacht Club is currently only willing to ship orders in bulk.
Nose: Mild caramel. Honestly not much of a scent.
Taste: Big carbonation; mild vanilla; caramel; burned sugar. The carbonation in Yacht Club Cream Soda is big and bold, and it’s immediate before any flavor comes in. Once the bubbles pass, you’ll taste mild vanilla and caramel. The caramel is the stronger of the two flavors. The vanilla is subtle, but nice, and it lingers for pretty much the duration of each sip. Interestingly, the body of the soda is dry, but the end of each sip is kind of creamy. It’s an odd mouth feel for a cream soda. The carbonation in this is borderline harsh on some sips and cuts into the flavor profile. When combined with the caramel notes, the two combine to give off a burned sugar taste.
Finish: Slightly creamy vanilla-caramel. By far the best part of the soda.
Rating: Yacht Club Cream Soda is powered by its subtleties of vanilla and caramel, but it’ll probably be remembered for its intense carbonation. Caramel is the soda’s biggest flavor, followed closely by mild vanilla. The two work very well together, particularly in the soda’s finish. At 28 grams, this isn’t an overly sweet cream soda. I’d say the sugar is just right. The problem is the carbonation. It’s a little too overbearing right from the get-go, just like my stepsister. About half way through the bottle it starts to subside a little more, but some drinkers may have abandoned ship at that point. The bubbles mask the really pleasant notes of caramel and vanilla. I think if that carbonation was pulled back some, the flavors in this cream soda would really open up more and take it to another level. Still, if you stick with this, the caramel and vanilla come through more as the soda progresses. The vanilla actually kind of becomes stronger as you drink it and has a vanilla ice cream taste. This is more of a crisp, sweet soda than a creamy one. It would be a really good mixer with an oaky bourbon or maybe even just an orange slice to add a little extra something. Is it worth your time? I think so. It’s a grower. There’s a number of joke opportunities here, but it seems like a safer option to end the review now.