History: The 80’s were some of American culture’s most glamorous years. Big hair, neon signs, leather jackets, cocaine flying everywhere, acid wash jeans, baggy suits. It was a hell of a time. Original New York Seltzer (hereby referred to as ONYS) was a drink born in the 80’s and it personified that time. The independent brand became known for its flashy presentation with brightly colored labels that popped, big lettering on small bottles, and signature clear liquid in all flavors that separated it from the major labels. To be specific, ONYS was started in 1981 by the father-son team of Alan and Randy Miller. You might know Randy Miller’s other work because today he runs a company that trains big animals like bears and tigers often used in movies. As ONYS rose to prominence, the big boys took notice and eventually came calling. Anheuser Busch offered the Miller’s $180 million to sell. Because keeping the business independent was their top priority, they declined. Soon after, due to a damaged distribution network, ONYS stopped production, and everyone’s favorite 80’s soda disappeared just as fast as the jheri curl. But the beauty of nostalgia is that young fans grow up and old favorites die hard. So over 30 years later, Ryan Marsh resurrected the company, relaunching the brand in May of 2015. The new ONYS President said, “As a kid growing up in the ‘80s, my family and friends all knew and loved Original New York Seltzer. It was the only brand our parents would allow us to drink…. We’re committed to upholding everything that has made this brand unique.” That includes making soda that’s free of preservatives, coloring, and artificial flavors. Now some of you might be confused that we’re calling a brand with the word “seltzer” in it a craft soda. Don’t be. Here’s why: ONYS is carbonated, has a shared range of flavors with soda, is made with pure cane sugar, and contains a calorie content not that far removed from a normal craft soda. When Marsh said he wanted to restore things to how they once were, he wasn’t kidding. He elaborates by saying, “The carbonation has been set to 1987 levels. Original New York Seltzer is bottled in the original-sized bottles in the original factory. The same employees that brought ONYS to life in the factory are still running the lines and are monitoring the quality control process.” How ’bout that? A single nostalgic tear runs down my eye. Something that’s kind of funny? ONYS is and always was headquartered in Los Angeles, not New York. Marsh notes that vanilla cream and black cherry are the current most popular flavors, so we wanted to give some love to one of the other kids, lemon and lime.
Nose: Lemon-lime, ala 7-Up more than Sprite. More of a lime scent than lemon.
Taste: Lime-y; sugar; light lemon; bubbles. The lime here is more prominent than the lemon, but the lemon has a better flavor. First, the lime. Think along the lines of candy lime like you’d taste in a green Life Savers. The lime is accompanied by lots of little bubbles that amplify its intensity. The carbonation isn’t overly intense, but there’s definitely a lot of it. After a couple seconds, the lime fades and you’re left with a soft lemon flavor, similar to Sprite. However, the second half of each sip is also what distinguishes Original New York Seltzer’s Lemon & Lime Soda from Sprite or 7-Up. There’s no syrupy aftertaste. That said, overall this is pretty similar to a cross between Sprite and Howdy Lemon-Lime Soda.
Finish: Mild, crisp lemon flavor with sugar that slowly fades out.
Rating: To be fair, there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room to start with when it comes to lemon-lime sodas, but Original New York Seltzer’s take on the category tastes remarkably similar to the major brands already on the market. And I’m not saying it’s bad. No, no. It’s good. It’s pleasant. It’s light and refreshing. It’s just doesn’t taste significantly different from a mass-produced brand like Sprite or a craft classic like Bubble Up. While a craft soda connoisseur might be able to taste that this is made with real sugar and not corn syrup, most drinkers will overlook a subtlety like that. And while an enthusiast might be able to differentiate the strength in lime flavors between ONYS Lemon & Lime vs. its competitors, most drinkers will just think it’s another lemon-lime soda. You could probably hand this to most people in a blind taste test and they’d tell you it was Sprite. Again, it’s not a bad thing. It’s a hard flavor to infuse with uniqueness. Put it this way: I think this tastes better than 7-Up and Sprite and is better for you. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be drinking this instead. Most may not find many differences between this soda and others like it, but I’d be willing to bet most people also wouldn’t turn down a bottle of this after having a few sips. This is a soda you bring out of the bullpen when you need a drink to rely upon. Old girl is solid.