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.

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.

Kickapoo Joy Juice

History: “Kickapoo embraces the idea that each day offers a new chance to find joy in the world,” says Kickapoo Joy Juice parent company Monarch Beverage. Only the first line of the review and we’re already getting philosophical. Strap in. Kickapoo Joy Juice is one of the classics in the world of craft soda. It’s a citrus-flavored caffeine soft drink with a zing. They’re even nice enough to tell you the caffeine content on the bottle at 40 milligrams. Sound familiar? Comparatively, 12 ounces of Mountain Dew has 54 milligrams. The nutritional comparisons beyond that are virtually identical, so there’s a reason why Mountain Dew is the mainstream brand most closely associated with Kickapoo Joy Juice. Despite its roots in bottled soda history, Kickapoo Joy Juice is one with which the newer generation of soda connoisseurs might not be familiar. The soda was originally introduced in 1965 by another craft soda company you probably have heard of called “NuGrape.” Monarch Beverage later purchased NuGrape and now runs all things Kickapoo Joy Juice. The soda is actually based on a comic strip called “Li’l Abner” by Al Capp that ran in U.S. newspapers from 1934-1977. The reason you may be unfamiliar with it is due to the fact that its popularity has waned in the past decade or so. It was more popular, believe it or not, in Bangladesh and other East Asian countries. You gotta keep that caffeine running through your veins over there to outrun the tigers. The name, as you might’ve guessed, is about fun. Along the same lines, Monarch Beverage has introduced multiple new fruity flavors in addition to the classic citrus to jazz up the brand’s image and reintroduce it to a new generation. The company goes on to say, “Kickapoo drinkers have a little swagger, dance like no one is watching and take pride in their self-expression.” I’m pretty sure the same thing could be said for my girlfriend after a couple Bud Light Limes. But I assure you, there’s no alcohol in this. I’ll let you know if I end up dancing by the end of the bottle.

Where to get: You can purchase Kickapoo Joy Juice online from Summit City Soda or in single bottles from Soda Emporium. It’s also sold physically at many Kum & Go gas stations.

Nose: Mild grapefruit; general citrus; lime. This smells like a milder version of Surge with some added Grapefruit. Maybe a better way of putting it is a lighter, more natural Mountain Dew. I don’t smell any potent chemicals here with my virgin nose.

Taste: Cane sugar; lemon; lime. This is definitely its own brand of citrus soda. Its flavors are light. There’s no tart bite from the citric acid. General citrus enters the mouth first. I think more than anything the cane sugar makes itself noticeable along with light, frothy carbonation. The sugar is nice and compliments the citrus well. As you drink Kickapoo Joy Juice, you taste grapefruit as well as classic lemon-lime. Lime may be the most prominent of the three flavors in the citrus profile, but not by much. No, this doesn’t taste like Mountain Dew, Mellow Yellow, Surge or anything else. Again, it’s less intense and more refreshing with a little more lime and grapefruit, and less of a bite.

Finish: The sugar and lime interact in a strange way at the end of each sip. It’s sweet, but a little funky. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Definitely not like the beginning of each drink.

Rating: Kickapoo Joy Juice is one of the classics in the world of craft soda. There’s no doubt its staying power is linked to its drinkability. This is a citrus soda that took a different path than the mainstream brands with their emphasis on acidity. I applaud the choice. Case in point: look at those dudes who a drink two-liter of Mountain Dew a day. Not only do a lot of them still live in their mom’s basement, but they’re also missing the enamel on their teeth. Kickapoo Joy Juice’s citrus profile is more of a lighter, refreshing citrus than a harsh one. This isn’t tart. It’s light, but the citrus flavor is still there. You could drink multiple bottles of this in one setting. My only complaint is that I wish the individual flavors were a little more distinguishable. I taste mild grapefruit, lemon, and lime. The lime is strongest and I believe best, but I’d like to see a little more action on that front. Still, Kickapoo Joy Juice succeeds in its simplicity and originality. This is a quality citrus soda. With origins dating all the way back to 1934, this is a brand that continues to build on its legacy. If you like to get down with the classics, drink in the history and taste the joy.

Tommy Knocker: Orange Creme

History: “We’re into anything craft,” from food to beer to soda. Those are the words of Tommy Knocker Brewery Director of Operation, Steve Indrehus. Steve already sounds like one of us. We can’t wait to hang out, Steve. Hailing from Idaho Spring, Colorado, Tommy Knocker is one of a growing number of bottlers that use only organic ingredients in their sodas. Like many breweries, they started with draft root beer as a non-alcoholic option. And that led to more flavors. Currently, the brewery makes four sodas. The root beer still moves the most, selling over 6,000 cases a year. I move about 6,000 a year too… further into debt. What’s really unique about Tommy Knocker sodas is the water they use. It’s a flow of snow melt and rain water that trickles down from the 14,000 foot peak of Mount Bierstadt. It’s described by Indrehus as a very soft water. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds delightful. Their orange cream soda is made with 100% pure Madagascar vanilla in addition to pure cane sugar. It contains no caffeine and is GMO-free. And if you’re a beer snob, take solace. Tommy Knocker brews their sodas just like they brew their brews. Let’s get to it.

Where to get: Tommy Knocker sodas are sold directly via the company’s website. You can also find it in single bottles at this random Boulder, Colorado liquor store website. You can also buy them at most Rocketfizz retailers. It’s available throughout Colorado, and with the exception of Rocketfizz stores, sporadically throughout the U.S. in 18 states.

Nose: Fresh, organic oranges.

Taste: Fresh citrus; tart vanilla; lightly burned sugar. Tommy Knocker’s take on orange cream soda tastes distinctly more orange than cream. Sugar and citrus are up front. This is a brand that uses completely organic ingredients and that’s very evident on the taste buds. This is probably just a little bit less sweet than you’d expect for an orange cream soda. Not much of the traditional orange creamsicle flavor. There’s much more of a botanical citrus taste. This is made with organic orange zest and that’s probably the most identifiable flavor in this bottle. It’s zesty. It’s citrusy. But as far as tasting like sweet orange, it’s not quite as obvious as I’d like to see in an orange cream. There’s noticeable vanilla in this, but it isn’t creamy. The vanilla notes flutter around on the backend of each drink, almost in a tart way. The organic ingredients in this soda work with the cane sugar to form a light, burned sugar or caramel taste. But overall, earthy citrus is the predominant flavor.

Finish: Mild oranges that progressively taste fresher throughout the finish. Citrus and sugar round out each sip.

Rating: This is what I’d consider a nontraditional take on orange cream soda. Perhaps it’s the organic ingredients. Perhaps it’s just the way this was designed. But it’s missing that flagship creaminess we all desire in this particular flavor. When you think orange cream soda, you think dreamsicle or creamsicle. This is more like biting into an orange rind. You taste a very pure, zesty orange oil flavor. It’s not bitter and it’s not bad. It’s just not what we were expecting. The orange flavor in this isn’t exactly crisp like juice or smooth like other cream sodas. The vanilla notes are nice and work, but probably need to be more prominent to see this soda live up to the label on the bottle. If you’re a fan of citrus sodas, I’d suggest a bottle. If you prefer sweeter, creamier orange creams, this may be a let down for you. It does get better as you continue drinking it, but then again, my neighbor says that all the time and I just passed him on the way to his AA meeting. This is a game time decision. Worth a try, but it’s replay value is in question.


Barr: Irn-Bru

History: Put on your manliest kilt because Irn-Bru has made it to Five Star Soda. It’s the unofficial soft drink of Scotland, laddie. Invented in 1901 by Barr Soft Drinks, it contains 32 different flavors and is made with cane sugar. It does not, however, come in a glass bottle. A little part of the craft soda enthusiast in me died telling you that. According to Great Scot International Vice President James Wilson, only two people, the owner and his daughter, know the recipe. “You can’t really describe it,” he says, his voice almost puzzled searching for an answer. Good. This should be easy then. Irn-Bru has faced some challenges getting into the North American market. In Scotland, the original formula uses the coloring agent Ponceau 4R, an additive that is banned by the FDA in America and Canada. I know you’re not reading those, so what that really means is in Scotland Irn-Bru is a little bit darker with more of a reddish hue as opposed to the bright rusty orange color in the American version. Irn-Bru is the title sponsor for the Scottish Premier League. Wilson says in Scottish grocery stores Coca-Cola takes up about half of the shelf space. The rest is just Irn-Bru. They’re serious about it. The drink started as a tonic and to this day still contains Quinine, a flavoring agent typically used in tonic water and something that helps settle the stomach. It also contains .002%  Ferric Ammonium Citrate, which is where the “iron” flavor comes in. Irn-Bru is even rumored to be a hangover cure. “You either love it or you hate it,” adds Wilson. Let’s find out.

Where to get: You can purchase Irn-Bru on Amazon or The Scottish Grocer. Irn-Bru is also distributed nation-wide in the United States by Great Scot International in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to Wilson, pretty much any grocer with a British or UK section should likely carry it.

Nose: Bubble gum; smells very reminiscent of bubble gum cream sodas.

Taste: Bubble gum; citrus; bitterness. Though this smells and even tastes a bit like bubblegum, Irn-Bru definitely isn’t a cream soda. It’s a wave of citrus with a bite from across the pond. The flavor profile here is in three parts. First you get an orange-infused bubble gum taste that quickly evaporates and is followed by a lighter, slightly creamy orange citrus. What comes in last is bitterness. It likely has something to do with that Ferric Ammonium Citrate. That sounds good for you, doesn’t it? The sharp, bitter citrus stays on the back of your tongue a little too long for me. It’s fairly acidic, even for a citrus soda. The lads and lassies from Scotland apparently love this. It’s certainly different than American sodas.

Finish: A tart citrus that sinks itself into the back of your tongue. Leaves a little bit of an acidic taste in the back of the throat. Could be harsh for first-time drinkers of Irn-Bru.

Rating: It’s hard to nail down a rating for this soda. Its taste can be overly harsh on the first few sips, especially on the finish. It’s true. This is a love it or hate it beverage. So naturally, we’re somewhere in the middle. Sharp, acidic citrus stays in the mouth too long to make this a top-tier soda. Could just be a cultural thing. I’ve been told Americans definitely love their sweets and sugars more than the rest of the world. The initial orange bubblegum citrus flavor is fairly unique and pretty palatable. It just doesn’t last nearly as long as the tart acidity and bitter citrus undertones you get near the end. Some of that probably comes from the Quinine. How can I describe this in a way you’ll understand? Hmmm. This is like when you go on a date with that really hot dude who’s got those alluring exotic eyes, but then you start dating and realize he smells kind of like a donkey. He’s fun for a little bit, but even after he goes home, he lingers. In all seriousness, this is pretty interesting. With flavors not typically found in North America, I’d recommend giving Irn-Bru a shot simply because it’s incredibly popular in Scotland, and you should ingest some of that culture to keep yourself well-rounded. Just be careful, looks can be deceiving.

Brooklyn Soda Works: Apple + Ginger

History: This whole thing was an accident. Booklyn Soda Works wasn’t supposed to become one of the only craft soda companies in the world to use strictly juices, herbs and water. “We were just looking for the perfect mixer for our Dark n’ Stormy,” says co-founder Caroline Mak. But Mak is an artist and her partner and co-founder Antonio is a chemist. So it’s not hard to figure out how we got here. The company is renowned for its large quantities of fruit juice in their sodas. What makes Brooklyn Soda Works truly unique is that they force carbonate the juice in your soda directly, meaning they don’t use any syrups or preservatives. This also means their soda has a limited lifespan for ideal flavor and must be kept refrigerated. This is similar to the fellas at Cannonborough Beverage Company. Simply put, Caroline and Antonio are artisan soda experimenters. Since their inception in 2010, the company has churned out over 30 flavors, including hits like honey grapefruit jalapeno, fresh cucumber with a dash of sea salt and lime, and apple and ginger. I haven’t seen that many varieties of deliciousness since I lived in the dorms! Because of the emphasis on fresh produce and fruit, many of their flavors are seasonal. For Spring and Summer 2015, the company is placing an emphasis on watermelon flavors. “We cold-press the watermelons ourselves and use fresh herbs to pair the juice with (no sugar is added). The result is a super refreshing and healthy sparkling drink.” Not only does Brooklyn Soda Works use fresh juice in their sodas; they use a lot of it. And they’re proud of it: one of the business’s catchphrases is “Damn Good Soda.” We’re about to find out.

Where to get: Currently Brooklyn Soda Works’ sodas are only distributed throughout New York City. The company is working to get its online store up and running. Because of the soda’s perishable nature, everything will need to be shipped via two or three-day shipping in an insulated container. Until then, if you’re interested in the stuff, contact the company directly.

Nose: Apple juice; faint ginger.

Taste: Apple juice; mild ginger; lemon zest. On the first sip, the apple juice is immediate. Many sodas contain trace amounts of fruit juice. Apple + Ginger is rare in that it contains 71% juice, a mixture of apples, ginger, and lemons. The rest is water. Just four ingredients. There isn’t even any added sugar. For that reason, it only has a month-long shelf life. It shows in the flavor. The apples taste fresh-pressed and authentic. This is light for a soda with ginger. You can definitely tell there’s no syrup used. The ginger here is very mild and does not have spiciness to it. Some of that is probably due to the lemon juice, which gives the soda a nice citrus zing on the back end. Mixed together, the three fruits in this bottle can give off a bit of an herbal flavor at points, almost like a tea, before morphing back into mainly apple and ginger. I’m not sure if that’s intended or an indication of the flavors working together. I don’t mind it, but it may not be for some. It’s very interesting and not as spicy as expected. The ginger is the only flavor I’d like to see more pronounced. The apple and lemon work well together for a nice balance of sweet and sour. Despite not adding any sugar, the sweetness from the fruit really stands out as a high point. Overall, very refreshing and balanced.

Finish: Light ginger with a lemon twang that lingers on the back of the tongue.

Rating: This is a pure fruit soda. With only four ingredients and void of added sugar, the soda maintains a nice sweetness from the apples that balances well with the citrus of ginger and lemon. Apple is the standout flavor in this bottle, but the lemon here is really well done. Though the ginger could have been more pronounced, you never know how that might affect the overall flavor profile. This is definitely a summer soda to be enjoyed with minimal clothing and warm weather. It also mixes really well with booze. The apple, ginger and lemon flavors at times meld to form some herbal tea-like notes on the palate, so be warned if that isn’t your thing. What Brooklyn Soda Works did best here is create a soda that tastes authentic and refreshing. It’s fresh. So fresh, it lasts only for a month at its peak flavor offerings. Overall, this is definitely well-done and worth a shot. Wait until the weather warms up just a smidge more, bust out your crop tops and weird shorts… or whatever the hell you hipsters wear these days, and brag about how you’re only drinking organic craft soda today. You won’t make any friends, but your taste buds will thank you later.

Ski Cherry

History: Ski is one of the most well-known names in the retro soda business. It’s been the flagship citrus beverage of Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Double Cola Company since 1956. But unlike most citrus sodas, this one is lemon and orange instead of lime. The company actually uses real lemon and orange juice in each soda, something fairly uncommon for larger brands. It was 1996 when Ski Cherry made its debut. Unlike most craft sodas, this one does contain caffeine. Now here’s an important distinction to make: Double Cola markets a majority of Ski in cans and plastic bottles with more modern labels. That version of Ski is made with high fructose corn syrup. However, their “nostalgic packages” in glass bottles are made with pure cane sugar. Ski Cherry (the bottle we’re reviewing) is made with pure cane sugar. The high fructose version of Ski Cherry is actually called Ski InfraRed. Confused yet? Think of it this way: Ski Cherry is your cute neighbor who is au naturale. Ski InfraRed is your new, cute neighbor who’s nice to look at because she’s full of silicone… err, corn syrup. Get it? If you don’t, you could just get drunk because according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Ski has a reputation has a hangover cure.

Where to get: Ski Cherry can be found at many Rocketfizz retailers across the nation. You can also purchase it online at Soda Emporium.

Nose: Like when you were a kid and poured every soda in your fridge into a cup. In my day we called them suicides. This is like that: swampy smelling. There’s definitely a cleaning fluid smell to this. Hopefully it’s deceiving.

Taste: It wasn’t deceiving. Bitter; pungent; old citrus. Ski soda is known for its mixture of lemon and orange, but this really tastes more like lime than anything else with some cherry flavoring added. Tastes very artificial. Usually cane sugar sodas are sweeter. This could use some sweetness. It could use anything, really. This is supposed to be an alternative to Mountain Dew. The two don’t taste all that similar. Whereas Mountain Dew has a crisp citrus taste, this is more of a dull citrus flavor with a pinch of cherry at the end. The cherry isn’t too bad, but isn’t prominent enough to stand out on its own. Ski Cherry shocks the taste buds not with a tangy burst, but with a lack of refreshing flavor so often found in citrus drinks. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, be warned, this is a soda that contains a caffeine punch. Most craft sodas do not contain caffeine. This one gave us a headache.

Finish: Lingering lime with a hint of orange. Not as harsh as the body of the soda. Probably this bottle’s only redeeming quality.

Rating: Ski’s tagline is “Real lemon. Real Orange. Real Good.” Coulda’ fooled me. Nothing about this tastes authentic in the slightest, nor do I taste any lemon in this soda. It’s more like a dull lime taste with faint artificial cherry and orange. It smells like chemicals and tastes only slightly better. Listen, I’m not trying to blatantly trash this. There are people out there who like it. Thirsty Dudes gave this four bottles out of five. They must’ve been really thirsty. It does have a decent finish and the cherry flavor near the end of each sip is fine. Citrus soda drinkers, yeah, go ahead and give it a shot if you wish. Maybe you’ll find its redeeming qualities. Maybe we got a bad bottle. But more likely, this just isn’t our thing. If you don’t like citrus, you can skip Ski Cherry and it’s fake brother Ski InfraRed. The name doesn’t exactly have me volunteering to put it inside my body. “Sir, would you like to drink this infrared liquid?” “Why yes! I’ve been wanting to go to the hospital!” I think this would be a wonderfully-scented toilet cleaner, but it comes up short as a soda.

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.