Cream Soda

Zuberfizz: Key Lime Cream Soda

History: Little did a couple college roomies know way back at Colorado State University that they’d open a little soda operation that would bloom into a nationally-known brand. But that’s exactly what happened to Banden Zuber and Dan Aggeler. The two opened Durango Soda Company in 2002 and used the former’s last name to create the Zuberfizz Soda brand. Honestly, it seems like it was probably an easy choice to us. Aggeler sounds like some type of farm tool and Zuber sounds like the last name of a superhero. Just sayin’. After trying their hand at craft beer, the business partners realized they were a little too late to that game because Colorado already had enough beer drinkers and more than enough brewers willing to feed their bad habits. The two wanted to stay in liquid. Zuber said he thought to himself that soda “had the same footprint as beer.” And off they went, first introducing root beer and then cream soda. Today, the company boasts eight flavors, including some wild ones like Coco Fizz and Key Lime Cream Soda. The latter sounded so weird that we had to indulge ourselves and everyone else. It’s been thirteen years since the company’s inception and Zuber and Aggeler still hand brew every batch of soda themselves with cane sugar and ingredients of the “highest quality.” That’s the kind of mom and pop shop mentality we dig.

Where to get: Zuberfizz’s main distribution is found throughout Colorado and the four corners region. However, it’s also commonly found in Rocketfizz retailers. And if neither of those work, get your Key Lime Cream Soda fix at Summit City Soda, Soda Emporium, or Amazon.

Nose: Strong lime notes; the more you inhale, the more a menthol smell comes through. Interesting because, obviously, there is no menthol in this.

Taste: Lime; faint licorice; light creaminess. This neon green soda slams you with strong lime up front that immerses itself on the palate. It’s bold. So bold, it might overwhelm some. Eventually, the lime gives way to a subtle citrus creaminess that’s still mostly lime, but not before a flash of licorice dances on the tip of the tongue. It doesn’t specify on the label, but I’d be willing to bet that there’s no licorice in this, so it’s interesting that flavor profile is showing up. Again, it’s an acquired taste. To be clear, the creaminess is extremely brief. You’d have to really be looking for it. This definitely tastes more lime than key lime, but unless you eat a lot of key limes or key lime pie, that probably won’t matter to you. It definitely isn’t like key lime pie in a bottle, though that didn’t stop us from enjoying a slice with it. The traditional vanilla cream soda flavor you’re used to doesn’t show up here even in a vanilla-citrus variety. This is mostly lime all the way through that tails off into a lighter version of the initial bold flavor. The cane sugar in this is noticeable and done well, not distracting from the citrus.

Finish: Lime that seemingly increases in sweetness, but not creaminess. Nothing too complicated.

Rating: Zuberfizz set out to do a unique flavor here with a key lime cream soda, but I’m not sure they totally captured that essence. They’ve definitely nailed the lime aspect, but this soda lacks the smoothness and really the creaminess that cream sodas typically possess. I’d be a lot more comfortable with this if it was just labeled “Key Lime Soda.” I think that’s way more accurate. Regardless, the lime flavor isn’t overbearing. It tastes a little artificial, but Zuberfizz does a really good job balancing the cane sugar in this soda, and that really holds together its drinkability. It didn’t really do it for us, but I wouldn’t call this bad. It’s just different. It’s like the weird guy from high school in the back of math class who never talked, but surprised everyone with that really cool solo dance at homecoming, so everyone is cool with him. This is a bit of an oddball, and won’t be for everyone, but there’s something likable about it. We probably won’t be revisiting it, but flavors like this are so rare that we have to recommend you give it a shot and see if your taste buds disagree. Plus, thes neon green, antifreeze-esque color is mesmerizing. If you drink a whole six pack of these, let us know if you develop any super powers.

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Boots Beverages: Coconut Cream Soda

History: Get your beach towel, your sunglasses and sunscreen, and throw on that swim suit. Now put it all back because we’re just drinking soda here, you freak. But hey, we’re not only sampling one of the most unique flavors on the market today, we’re also going to bring the island vibe to you as we do it. See, we’re nice. Coconut Cream Soda: it’s one of those flavors that makes your ears perk up when you hear it. Kind of like when my wife yells out my name, only this doesn’t give me nightmares. Coconut is a very divisive flavor among foodies, but those who love it are die-hards. Mark Kristen, owner of Boots Beverages realized this and decided to to take a chance. He says, “I guess it’s the same insanity that’s inspired all our flavors.” The company, started by his father Elwood “Boots” Glenn, began with seasonal flavors like strawberry, peach and lemon. Boots Beverages’ first run as a business ended in 1962 in large part due to a decline in popularity of deposit bottles. Kristen, already a third generation businessman and operator of Kristen Distributing in Bryan, Texas, decided to reintroduce the company in September of 2013 with an emphasis on 1950’s flavors infused with modern gourmet appeal.

The company’s top-seller is its Sarsaparilla, with Coconut Cream not far behind it. The tropical paradise you thought you were in for at the beginning of this review may yet reveal itself in the form of this soda. And according to Kristen, it’s by design. “We envisioned someone going to the trouble of splitting the coconut and getting the juice out.” He also notes they are going for additional tasting notes of coconut cream pie and its crust. You’ll see the tropical inspiration on the bottle. You’ll also notice a picture of a woman. That’s Kristen’s late aunt Katy. “That tugs at my heart strings,” he says after a pause. Never married, Katy worked for Kristen’s father during Boots Beverages’ initial run. Often he couldn’t even afford to pay her, so she ran a small ice cream parlor. Kristen frequented it. “I ate so many of her dreamsicles that there’s no way she could’ve made any money,” he jokes. Her photo on the label is a small tribute. As for the future, Boots Beverages has been in the lab cooking up five new flavors. Two of them could be here as early as September. If early reports are any indication, they may be on to something. Kristen notes his buddy’s six year-old daughter offered up a serious barter. “I’d like to trade you a pony for those new flavors,” she said. We can’t legally offer a pony, but we’ll assemble the team, test the black market and see what offers we at Five Star came come up with. Nothing to see here, government.

Where to get: You can currently buy Boots Beverages Coconut Cream Soda in Texas and St. Louis, Missouri. The company is currently working on expanding distribution, but hasn’t announced future channels yet. In the meantime, the Internet has you covered. Hit up the company’s website for 12-packs, Crown Valley for 6-packs, and Soda Emporium for single bottles.

Nose: You ever had coconut cake? No? You’re weird then, but that’s what this smells like to a tee. It’s got a sweet coconut frosting olfactory thing going on.

Taste: Coconut cream; sugar; mild piña colada. Whoa, coconut. Hey girl. The coconut cream flavor is immediate, bold, and sweet. This is intensely sweet coming in at 43 grams of sugar per bottle. The coconut has a very tropical taste to it, reminiscent of the coconut portion of a piña colada. This does not taste like coconut pie to us, for those wondering. Think more along the lines of clear cream sodas infused with tropical coconut flavor.

Finish: Coconut piña colada. The finish on Boots Coconut Cream Soda is long-lasting and thick. The drink ends with a little bit more of a tropical note than the main body and coats the tongue for 10-20 seconds. While the body of the soda doesn’t taste like pie, there is a little bit of a pie crust taste at the very end.

Rating: Coconut is one of those flavors that gets people excited when it’s in a supporting role, but as the centerpiece of a soda, bottlers shy away. Perhaps they’re worried it’ll come off too much like carbonated suntan lotion. Whatever the case may be, there isn’t a lot with which to compare Boots Beverages Coconut Cream Soda. Its flavor doesn’t hold anything back and knows itself. It’s coconut cream soda, and dammitt it wants you to know that. This is a sugar storm of creamy, candy coconut that is bold and has flavor staying power. There are also some really nice tropical notes that float about in the background of each drink. Cream soda connoisseurs: put this on your list because there’s nothing like it out there. For the rest of you, there are some factors to consider. First, this is sweet. Very sweet. But it does really capture that tropical island coconut flavor and manifest it in soda form. I’d suggest treating this like a first date and taking it slow. Unless you’re my ex, in which case, chug as fast as you can and use a lot of tongue. Sorry, PTSD. As a sipper, this is a wonderfully unique cream soda to be enjoyed. Second, the flavor. Not everyone likes coconut and this is not only strong in sweetness, but also flavor. It might even benefit from some ancillary tasting notes, like key lime. If you don’t like coconut, do not pop the top. In our opinion, this is too original not to try. If you like coconut or tropical sodas, keep your pants on and buy like 24 of these. The flavors are simple, but work well. Paired with a little rum, you’ll be in paradise in no time.

Bedford’s: Creme Beer

History: Creme Beer. The name alone sends a chill of nostalgia and intrigue down your spine. That was part of the plan Ed Bedford had when he concocted his first vanilla cream soda to sell on the open  market. Bedford is a down-to-earth northwest native with a friendly, grizzled voice. He says over the phone, “I’m almost 70 years-old and soda was a big thing in our life.” He wanted it to stay that way for the current generation, but also wanted to make sure they were drinking old time classics made with higher quality ingredients than something you might get at a fast food joint. So after a long stint as general manager for a beer, wine and soft drink distributor, Bedford founded Bedford’s Sodas in 1984. Today the company sells five different flavors. Based out of Port Angeles, Washington, he says good soda had faded away in the Pacific Northwest. He sought to bring it back by first starting with cream soda, a flavor no company was really emphasizing in the mid-80’s. The idea actually came from Steve Sourapas, an owner of the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company in Seattle. Bedford explained that during prohibition, many bars and saloons referred to cream soda as creme beer so they didn’t totally lose the boozy influence. The name stuck with his father, who passed it on to Bedford who threw it on a label to give cream soda a unique name. Bedford worked hard to get the flavor exactly where he wanted it. “I wanted a true vanilla cream,” he said. He put together a tasting panel with over 100 years of experience in the beverage industry to help pick the right recipe. He’s been working with the same flavor chemist for the entirety of his craft soda-making career. Before we hung up the phone, he paused and added, “I think that my sodas are as genuine as I can possibly be to what I can remember as a child. Always serve them ice cold, never with ice.”

Where to get: Bedford’s Sodas are sold all over the place online, including Summit City Soda, Orca Beverages (who bottle Bedford’s soda), and Amazon. You can also find them in Rocketfizz retailers.

Nose: Dunkin’ Donuts Bavarian Kreme Custard Donut. Hey man, it smells like that. Also vanilla, but you knew that.

Taste: Sugar; vanilla; creaminess. This is definitely an intense vanilla cream soda. No bubblegum here. The vanilla is creamy and sweet. It smells like my favorite donut, but the vanilla, at times, tastes a little bit more like vanilla buttercream or custard. This is a sweet soda, but smooth and drinkable. It tastes like classic cream soda with the volume turned up. You can really tell this uses higher quality ingredients. Everything is a little bolder and better. Nicely done.

Finish: Vanilla custard with just the sliiiiiightest hint of caramel. An excellent finish that begs for more sips.

Rating: This is an excellent cream soda, but before I tell you why, let’s talk about the first thing you see: the bottle. There’s something about it that draws you in. Maybe it’s the regal, old royal feel of the Bedford’s crest in the middle. Maybe it’s the medieval lettering of the font. Or maybe it’s the fact that this is called creme beer and not cream soda. Bedford’s does an excellent job selling the customer before the liquid even enters the equation. The same could be said about the dude at Lowe’s who sold me my overpriced toilet. But this is soda you’ll never throw down the drain. It’s fairly simple, but cream soda is a simple drink. It’s smooth and creamy with rich vanilla and slight notes of caramel on the finish. The vanilla almost has a hint of custard flavor to it that separates it from other vanilla creams. It could probably hold off on a gram or two of sugar, but there’s no question this is must-try cream soda. It also works well with an oaky bourbon to balance out the sweetness. Buy this. Tell your friends you had a creme beer today. Say nothing else and walk away. You’re a soda jerk. And we like it.

Squamscot: Maple Cream Soda

History: At Conner Bottling Works in Newfields, New Hampshire, Squamscot Beverages has been making old-fashioned, glass-bottled sodas or “tonics,” as they used to call them, for 152 years. The business opened in 1863. They’ve been using the same bottling machine named “Dixie” since 1938. It hasn’t even moved spots in the building since then. The business has never been sold by the founding family and today is run by Dan Conner, the fifth generation of his family to operate the business. It is the last independent bottler in the state of New Hampshire. Think about all that. Whether or not you enjoy their products, Squamscot has a remarkable history. It started as a beer bottling plant. This company is so old that the beer they were bottling back in 1863 had to be brought there by horse and carriage! These days, if you see a horse and carriage, you’re either lost in Amish country or you got drunk enough downtown to think paying $20 for a pre-blackout stroll was a good idea. Despite starting with beer, soda slowly made its way into Squamscot’s repertoire. Orange soda and ginger ale started being made in the late 1800’s. The beer business was going well. Then prohibition happened. Beer business wasn’t so hot after that. So soda became the company’s main source of income with its golden ginger ale ascending to flagship beverage status. In 1926 Pepsi, then being bottled by Conner Bottling Works, pulled out of its contract. This is when soda really took off for the company with lots of flavor expansion. Today, Dan Conner says Squamscot produces 27 flavors, its golden ginger ale still being one of the most popular. “We make a quality product. We offer it how it was always made,” with recipes dating back generations, he adds. Today’s review, Maple Cream Soda, is designed to be sweeter and is made with pure cane sugar and maple extract. Let’s see how it stacks up.

Where to get: Squamscot Beverages are sold widely throughout New Hampshire and sporadically across the country. The easiest way to find the Maple Cream Soda is to purchase it online via Galco’s Soda Pop Shop or from Holiday Wine Center. Don’t worry, you can trust both websites.

Nose: Maple syrup. I would say more, but this smells exactly like the flavor on the bottle. I’d take this in candle form.

Taste: Maple syrup; sugar; tartness. Tiny little bubbles flood the mouth before the tide returns to sea and you’re left with a delicious, pure maple flavor. Just the right amount of sweetness and maple syrup. But there’s also accompanying undertones of tart cane sugar throughout the body that somehow enhance the maple flavor. This is actually a soda that benefits from having a couple ice cubes. Almost like a fine bourbon, the water slowly releases more flavor, in this case, a creamier, more intense maple taste as well as some very light notes of vanilla caramel. On ice, that tartness becomes almost non-existent. So if you’re a fan of something that wrestles the tongue a little, drink this chilled in the bottle. If you prefer a creamier maple taste, a couple ice cubes will do the trick.

Finish: Mild maple syrup and caramelized sugar. Definitely some bite to the sugar here. On ice, the finish is basically the same, only less intense.

Rating: Maple is a flavor craft soda bottlers decided to elevate on a silver platter. It’s a flavor that just sounds like you can’t go wrong with in soda form. But take if from us – we’ve tried a lot of maple soda… it rarely lives up to the flavor utopia you’re expecting. But when you’ve got 152 years of soda manufacturing on your side, it’s a little easier to take on a popular flavor like maple. Squamscot has taken a flavor that often misses the mark and created a maple soda that is a standard-bearer in its realm. The flavor profile succeeds wildly. Tart cane sugar and authentic maple flavors blend to form a crisp, delicious soda that you as a maple fan have been waiting for. This is like when you ask out the hot girl who makes barbie look inadequate and she has everything in common with you, is smart and gives great massages. Expectations: met and exceeded. Well done, Squamscot. The underlying tartness might turn off a few drinkers. To those I say, try this on ice. It becomes less intense and creamier. This is the maple soda for which you’ve been waiting. Wait no more. Go live the dream.

Indian Wells Brewing: Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda

History: Welcome to the upper echelon of soda, ladies and gentlemen. It looks like a beer, pours like a cream ale, and smells like a confectionary kitchen. Indian Wells is certainly swinging for the fences with their Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda. As you might imagine, with a name this fancy, the brewers have gone to great lengths to ensure quality ingredients inside the bottle. Let’s start with the most interesting part: vanilla barrels. Indian Wells actually purchases chestnut barrels of vanilla bean extract from a tropical island and then adds their soda to the barrels and the one or two inches of leftover vanilla extract. This provides color. The soda isn’t actually its dark caramel hue before entering the barrel. And most importantly, it imparts the soda’s signature rich vanilla flavor profile. Next, the soda’s main ingredient: water. The company uses natural spring water from, well, Indian Wells Spring. Indian Wells is a California historical landmark and the water they use in their sodas and beer is filtered through millions of feet of granite. As with all their sodas, this one is sweetened with pure cane sugar. Finally, Indian Wells is also proud of what’s not in their line of Special Reserve sodas. No sodium benzoate or sorbate preservatives and no high fructose corn syrup. The brewery keeps these sodas shelf-stable by flash pasteurizing them. A couple fun facts: the intended flavor of this cream soda isn’t actually vanilla… it’s roasted campfire marshmallow. The last time I had a roasted marshmallow, I was on a camping date. She ran away in the middle of the night. Another? According Indian Wells Master Brewer, Rick Lovett, the brewery actually sells more soda than beer these days, thus prompting Lovett to test the market’s reaction to a super premium soft drink. It projects regality with its golden wax-coated bottle top staring at you like you need a password to open it. But spoiler alert, you don’t. And we did. Let’s see how it stacks up.

Where to get: Part of this soda’s appeal is its rarity. Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda is exclusively sold at Indian Wells Brewery and Rocketfizz retailers. It is not sold online.

Nose: Vanilla frosting; sugar; angel food cake. This smells like a trip to the bakery.

Taste: Marshmallow; sweet vanilla; sugar. This is a cream soda made with vanilla aged in chestnut barrels. As you might expect, its taste is different from the norm. There’s a deeply rich, sweet vanilla that enters the palate first. It’s very sweet, almost akin to vanilla buttercream frosting. But as the liquid sits in your mouth, the flavor slightly changes and there’s some woody notes that lift off the tongue. This is, of course, due to the chestnut barrels. It’s very interesting and something you’re unlikely to taste in any other cream soda. Then comes a very unique flavor to cream soda: marshmallow. This is by design. Indian Wells sought to recreate a campfire marshmallow taste and they’ve accomplished the task. Again, it’s a very sweet taste. It’s definitely a foamy cream soda with a thick head. The soda is anchored by a rich vanilla flavor that subtlety transforms into marshmallow with some slightly bitter notes from the chestnut barrels. Truly unique.

Finish: Slightly bitter vanilla; charred marshmallow. This is what I find to be the most interesting part of the soda. It’s not like the initial sip or the main flavor profile. As the vanilla and marshmallow flavors fade, you’re left with the chestnut barrel influence. It lingers slightly bitter on the back of the tongue and it turns that sweet, sugary marshmallow taste into more of a charred or roasted flavor. It’s like the marshmallow taste truly undergoes the campfire process with each sip. The longer you take in between drinks, the more prominent the effect. Exquisite.

Rating: This is the most unique cream soda I’ve ever had that I’ve actually enjoyed. Its wax-coated bottle and “Special Reserve” label put this into the top tier of premium sodas. Looking at it, you’d think it was craft beer. Its flavors are rich and change as you drink it, almost like a bourbon. Its frothy pour is distinctly cream soda, but its flavors of rich vanilla with notes of chestnut and campfire marshmallow set it apart. Indian Wells Brewing’s Special Reserve Vanilla Cream Soda is a spectacle of awe in an ever-changing craft soda world where originality is becoming a requirement to play the game. The sweetness can be intense at times, particularly on the first few sips. The taste buds acclimate over time as the chestnut notes become more prevalent, but this frosting-like sweetness might cut the bottle short early for some drinkers. For those who stick with it, your taste buds shall be rewarded with rich vanilla and roasted campfire marshmallow. Paired with a nice bourbon, this is one of the best things to ever happen to your mouth. I’d divorce my first wife several more times if I could have both of those items stocked around the clock. Go out of your way to try this. It’s a 22 oz. bottle, meaning you can do this once the sober way and the rest the fun way. It’s a touch pricey at $5 a bottle outside the brewery ($3 at Indian Wells), but Abe Lincoln doesn’t want to live in your pocket all day anyway. You’ll thank me later.

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.

 

Faygo: Rock N’ Rye

History: Remember that girl from middle school whose hair was a different color seemingly every week? The one who was cool with being weird? The one you work for now? We’re all a little different. The ones who truly stand out are the people that embrace it. And in the world of soda, being different is so hot right now. Faygo has always been a little weird. And they’re not afraid of it. Marketing Specialist Dawn Burch says enthusiastically, “We offer flavors that other companies are scared to try…. We’ve become this cult classic somehow.” Indeed, Faygo is known for their variety. Currently, they boast over 60 different flavors, from the Rock and Rye we’ll be reviewing today to their newest creation, cotton candy. How do they do it? “We have a really talented team of scientists,” Burch says. I get the flavor giggles just thinking about it. But you might know the Detroit-based company for a slightly more insane *looks around for approval* reason. Insane Clown Posse. Juggalos. The dudes who paint their faces and rap… I guess that’s what you call it. A quick Google Image search on Faygo doesn’t disappoint. Juggalos often spray each other and get drenched with Faygo soda at concerts. Why? Who knows. Maybe that face paint has some strong chemicals in it. Burch mentions how Juggalos will often call the company for wedding orders so they can ensure a proper soda shower. I’ll save this idea for my first wedding. It should free up that weekend for me.

Back to the soda. Ben and Perry Feigenson founded Faygo in 1907 and began basing their flavors on desserts. They’re been in the same manufacturing facility since the 1930’s. Today, Faygo is famous for its Red Pop and Rock and Rye. Both of these are part of the retro glass-bottle soda line Faygo produces that also includes four other flavors: cream soda, grape, orange, and root beer. These six sodas are all made with cane sugar. The rest of Faygo’s sodas do not contain cane sugar. The company is good for about one new flavor a year. We can’t tell you what their next one is… but it’s something you wouldn’t traditionally think of as a beverage flavor. Today, we sample Rock and Rye. Introduced in the 1920’s, it was named after the vintage rock candy and rye whiskey cocktail. We’re told this one doesn’t contain whiskey. We can’t guarantee it won’t by the time we’re done.

Where to get: Faygo has one of the oldest online soda stores in the world. It opened in 1998, right about when Al Gore invented the Internet! Not really. But maybe. If you’re beholden to Amazon, they’ve also got your back. Faygo is nationally distributed. If you can’t find it, I’d be surprised. If not, call the company. They’re nice people who want their soda to go in your body.

 

Nose: Classic pink bubble gum strips; cream soda.

Taste: Vanilla; cherry cream; tartness; frothy carbonation. The carbonation in this soda really accentuates its flavors. It’s also the first noticeable element you taste. Tiny, frothy bubbles flood the mouth before a distinct creamy vanilla-cherry flavor enters the picture. That said, carbonation this noticeable may be a turn off for some. For a deep burgundy craft soda, Faygo’s Rock and Rye is rich with creamy vanilla as opposed to intense bubblegum as is often found in red creams. The bubblegum flavor in this soda is discreet, like a mirage in a desert of tiny, creamy vanilla bubbles. It’s there, but only as a complimentary flavor component. We were told that Detroit natives think of this as a strawberry cream soda, and the strawberry is there, but it’s really old-school cherry notes that we taste. This has the richness of a cream soda with the carbonation and mild fruitiness of a cherry cola. Not overly complex, but highly drinkable and a delight on the taste buds.

Finish: Cherries and cream; deep and rich. The longer the drinker lets the flavors linger, they’re joined by creamy, mild vanilla undertones.

Rating: We’ve written before that cream sodas can basically boil down to two flavor profiles: vanilla and/or bubblegum. Faygo’s Rock and Rye straddles the line between cola and cream soda and has the best execution of bubblegum I’ve ever tasted in a soda. It’s light, creamy, and rolled in a bed of sweet vanilla and mild cherry. Not too overpowering, but has enough flavor to delight the taste buds, while being undercut by a semi-tart cherry cola taste. It’s truly an achievement in soda flavor engineering. Easily one of the most drinkable sodas I’ve had in years. I’m delighted to say this truly exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, I don’t think my date last night said the same to her friends about me. If you’re reading this, please return my texts. This probably leans more toward the cream soda side of things, though its carbonation is distinctly that of a cola. While the frothy little bubbles in this bottle serve to highlight its excellent flavors, they may also be its only downside. The bubbles can be intense and always greet the tongue before the flavors develop. It is a necessary buffer. But this is a minor complaint, and one I’m not personally making here. After all these years, what could be called Faygo’s most original flavor is arguably its greatest. Its staying power is undeniable and its deliciousness is unquestionable. It’s cream cola. If you love craft soda, just the thought that this combination is even possible to bottle should give you the tingles. We all need some soda tingles every now and then, right? Put this in your regular rotation.

Drink More Good: Cassia Kream

History: Craft soda is hot right now. You know what the hottest trend in craft soda is right now? Craft soda… syrup. That’s right, do it yourself! Don’t be a slave to the confines of the man and his portions on taste! Just add some seltzer water and poof! Drink More Good by Jason Schuler started in 2012 to “make this world a better place.” A Bold statement. But one that has a noble explanation. The company has partnered with generosity.org in an effort to help make clean water more accessible across the world through sustainable water wells. In 2014, Drink More Good raised over $14,000 toward the cause. And that’s great. But you’re more interested in what goes in your mouth. And in this case, it ain’t water. Well, actually, it mostly is. Drink More Good makes three different soda syrups. Perhaps the most unique is the one we sample today: Cassia Kream. It’s sort of a hybrid cola/cream soda, leaning more toward the former. Schuler is proud of his creation. He says, “When colas were made with real ingredients, you would have found coriander, star anise, lavender, citrus, and roasted kola nut in a lot of those recipes. I started my spice blend here, then added cinnamon and vanilla.” So there’s a lot going on in this baby. Schuler’s Drink More Good was a 2014 finalist for the Martha Stewart American Made Awards. He adds, “We’re bringing soda back to what it was. Everything you’re tasting is a real herb or spice that’s been crushed by me in an eight inch mortar and pestle” (in his retail spice shop).

Where to get: Drink More Good is sold online through the company’s web site. Bottles can be purchased individually or as a three-pack.

Nose: Raw, organic honey; anise.

Taste: Lavender flower; honey; cane sugar; mild anise; cinnamon and vanilla. There’s a very distinctive organic honey taste to this. It’s very pleasant and refreshing, almost relaxing. The only thing is… there’s no honey in Cassia Kream. So what we’re really tasting is cane sugar being transformed by the spices in the syrup and how they blend with the seltzer water. Lavender is very apparent and soothing. Cinnamon and anise come in next, though the anise isn’t too overwhelming like in some root beers. Often, this almost tastes like a sweet herbal tea with the addition creamy vanilla. It has a very distinctive flavor and the use of spices here are mesmerizing to the tongue. There’s even the faintest hint of lingering orange throughout the body of the drink. A relaxing honey taste is what rises above everything else. If you told me this didn’t actually have honey in it without showing me the ingredients, I wouldn’t believe you.

Finish: Less honey and more cane sugar that fades into mellow cinnamon and anise star. All of this is carried along by a wave of underlying vanilla and citrus that accentuate the flavors they’re carrying.

Rating: Cassia Kream isn’t your every day cola, but in the world of craft soda, every day cola is a thing of the past. Schuler’s starting point of traditional cola and label of “kream” have landed him elsewhere in a foreign, yet flavorful paradise of herbs and sweetness. It’s kind of like when you’re on Tinder and swipe the wrong person, but it works out in your favor. Trust me, this rarely happens. I would know; I’m often on the wrong end of it. But rare wonders do happen and Drink More Good has created a rare wonder. Cassia Kream does not taste like cola. It does not taste like cream soda. It’s truly on its own island of originality. Think flavors and not necessarily ingredients – this tastes of sweet honey and spices to form a highly drinkable herbal tea-like soda with undertones of vanilla. That’s the best description I can give for something that truly needs to be experienced to understand. Notes of cinnamon, citrus and anise are all apparent throughout the body of the soda, while a rich raw honey taste brings it all home. Wild, earthy and full of flavor. If you were anti soda-syrup before reading this, I hope we’ve at least opened you to the possibility. Drink More Good, you should.