black cherry soda

Hank’s: Wishniak Black Cherry

History: Hank’s has one of the most recognizable bottles on the craft soda market with its name emblazoned in bold, raised metallic letters. They prefer the language “gourmet” as opposed to “craft,” but we don’t have to tell them they’re the same thing *w;)nk face*. As for its history, despite several attempts, we were unable to reach the folks at Hank’s Gourmet Sodas in time to talk to them for this review, so we relied heavily on their website and an article from Beverage Industry. So we’ll keep it relatively simple this time. Back to that unmistakable bottle. It sticks out, kind of like my old neighbor who leaves the bathroom blinds open. Only this instance is by design. “We just tried to make the bottle as unique, upscale and premium as we could,” co-founder Bill Dunman says. In 2007 the Glass Packaging Institute, an actual thing, awarded Hank’s the Clear Choice Award for best Carbonated Beverage. Hank’s began in 1995 in the Philadelphia area as a distribution business. A year later, they abandoned distribution entirely in favor of manufacturing and began adding flavors starting with root beer. At one point the company reached as many as 10, but today has scaled that number back to six. As with most soda companies, Hank’s profits the most from its root beer, with cream soda, black cherry and orange cream coming in second at about equal market shares. Hank’s is made using pure cane sugar and also produces a line of all natural teas. You can drink a black cherry soda and chase it with their Watermelon Cucumber Black Tea. What a time to be alive.

Where to get: Straight from their website, Hank’s Gourmet Sodas are “sold in over 40 states in every region of the nation.” For the ten unlucky states and the majority of us who prefer conducting our business in our underwear, you can order Hank’s soda in 12-packs directly from their site, 6-packs via Amazon, or single bottles from Soda Emporium.

Nose: Fresh cherry juice; Juicy Juice Cherry.

Taste: Sweet black cherries; mild tartness. This definitely tastes like real cherries. It has a deep, rich taste to it. Imagine blending fresh cherries into juice, adding some sugar and maybe a little vanilla extract and then drinking it. This tastes like that. Simple, yet refreshing and flavorful. Definitely a sweeter soda, clocking in at 40 grams of sugar per bottle. There’s also just the slightest amount of tartness to this on the backend of each drink embedded in the carbonation. This is a rare instance where you can taste the flavor of the citric acid used. It isn’t syrupy, but does leave a filmy feeling on the teeth on some sips. Overall though, the rich black cherry flavor is wonderful.

Finish: Tart black cherry that fades into sweet cherry juice.

Rating: A really nice take on black cherry soda that tastes refreshing and real. Hank’s could probably stand to dial back the sugar in each bottle by a few grams because the sweetness really piles on top of itself with each continuous drink. It’s kind of like speed dating. It’s great at first, but by the end you’re disoriented, need a nap and crying. Sorry, that last part is just a personal problem. Most black cherry sodas are fairly simple. It’s all about nailing that main flavor, and Hank’s does a nice job in that regard. There’s also a faint tartness to this soda. It helps to balance out the sweetness a little bit. I actually really enjoyed that aspect and wouldn’t mind seeing the mild sour notes turned up ever so slightly. Despite the intensity of its sweetness, the black cherry flavor profile shines bright. Definitely in the upper tier of craft black cherry sodas. Sip this one slowly out by the pool.

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Olde Brookyln: Brighton Beach Black Cherry

History: “Every good brand has its own personality,” says White Rock Beverages President, Larry Bodkin. And if you’re Brooklyn-born, Brooklyn-raised, or hell, ever just been to the borough – you know Brooklyn’s got personality. Olde Brookyln sodas try to capture that personality in every bottle, offering up favorite flavors of the urban coastal areas. In fact, every Olde Brooklyn soda is named after a neighborhood in the borough. There’s eight flavors in total. Coney Island Cream may be the line’s most recognizable flavor, but for our purposes today, we’re sampling Brighton Beach Black Cherry. Brighton Beach is known for its Ukrainian and Russian immigrant influences. Just did a Google search on Ukrainian food and women. In a related story, we’ll be writing to you next week from Brighton Beach. White Rock Beverages is the same company that produces Sioux City sodas. But whereas Sioux City is distributed mainly throughout the heart of America, Olde Brooklyn is popular on the coasts. This is a brand White Rock actually purchased about 10 years ago from some guys, as Bodin puts it, “with a colorful background.” But the recipes are almost all the same. Bodin also notes that the company’s market research indicates about one in every seven people can trace their roots back to Brooklyn. I’m about to let this black cherry soda put its roots in me. Sorry.

Where to get: Olde Brookyln soda is distributed mainly throughout the two coasts and sporadically in the midwest. Here’s a list of common retailers from the company’s website. Hit up Amazon for 12-packs, Soda Emporium for 6-packs , or single bottles from the same source.

Nose: Fresh Bing cherries.

Taste: Sweet black cherry; vanilla. Small frothy cola bubbles permeate the mouth before a flood of classic black cherry coats the taste buds. But you also get a fresh Bing cherry flavor that follows up the traditional black cherry cola taste. Notes of vanilla weave in and out throughout the body of each sip. My only complaint is I’d like to see that vanilla taste more consistently. It’s very refreshing for a black cherry soda. Not overly sweet or syrupy, but crisp and flavorful. This is a two-toned cherry taste bud flavor-fest of classic and farmer’s market freshness. An excellent execution of black cherry is an understatement.

Finish: Cherry juice and mild sugar with a very long and mild vanilla finish.

Rating: This is black cherry soda done extremely well. I want more of this, which should tell you something because I taste a lot of soda. It has a crisp, flavorful classic black cherry taste that isn’t syrupy or too sugary. It’s light and refreshing, a hard trick to pull off for most darker sodas. It’s light ruby red/burgundy color is eye-catching, almost the color of the ring I gave my first wife. Except, unlike that ring, I won’t regret buying this. The taste is similar to IBC black cherry soda, but fresher on the back end. You really do get a natural, Bing cherry taste with some occasional vanilla notes that add a lot of flavor. This is a perfect summer drink you could run through multiple bottles of in one sitting. This ranks right up there with the best black cherry sodas I’ve tried. Olde Booklyn Bighton Beach Black Cherry has the potential to ascend to your regular rotation of sodas. It’s that good. The vanilla notes really make the soda. I only wish they appeared more than occasionally. If the vanilla notes were more anchored to the black cherry taste, this would be a five-star rating. Still, it’s a minor grip for a major success. Olde Brooklyn nails it here. This is a must-try for all soda connoisseurs.