cranberry

Bec: Cranberry

History: We always appreciate when someone tries something different, so kudos to Bec for making a cranberry soda. I think that needs to be said from the beginning. For those of you unaware with Bec, it’s a soft drink company out of Montreal, Quebec in Canada. They make a pretty dope cola… but cranberry? As a soda… really? Cranberry is the fruit that people only remember exists during November and December. Pretty bold move to make it a permanent flavor. I mean, I keep my Christmas lights up year-round, but I’m not sure all my neighbors appreciate that my front porch looks like it’s on drugs when it’s May. I’m just saying, this needs to be good to be justified twelve months out of the year. Now that said, we did our journalistic soda diligence and asked Bec why they landed on cranberry. Turns out the company had been working on two new, unusual flavors – lime and cranberry – for over a year, according to Bec Associate Gwendal Creurer. She continued explaining the decision by saying “We decided to use cranberry for its amazing taste and its health benefits (diuretic, antioxidant, vitamin). In Quebec, we have the world biggest production of organic cranberries, so it’s a kind of ‘big up’ to our land and it’s great products.” Bec is a brand very focused on organics. Yes, they want their soda to taste good, but they’re also very careful about where their ingredients are sourced. Speaking of ingredients, it wouldn’t be a Canadian soda if there wasn’t maple syrup in this, right? Well, you can sleep easy tonight because Bec Cranberry does indeed contain maple syrup and its inclusion is critical in the recipe. Says Creurer, “It was a long process to deal with the astringency of the fruit and not make it too aggressive; with maple syrup, we found the right balance between acidity and sweetness.” Oh, and for all you health nuts out there, Bec Cranberry contains no chemical ingredients. The sodas’s crimson color is completely natural from the cranberry juice. “It deserves to be known!” is the company’s philosophy behind their new cranberry soda. Five Star Soda is here to answer the call for you, Bec. We’ll see how long we stay on the line.

Buy: Bec sodas are sold throughout a majority of Quebec, Canada and scattered across parts of France. To see if there’s a retailer near you, check out the Bec product locator here. You can also purchase Bec Cranberry from Terroirs in Quebec.

Nose: Like a sweeter version of cranberry Ocean Spray with maybe just a dash of cherry. Fruity and lovely.

Taste: Tart; authentic cranberries; lots of light, but frothy carbonation. This is spot on to what actual cranberries taste like. It’s almost like juicing a real cranberry and then carbonating it. What’s most surprising about this soda and also what makes it taste authentic to the flavor is the tartness. It’s not sour, but it is very tart, something that is a signature of cranberries. There’s also lots of brisk, frothy carbonation that adds to the tartness. This is a rare soda where the tartness and flavor of the fruit stand out more than the taste of the sugar.

Finish: Tangy cranberry sauce that slowly fades. Like having the holidays in your mouth.

Rating: I wasn’t sure what to expect from a cranberry soda and Bec has pleasantly surprised me. It’s about as authentic to the flavor as it can be without being a juice. But make no mistake – this is heavily carbonated and very much a soda. In fact, the carbonation is really my only criticism here. There’s a little too much of it, making an already tart soda at times too tart. Luckily, Bec’s Cranberry soda is so flavorful that this doesn’t present much of an issue. This is really the definition of a craft soda. It nails the flavor. It uses real ingredients like cranberry juice and Canadian maple syrup. And it’s not too sweet, so it should appeal to more of an adult crowd. The biggest takeaway from Bec Cranberry is what it should be: the flavor is excellent. This probably won’t be a soda you drink all the time, but around the holidays it makes for a fantastic beverage. Also a great mixer, if you’re into that sort of thing. And around the holidays, I’m always looking for good mixers to help me tolerate my uncles.

Four Stars

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Spindrift: Cranberry Raspberry

History: Remember when you were young and you’d make mom really mad? Remember that motherly rage? The kind of anger you wouldn’t even unleash on prison inmates? Well, Bill Creelman didn’t have a monster mom. But he did have one who did not care for soda. He hardly ever drank it. Bummer, I know. She was more of a farm-to-table gal. Creelman couldn’t enjoy all the little treasures you and I did. That might be why later in life, for six years, he became addicted to Diet Coke. Then with kids of his own, they took notice. Not so healthy, dad. So in 2010, the dude made his own soda… with a twist. It all started in a little studio-sized office in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Creelman felt the market was stagnant. He wanted to make a soda that was healthy enough to impress his mom and delicious enough to satisfy his kids. That’s why Spindrift soda is all about the ingredients, specifically the fresh-pressed juices in every bottle. The company isn’t afraid to spend more as long as what they put inside the bottle is of a higher quality. “That’s what sets Spindrift apart,” says company brand manager, Caitlin Burke. For example, in each bottle of Cranberry Raspberry, there’s 16 raspberries. Even for people who don’t wear plaid or shop exclusively at Whole Foods, that’s eye-raising. According to Burke, Spindrift tries “to remain faithful to the fruit.” They claim to be the first widely distributed soda to use fresh juice as the second main ingredient behind carbonated water. And listen, if you aren’t a soda manufacturer, you’re probably not aware how difficult it is to bottle soda with fresh juice. It’s essentially a chemistry nightmare. In Creelman’s own words, “It turned out to be a disaster…. I ended up spending 5x what I budgeted.” Sounds like every girl I’ve ever dated. Eventually, they got it right. Today the Boston, Massachusetts-based (they moved) company produces seven flavors of soda, if you include their new ginger beer. Even their name was chosen to evoke thoughts of freshness. Creelman used to work down on the docks and sailboats. That fine, refreshing mist you feel when out on the ocean; it’s called Spindrift. That’s a pretty solid pitch, so we decided to put it in our mouths.

Where to get: Spindrift is most popular around the Boston metro and surrounding area. But it’s also distributed nationally. To find the nearest retail location, use the Spindrift store locator. If you’re out of luck there, you can buy it online via Famous Foods.

Nose: Smells exactly like someone put a bowl of blue raspberry jolly ranchers down in front of your nose and then drizzled some raspberry jam on top. Definitely brings back childhood memories. I’ve got the tingles – we’re off to a good start.

Taste: Raspberry; tart carbonation; mellow cranberry; light sugar. Very light and refreshing. As expected with these two fruits, this is more tart than an average fruit soda, but it’s a mild tartness that doesn’t hinder the flavor profile. It actually adds to the taste. The two fruits really do shine through in the soda. Raspberry is upfront, initially sweet and then quickly retracting into a more reserved form. If you’ve ever blended raspberries for a smoothie and tried them before mixing with the other ingredients, that’s what the raspberry flavor in this is like. In short: fresh. As a whole, this is soda with noticeably less sugar. Looking at the label confirms this at only 16 grams a bottle. Normally, most sodas contain somewhere between 30-45 grams. The cranberry lingers on the back of the tongue after the initial raspberry blast. It’s much more subtle, yet noticeable. Raspberry is the flavor you’ll remember from this soda.

Finish: Ground raspberries with no sugar and a lingering tartness that comes from the cranberries.

Rating: As people become more self-aware of what they put in their bodies, the beverage industry continues to shift… or spin. Ahem, sorry. People want fresh ingredients. They want real ingredients. They want less sugar. But they don’t want to compromise flavor. This is a continuous challenge for bottlers to evolve with the times. Spindrift is at the forefront of this new natural movement when it comes to soda. While many new bottlers are popping up with these same aspirations, Spindrift is already doing it on a national level. I don’t often shop at Whole Foods and I’m not sure if they carry Spindrift, but you gotta think these sodas would be like porn to those people. You can taste the fruit in Spindrift’s Cranberry Raspberry soda. Hell, you can see it if you just shake up the bottle. Cranberry Raspberry is highlighted by a fresh, crushed raspberry base with mild tartness and followed up by cranberry with its own variety of tongue tingles. Some may long for more cranberry flavor and others may not love the amount of acidity in this, but we’re talking about two fairly tart fruits. What’d you expect, ya weirdo? I thought this would be more like a spritzer or a fresh fruit-infused sparkling water, but I was wrong. I’ll break it down. It’s tart, but not sour. Light, but has enough sugar to keep you comfortable with calling it a soda. And natural, but not too pompous. This is perfect for the hot summer months out by the pool and crisp enough to compliment a hefty meal. If you’re into good fruit sodas, you’ll enjoy this. If you’re not into fruit, you won’t, and I also wouldn’t recommend vacationing in the tropics. Raspberry is often used as a secondary flavor in soda. It’s nice to see someone pull it off in a staring role.