Oogave: Citrus Paradisi

History: Agave is an edible plant native to mexico. In the food industry, it’s used as an organic sweetening agent. You may know it as an alternative to sugar or honey. The plant’s sap is actually called “honey water.” Most of you probably only know about it because of its association with tequila. Bunch of drunks. Just kidding. Not really. There’s even a soda brand dedicated to it. Here’s the big thing about Oogave Soda: according to the company’s website, it uses certified organic Weber blue agave juice to sweeten its sodas instead of cane sugar. Hence the name. Subtle, I know. What’s not subtle is the process. Agave takes seven years to harvest! That’s like three marriages for some people. Just remember that plant worked hard to end up in your mouth, so you better enjoy it, pal. Oogave is a brand that was purchased by Rocky Mountain Soda Company in Denver, Colorado. The two companies formed a relationship in 2009 when the people at Oogave allowed Rocky Mountain Soda to use their bottling line as the Colorado soda jerks were in the process of rebuilding a 1968 bottling line of their own. At that time, Oogave was one of the only all-natural sodas on the market. Says Rocky Mountain Soda operating partner Moose Koons, “I think they were probably pioneers a little bit too early in the marketplace.” With people still pinching pennies from the recession, Oogave sold off the company and its equipment to Rocky Mountain Soda, allowing that company to quadruple its output. The mission of the Oogave brand remains the same: to be a low-calorie, high-flavor soda using all-natural ingredients. “There’s a great relationship between the natural flavors that we use and the agave flavor,” adds Koons. The Oogave Soda flavors changed variations in the hands of the old owners but have since been amended back to the original recipes and infused with bolder flavors, while the packaging has been rebranded. A perfect example is the soda we review here, Citrus Paradisi. The latter of the two words means “grapefruit” in Latin. Koons notes that with Citrus Paradisi, the company was looking to emulate a flavor profile similar to a bolder, more tart version of Fresca, a citrus soda that hit the height of its popularity in the 90’s. While almost no soda would be considered “healthy” for you, Oogave is about as close as it gets using organic ingredients with low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, and low-glycemic index counts.

Where to get: Oogave Sodas are available at known health food grocery stores like Whole Foods and Natural Grocers. Oogave is not as widely distributed as it once was, but Rocky Mountain Soda is working to get numbers back up. If you can’t find it in a store near you, it’s available to buy online via Rocky Mountain Soda’s website or Soda Emporium (make sure they carry Citrus Paradisi and not Grapefruit as the latter flavor is not the most current.)

Nose: Tart grapefruit; Fresca.

Taste: Tartness; grapefruit; agave syrup. Right off the bat, this is very crisp with a little dry grapefruit. There’s a citrus element to this akin to Fresca that permeates the palate for a few seconds before giving way to a mildly sweet flavor. This is the agave. If you’ve never had agave, it’s similar to honey, but more neutral in flavor. It’s not quite as sweet as honey. Crisp is a good buzzword to use for this. Refreshing and full of dry citrus.

Finish: Mild, tart grapefruit that quickly fades.

Rating: Oogave Citrus Paradisi is a quintessential warm weather soda. It’s light, crisp grapefruit flavors are mildly tart and refreshing. Easy-drinking for a day out at the pool. The grapefruit flavor isn’t overbearing, something that should be welcome news to soda connoisseurs. Grapefruit is a flavor that often gets overdone in soda as if to show off who can produce a more macho citrus flavor. Oogave reigns theirs in with the help of agave syrup that provides a neutral, yet sweet companion flavor. Some may be concerned about using agave as a sweetener in a soda instead of sugar. Don’t be. There’s still enough sweetness in this to be recognizable as a soda instead of some weird sparkling citrus thing. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing the grapefruit turned up. It’s probably a little too mild. Oogave’s previous incantation of this soda was wildly tart, but Citrus Paradisi has been reformulated for a more neutral, dry citrus flavor that presents grapefruit in a palatable fashion. Citrus soda fanatics will drink this up as will lovers of dry sodas. I’d suggest maybe pairing it with vodka, but then again, can’t we say that about everything in life?


Cannonborough BevCo: Grapefruit Elderflower Soda

History: Three young dudes running a soda company… what could go wrong? Who knows, but fortunately for Cannonborough Beverage Company in Charleston, South Carolina, a lot has gone right. And a lot of it has to do with their location. Charleston is a city renowned for its local produce and fruits with a vibrant farmer’s market community. The farm-to-table movement is strong there. There’s a lot of plaid. People drink PBR in the afternoon. Lots of life talks. You get where I’m going? It’s a hipster town. People there are used to what’s authentic. So, with their boyish good looks and background in cocktail mixing, the guys at CannonBevCo set out to make sodas that appealed to a more health-conscious audience. “Sometimes you feel a little guilty drinking soda. We wanted to take the vehicle of soda we loved and elevate it a little bit,” they said. But they wanted to do it right. That background in the bar business has translated to their soda production. They use the same type of equipment used by craft beer brewers to make their soda. The three partners began at farmer’s markets in April 2012. They’ve since found their niche using a bevy of fresh, local options to create high-end, non-pasteurized, fruit sodas. Flavors are often dictated by season, with Honey Basil, Ginger Beer and Grapefruit Elderflower available year-round.

Where to get: Currently, Cannonborough sodas are available in about 50 restaurants throughout the Charlestown, South Carolina area. The company is set to soon nationally debut a 750 ml bottle that is shelf-stable, meaning it doesn’t have to be constantly refrigerated. Until then, the guys are more than happy to take orders directly. Expect shipping to be around $10-15 due to their larger 32 oz. bottle size.

Nose: Grapefruit; lemon; very soft orange; slight vanilla notes.

Taste: BANG, summer just smacked you in the mouth, yo! Extremely crisp, refreshing citrus taste. The tang of the grapefruit is immediate and then softens out with just a hint of sweetness and a mild floral note you get from the elderflower. I’m even getting a little bit of candied ginger, which is interesting because there’s no ginger in this soda. Most importantly, this tastes real. Cannonborough’s emphasis on sourcing local, fresh ingredients is evident. No syrupy, mouth-coating feeling with this soda. It has a little bit of a San Pellegrino thing going on, but its carbonation makes it more drinkable and its ingredients give it more flavor. This could be your Mountain Dew, hipsters! Those who don’t enjoy grapefruit obviously should avoid this. The grapefruit is very prominent, but never overbearing. I’d have liked to get just a little bit more sweetness in this to cut some of the tang of the grapefruit. But its drinkability is undeniable. This is pool party soda.

Finish: We kept drinking this over and over because we weren’t sure how this was happening, but there’s a very soft, floral candied cherry finish that comes from the elderflower. It’s extremely pleasant after the citrus zing. Best part of the soda.

Rating: It’s refreshing; it’s different; and most of all, it’s good. Hipsters, keep your pants on and put down your PBR. This is for you. Normal people, this is also for you. The bite of the grapefruit can be a bit much at times, but the elderflower aftertaste does a nice job at mellowing that out. Not many people make sodas the way these guys do. Everyone talks about being “all-natural” and using “real ingredients.” These dudes actually do it and the proof is in your mouth. If you’re willing to fork over a little bit more money than you’d normally pay for a soda, give the guys at CannonBevCo a call. You’ll be glad you did. And for you grown-ups: When mixed with an aged bourbon, this becomes the most dangerous mouthgasm-inducing cocktail you’ve had in a long time.