lemonade

Fentimans: Rose Lemonade

History: You can thank Indian food for this review… but we’ll come back to that. Fentimans does things the old fashioned way, in part because their company is, well, old. The British-based beverage producer actually brews their sodas like you would a beer, using fermented ginger root. They’re famous for the use of herbs and spices in their drinks, hence the term “botanically brewed” on every label. It was 1905 when an iron puddler in Clarkheaton, England by the name of Thomas Fentiman inherited a recipe for a botanically brewed ginger beer as collateral for a loan. That loan was never repaid, so Fentiman became the owner. To this day ginger beer is still the company’s leading seller, according to Fentimans North American Sales and Marketing Coordinator, Karyssa Veltri. Right behind it? Rose Lemonade, a carbonated take on the category with a color so pretty we almost considered not drinking it. Almost. Now, back to the Indian food thing. Veltri tells us rose lemonade “was inspired by our owner enjoying a dish at his favorite Indian restaurant which used rose petals” and that “the idea started with the aroma and moved on from there.” It’s the details behind the recipe that really make this soda (we’ve calling it soda because it’s carbonated just like all their other sodas). “We use only the finest Bulgarian rose oil from the world famous Rose Valley in Kazanlak. This source has been chosen specifically for the multi-layered aroma and natural taste of the oil,” says Veltri. For those of you unfamiliar with the Bulgarian Rose Valley, it looks like the place where all the Victoria’s Secret models are probably born. But it’s not just rose oil that gives Fentimans Rose Lemonade its signature flavor. You’ll also taste fermented ginger (as with all of the brand’s sodas) as well as “real lemon juice to deliver sharpness.” And it all comes in the Fentimans’ signature 9.3 oz bottle, known for the short, stubby body and long, skinny neck. Rose lemonade contains real sugar, is vegan-friendly, and uses no preservatives. Veltri notes that all Fentimans’ sodas “are pasteurized to give them a long shelf life” as opposed to using chemicals or preservatives. She also mentions that it’s a popular mixer with vodka and gin. Between the eye-catching pink hue and the extravagant use of Bulgarian rose oil in the recipe, I’m more than sold on wanting to find out just how beautiful rose lemonade tastes. My only hope is that this rose doesn’t have its thorns.

Buy: MyBrands Online Store • JetWalmart • Amazon • World Market (single bottles). You can also find your local retailer by checking here.

Nose: Floral, rose water, rose oils, mild citrus. Pleasant.

Taste: Tart, floral, lemon, rose petals, rose oils. One of the first elements you’ll notice is the tartness and how upfront it is in the soda. This is very tart, almost bitter. Those flavors are wrapped inside a blanket of floral notes. Light and fruity, you’ll taste mostly sweet rose water and rose oils that mix with the citrus to form a more balanced drink near the back end of its development in the mouth. This packs a tart citrus bang on the arrival that gets toned down once the rose oil notes blend with the lemon. Fentimans Rose Lemonade is tart, bright, and memorable. Slightly sweet and fairly acidic.

Finish: Mild rose petals with frothy, but tact carbonation punctuated by fleeting notes of lemon citrus that linger briefly before fading.

Rating: Fentimans knows how to make soda and their rose lemonade is no exception. While we don’t normally think of lemonade as soda, this is a carbonated lemonade made in small batches with real sugar and authentic ingredients. If it’s not craft soda, then the experts have been fooled. What surprised us most about Fentimans Rose Lemonade is just how astringent and acidic it is in the mouth. You’re greeted by a tartness that quickly becomes the soda’s signature. You’ll also taste sweet floral notes and rose oils throughout the body of the drink, but tart lemon citrus anchors the overall flavor. It’s a little jarring at first, but your palate should adjust. Perhaps this was done to counter the foreign flavor of rose oil. We mostly think of roses as flowers instead of tasting notes, unless you’re my dogs, in which case, you are very familiar with the taste of roses and all flowers for that matter. Anyway, when most of us encounter a flavor we aren’t used to, our brains process it as overpowering. The bold tartness in rose lemonade takes your mind off the floral notes for just long enough so that your taste buds can adjust as the two flavors eventually meld together. I’m not a flavor scientist and I don’t work for Fentimans, but I’m guessing my reasoning is almost spot-on. Or maybe not. Regardless, the sweet notes of rose oil and bold citrus flavors dance together in a way that leaves a lasting impression. This is a soda you won’t soon forget. It may not be an everyday beverage, but its presence should raise eyebrows at any get-together.

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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.

Glam Cola

History: Nermin Çelik wanted to invent a soda that existed, in her own words, “in this realm between weirdness and brilliance.” Çelik and her family live in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, Germany, a flashy area that inspired the name “Glam Cola.” It’s a clear cola that might remind a few readers of Crystal Pepsi. But Glam Cola is designed to taste “fresh and more elegant than common cola,” says Çelik. You can’t have a soda called “Glam Cola” and not explain the name first. But the inspiration behind the soda’s creation came from Çelik’s children. She notes “I saw them drinking it in alarming quantities and the huge amount of sugar worried me.” Newsflash: it isn’t just America where soda has a bad reputation. Unable to find a replacement that satisfied her motherly standards, Çelik decided to make one herself and by March 2013, Glam Cola hit the market. Looking at the label, Glam Cola is an interesting mish-mash of flavors: cola, lemonade and ginger. It’s also devoid of phosphoric acid and contains a large amount of caffeine at around 53 mg in a 12 oz. bottle. This is very similar to Mountain Dew. So, low sugar and lots of caffeine. Yeah, definitely sounds like a soda for kids. Glam Cola is not made with cane sugar and instead uses fructose (not high-fructose corn syrup… there is a difference). Another big marketing point for the soda is that it’s vegan-friendly. Çelik adds “Glam Cola is not only vegan but also halal and kosher.” I think this also makes it the most politically correct soda on earth. Çelik is currently at work on new flavors, including rose and lavender. No word on how glamorous those flavors will be, but we’re about to get pretty with the original.

Where to get: For a list of where to purchase Glam Cola, check out the store’s online locator. The brand is in the midst of expanding sales to Eastern Europe, Russia, and China. At the time of this review, Glam Cola is not sold online. If you are outside of Germany, your best bet is to contact the company.

Nose: Traditional cola; mild lemon; light cinnamon.

Taste: Bitterness; cinnamon; lemon. This is quite bitter for a cola. It has a very nontraditional taste. Surprising considering it smelled quite a bit like cola with notes of lemon. And there is definitely some lemon in this that you can taste, but there’s also ginger and I don’t quite taste that element considering how powerful ginger typically is in soda. Some of that bitterness may come from the ginger and lemon, but I think what you’re primarily tasting here is actually the caffeine. We all know caffeine can make you hyper, but most of us don’t know what it tastes like. Raw caffeine is very bitter. It really comes through in the flavor profile here. There’s no cinnamon in this, but the combination of the cola and bitterness create a flavor that’s very similar. Overall, this is nothing like an American cola. It isn’t particularly sweet and is noticeably bitter.

Finish: Bitter cinnamon with mild, traditional cola notes.

Rating: Glam Cola is a clear cola that tastes way outside the normal realm of what’s expected from this particular category of soda. The label of “cola” evokes a certain expectation of flavor and this is nothing like anything to which you’re accustomed. Sodas outside of America are often less sweet and more bitter. This certainly fits that bill. We were told the primary elements in this are cola, lemon and ginger. You definitely taste traditional lemon and cola influences, though they’re both subtle. What isn’t as subtle is the bitterness. It’s harsh. The combination of ingredients creates a cinnamon flavor that when mixed with the lemon and cola notes, just enhances the soda’s overall bitterness. Americans are likely to be turned off by the lack of sugar. I mean, look at how many of us have diabetes. The flavors just didn’t work for us. It’s as simple as that. Glam Cola has a fancy name and a foreign flavor that doesn’t beg for a second date. She’s the beautiful German vixen you found at the club in stilettos and a sequin dress, but just doesn’t have much personality. Now, any fans of bitter sodas out there should give this a shot the next time your travels take you to Deutschland. As for the rest of you, looking will tide you over. Glam Cola is beautiful to gaze at, but its flavor isn’t so glamorous.