rocky mountain soda

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?

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Rocky Mountain Soda: Colorado Cola

History: The guys at Rocky Mountain Soda are about as chill as you can get. They work in Denver. They have a skateboarding culture influence. And one of the principle operating partners goes by “Moose.” But for as laid back as they seem, Rocky Mountain Soda is serious about what goes in that bottle. Like many in the craft soda game, their background is in fine spirits. They also operate Peach Tree Distillers. Moose says their goal was to make an “all natural soda with good ingredients. It’s just a bunch of guys who were stupid enough to start a soda company because we love it.” In 2007, they started making their sodas a little differently – with local beet sugar as opposed to cane. However, due to GMO and chemical concerns with the beet sugar, the company has since switched to using evaporated cane sugar in their sodas. They do not use sodium benzoate. “We wanted ingredients we could pronounce.” The company produces a variety of flavors from Colorado Cola to Palisade Peaches and Cream. It’s still a small operation, employing only five people. They keep a good sense of humor about it; “Pepsi spills more soda in a day than we’ll make in a year.”

Where to get: Your best bet is to contact the company directly online. It’s also available in many RocketFizz retailers.

Nose: Vanilla; cherry; faint cinnamon.

Taste: Smooth; light vanilla; creamy nuttiness; faint cherries and cinnamon. One of Rocky Mountain Soda’s starting points for their cola was an old classic: R.C. Cola. If you’ve never had it, R.C. Cola is an older-style cola that’s very soft on the palate. Rocky Mountain Soda took that concept and used it as a blueprint here. On the first sip, you’re greeted with a pleasant soft vanilla taste with subtle cherry nuances. If you weren’t looking for it, you might miss it. It’s very creamy for a cola, but not quite foamy like a cream soda. The smoothness is what’s most striking. There’s no bite or sharpness to this; very drinkable. Once you get past the initial vanilla-cherry taste, there’s a distinctive nutty flavor that still leans towards the vanilla side of things.

Finish: Light cherry cola; cinnamon. The nuttiness you get in the body of this soda likely comes from Kola Nut, and once that fades, you’re left with a nice, soft cherry flavor. Not cherry as in Cherry Coke that punches you in the face like that dude in middle school did, but a lovely, vanilla cherry that you could watch Netflix with all night. A very faint cinnamon flavor also darts about until you take your next sip.

Rating: This is cola done well. It’s simple and drinkable enough for the casual soda fan or child, but has enough nuances to make it intriguing for the craft soda connoisseur. If you gave me one word to describe this soda, it would be “pleasant.” It’s incredibly pleasant. You see my typing away on my laptop up there? That’s stressful businessman work. The Colorado Cola kept it real pleasant for me that night. Back to the flavors. The vanilla nuttiness combined with the subtle cherry and cinnamon notes really make this soda stand apart from other colas. Its smoothness lends itself to be guzzled quickly. Don’t. Please don’t. Enjoy it. And adults: maybe even throw some Whiskey in there if it’s a successful Friday night… or a rough Monday. Pro tip: this soda’s flavor profile is dramatically affected by ice. I strongly suggest you drink it chilled from the bottle. Now, up your cola game. Go find this. Go buy it.