Last month I started my soda reviews with Round 1. I followed a similar process of randomly selecting bottles around the store. For Round 2, I picked Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla, Jackson Hole Snake River Sarsaparilla, Nesbitt's of California Honey Lemonade, Green River, Faygo Rock N' Rye and MacFuddy's Pepper Elixir.
Columbia Soda Works Sarsparilla
I grew up drinking Hey Song Sarsparilla from Taiwan. As such, it has always been the standard marker for me for these types of sodas. As polarizing as root beer typically is, I've often found sarsaparilla to be even more off-putting to those who don't like it. Columbia Soda Works' sarsaparilla was exceedingly bland, tasting like a weak root beer with some little flecks of liquorice. Maybe this was an old bottle, since it also tasted a bit flat, but it was completely underwhelming.
Jackson Hole Soda Snake River Sarsaparilla
Fortunately, the Jackson Hole sarsaparilla made up for Columbia Soda Works' failing. This one was complex and varied in flavor. I got much anise on the tongue. It's merely decent at first but grows on you over time. I found myself wishing I had more the deeper into the bottle I got. Jackson Hole Soda produces a variety of "old West" type sodas that I'd be eager to try.
Nesbitt's of California Honey Lemonade
I picked this honey lemonade to break up the dark sodas I've been drinking thus far, but this raised an interesting question--how is soda defined? At its most basic, a soda is carbonated water with sweetener and flavoring. So this honey lemonade fits that definition, though most people would hesitate to call it a soda. It's really a sparkling lemonade. Funnier yet, it's bottle in Texas, not California, and its main sweetener is sugar, not honey. This bottle of contradictions had little appeal flavorwise. I would've preferred a better quality lemonade; adding carbonation did little to improve it.
Nesbitt's of California was initially out of Los Angeles and was a leading orange soda producer in the 1940s and 1950s. After changing hands several times, the brand landed in the hands of Big Red.
Green River grew out of Prohibition by yet another brewery pivoting to stay in business. It has a vividly bright green color, which makes it more of a nostalgia or St. Patrick's Day prop than an actual drink. The lime flavor is unremarkable, though the flavor was not as artificial as the color might suggest.
Faygo Rock N' Rye
Encouraged by the suggestion of one of my law school friends from Michigan, I tried Faygo's Rock N' Rye flavor. The grape Faygo I had gotten in the last round was awful, but this vanilla cherry cream soda had a spicy tang that kept it interesting. Still a tad on the sweet side, but I'd certainly seek this out in the future as it kept my taste buds engaged. Great for fans of cream sodas. I've also been told that Redpop Faygo is worth checking out.
MacFuddy Pepper Elixir
T'was MacFuddy's Miracle Elixir, that's what did the trick, sir; true, yes, true. I'll admit that the labeling attracted me to this bottle. I was hooked by the "distinctively strong" description and the throwback label design. It reminded me of a potion that snake oil sellers would hock or a video game item that would give a temporary stat boost. It does give 24 hours of luck, after all. The flavor is black cherry but with a strong ginger spicy kick. Think a cross between Dr. Pepper and a potent ginger beer.
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