High Mountain Huckleberry

High Mountain Huckleberry soda

One of my favorite vacation spots as a kid was Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We only went there a couple of times, but it’s a beautiful area and fun tourist town. Next time I go back I’ll have to visit the Jackson Hole Soda Company. In addition to High Mountain Huckleberry, the company website touts its Buckin’ Root Beer, Snake River Sarsaparilla and South Fork Strawberry Rhubarb.

The best part about the Jackson Hole Soda website is that it suggests soda pairings with particular meals. For instance, High Mountain Huckleberry is “an excellent compliment to light foods like Rocky Mountain Rainbow Trout, and grilled chicken.”

This soda is delightful. I have never knowingly consumed huckleberries nor anything huckleberry flavored, so I can’t decide whether it’s a natural or artificial approximation. But for some reason, drinking this makes me feel nostalgic. Maybe it’s the Jackson Hole connection.

Bottle
Generic, dark, 12-ounce bottle with a glued-on label.

Color
Purple.

Aroma
Sweet subtle berry.

Taste
This soda is a pleasure to drink. It’s a very sweet soda with a floral-berry flavor. It’s not at all tart, nor is it heavily carbonated. I would prefer it with even more bubbles.

Ingredients
Carbonated water, sugar, natural and artificial flavors, citric acid, gum acacia, caramel color, red 40, blue 1, sodium benzoate (preservative).

Stars
3.5/5

Would I buy it again?
Yes.

Bottler
Jackson Hole Soda Company—Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Source
Sweet Spot—Richmond, Virginia

Moxie

Moxie Nerve Food

Moxie was the first bottled carbonated drink in the United States. It dates back to 1884 or 1885—making it at least one year older than the earliest versions of Coca-Cola. First called Moxie Nerve Food, it’s a precursor to today’s energy drinks.

Although Moxie is an historic and storied soda, much loved by Mainers, this was my first time drinking it. Overall, I am glad to have tried it, but the bottling and the bitter taste leave a lot to be desired.

I don’t know this, but it seems like someone licensed the syrup to a bottler that doesn’t care about quality or the Moxie brand. From its generic bottle and cap, to a poorly placed adhesive label, this soda is being treated more as a novelty than the oldest bottled carbonated beverage in the U.S.

Bottle
Generic bottle and cap, 12 ounces.

Color
Dark like cola.

Aroma
Smells kind of like a root beer sucker.

Taste
Describing Moxie is very difficult. My first impression is that it has a medicinal or herbal taste, but not in a bad way—more along the lines of how Coca-Cola or root beer would taste to someone trying them for the first time. It’s sweet, of course, but not too sweet. And then there’s a bitter aftertaste. It

Ingredients
I accidentally tossed the bottle before I typed the list of ingredients. I could use some help if someone has access to a bottle.

Stars
3/5

Would I buy it again?
Yes, one at a time. But I wouldn’t go out of my way looking for it.

Bottler
Again, I could use some help here. I don’t know who is bottling Moxie in glass bottles.

Source
Sweet Spot—Richmond, Virginia

Coca-Cola’s Christmas Throw-Back

 

2011 Coca-Cola Christmas Pack

I haven’t seen these for four years, so I was thrilled to stumble on this glass-bottle Christmas pack at our local Walmart this week. Whether you are a Coke/caffeine drinker or not, you’ve got to love the shape of these bottles. They’re a throw back to the original Hutchinson-style spring-loaded or cork-top bottles used by bottlers in the late 1890s.

2011 Coca-Cola Christmas Glass Bottle

Now, if Coca-Cola would just sweeten the soda in these commemorative bottles with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup it would truly be a Christmas miracle.

Here are some images I’ve collected of Coke bottles through the years.

Nehi Grape

Nehi Grape

When I was out late as a teenager and came home to check in with my parents, mom would usually be asleep and dad would be watching reruns of M*A*S*H on the bedroom television. Although I didn’t watch many episodes, I’m fairly familiar with the main characters and I know that Nehi Grape was Radar’s favorite soda.

Nehi is a classic American brand, whose parent company makes RC Cola and, apparently, a host of other bottled sodas in international markets, including an intriguing premium cola.

Nehi also makes an orange and peach. I have a bottle of the peach on hand that I will review in the coming weeks.

Bottle
Generic, clear, 12-ounce bottle with a purple Nehi cap. Although the label is wonderfully designed, the application is disappointing. The front, rear and top labels all are stickers, not paint.

Color
Purple.

Aroma
Delicious/artificial grape.

Taste
Nehi Grape tastes like the best and most syrupy part of a grape snow cone. Although artificial grape flavor tastes nothing like grapes—which technically are berries—it’s a delicious concoction and my childhood favorite flavor for Kool-Aid and Hawaiian shave ice.

Ingredients
Carbonated water, sugar, artificial flavors, phosphoric acid, citric acid, potassium benzoate (preservative), red 40, blue 1.

Stars
3.5/5

Would I buy it again?
Yes.

Bottler
Royal Crown Company, Inc.—Plano, Texas

Source
Uncorked—Buena Vista, Virginia

Finding Glass-Bottle Soda

Gas stations. Grocery Stores. Business trips. Vacations. Once I started looking intently for glass-bottled sodas, I found myself making extra stops into stores, visiting different gas stations and bringing up soda in conversations with colleagues, family and friends.

Following a recent national advisory council meeting for the university where I work, one of the NAC members sent me a four-pack of Bundaberg Root Beer. I’ll give a proper review in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you need to know that Bundaberg Root Beer has the coolest bottles, including a pull-tab bottle cap. It’s pure joy just to open an ice-cold bottle.

The beautifully bottled and packaged Bundaberg Root Beer.

On a recent business trip to Utah, I started talking soda with some of the editors at a film company that’s working with us. One of them mentioned a place called Pirate O’s and said they had a lot of sodas there. The next day I made a quick trip: they had a walk-in refrigerator that had more varieties of glass-bottled soda than I had ever seen in once place. It was too bad it was on the last day of my trip. I decided that was only enough time to sample three new sodas–reviews forthcoming. The photo below shows only half of the sodas they have there. Because my job takes me to Utah a few times a year, I’ll be sure to stop in to try new sodas on subsequent visits.

Walk-in fridge at Pirate O's in Draper Utah.

Walk-in fridge at Pirate O's in Draper, Utah.

Video: Soda Heaven

Almost exactly two years ago, marketing guru Seth Godin linked to this video about a soda shop owner in Los Angeles. I have watched it at least five times since then and I think about it often. I admire this store owner’s passion and independent spirit. Although his online store leaves a lot to be desired in terms of its design and usability, a trip to his store with aisle after aisle of different varieties of glass-bottled sodas would be somewhat a pilgrimage. I could see myself dropping a few hundred dollars to stock up on sodas and try brands that were new and interesting to me.

If you have any interest in soda or you find yourself in need of some inspiration to find passion in what you do, watch this video.

Sprecher Root Beer

Sprecher Root BeerThis is among my favorite root beers. I had my first bottle of Sprecher Root Beer nine years ago at a friend’s home in Salt Lake City. Her father gave me a nicely chilled bottle and suggested it would be the best root beer I’d ever had. He was right; it was the best I had had to that point. The family, originally from Wisconsin, missed easy access to Sprecher sodas and the kegs of root beer they used to have at family and church activities.

Bottle
Custom bottle, short neck with squat body, one pint.

Color
Dark, like root beer.

Aroma
Sweet with mild spices and a hint of wintergreen and vanilla.

Taste
Sprecher is best served ice-cold. It just doesn’t taste as good when it’s warmer. This root beer goes down smooth, with a sweet and pleasing aftertaste. The honey and vanilla add a nice flavor and balance the artificial flavors.

I would love to see what this root beer tasted like if it were sweetened with sugar instead of glucose syrup—the slightly less sweet cousin of high fructose corn syrup.

Ingredients
Carbonated water, glucose syrup, malto-dextrin, WI raw honey, natural & artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative), phosphoric acid, quillaia/yucca extract, sodium chloride, caramel color, and vanilla.

Stars
4/5

Would I buy it again?
Yes.

Bottler
Sprecher Brewery—Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Source
Uncorked—Buena Vista, Virginia

Pop vs. Soda: International Edition

Irn-Bru

I served a two-year mission for my church in Scotland in the late 90s and heard soft drinks called by three nicknames that were new to me: juice, ginger or fizzy drinks; the preferred word differed by region. The Scots are very hospitable and often offer anyone who enters their homes biscuits (cookies) and a juice, ginger or fizzy drink.

Although I have previously pondered how divided Americans are when it comes to what they call soft drinks, I am fascinated by the many names used in countries around the world.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Brazil – refrigerantes
  • Singapore – gassy drink
  • Belgium (Flemish) – frisdrank
  • Iceland – gosdrykkir
  • Scotland – ginger (pronounced jinja)

See more names from more countries on this Wikipedia page.

Boylan Black Cherry

Boylan's Black Cherry Soda
My wife surprised me at work recently and brought me a four pack of this mouth-watering soda. Although I have had several Boylan sodas before, this was the first time I’d tasted the black cherry.

Bottle
Custom bottle, clear glass, 11.6 ounces.

Color
Deep-dark red.

Aroma
It smells like perfectly ripened cherries.

Taste
This is a great soda, with a unique taste. The bottle says it’s sweet and tart, which is true, but I could go for even more tartness. Note how few ingredients there are; what you’re getting is a nice and natural cherry flavor. The sweetness seems to overpower the other flavors, so the black cherry comes through first as a scent and later as an after taste that leaves you wanting more.

Ingredients
Carbonated water, cane sugar, natural black cherry flavors, citric acid, caramel color, Red 40, Sodium Benzoate.

Stars
3.5/5

Would I buy it again?
Yes.

Bottler
Boylan Bottling Co.—Moonachie, NJ

Source
Uncorked—Buena Vista, Virginia

A Nation Divided

The issue of what to call carbonated soft drinks is more complex than I understood. I had heard that people in Georgia and Texas call all soft drinks Coke, but look at this map; we are a nation divided. I thought our political divisions were bad.

Coke vs. Pop vs. Soda chart

Learn more about regional names for carbonated soft drinks and how this map was created, at popvssoda.com.

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