Monday, August 1, 2016

Soft Drinks Are My Kryptonite

One of my hobbies is a fitness hobby peopled largely by people who won't shut up about it.  In the interests of not being one of "those people", you won't hear me talk about it very much.  I only mention it now because my weakness - carbonated beverages - plays a key role in my not being very good at that particular fitness hobby.

While perusing one of the many quirky little tourist shops that dot the small towns along the western coast of Michigan, I found a massive collection of boutique micro-brew soft drinks, or "pops" as they are known in the local vernacular.  As a guy who drinks soft drinks the way others drink wine, this represented a golden opportunity to branch out a bit from the usual assortment of alternatives to the major brands that can be found in supermarket chains across the country.  Your IBC Root Beers and Mexican Coca-Colas are better than the usual fare, but just not quite the hipster style that lights up my face.

As a small treat for myself, I lined up four promising candidates and had a little soda tasting event for myself in the hotel parking lot the last night of vacation.  While the kids were invited to the party, they were exhausted from a day of roller coaster rides and turned in early.  That left me sitting in the dark on a concrete parking divider looking like a weird tee-totaling wino complete with glass bottle lineup.  It wasn't the classiest night of my lift, but sometimes you just have to make due.

Spiffy Cola is a nice light cola with a clear, smooth caramel taste.  A little too light in taste, it could use a heavier undertone to its flavor.  It's made with cane sugar instead of the near-ubiquitous corn syrup used in soft drinks these days, but somehow winds up tasting too sweet with the same lack of refreshment one gets from canned major sodas. While Spiffy Cola would make for a great mixer with a clear rum and heavy dose of lime, it doesn't stand well on its own.
As a child of the 70's, cherry cokes were a treat only available to us at drug store counters and church basement wedding receptions.  When Coke announced cherry cola in a can, we thought that the days of waiting for a special occasion for that taste were over.  Then we tried the Cherry Coke in a can and instead experienced our first taste of disappointment in corporatized fulfillment of special occasions.

This brand of cherry cola fills the void left by the Big Three Cola companies.  My favorite of the four selections, this cherry cola is heavy on the cherry syrup and tastes more like a classic grenadine cola from a bartender than any other bottled cherry cola I've ever tried.  It certainly nails that particular flavor better than any of the major bottlers.

Some people love a root beer with bite, but I've always preferred a smooth flavor.  This root beer soda will satisfy some people.  It kicks like a mule, and yet somehow the earthy body of the base is overwhelmed by the too-strong vanilla flavor.  This should taste like an ice-cream float and instead tastes like carbonated dirt vanilla extract.  That taste lingers on and fades to the same sort of clinging bitterness you get after drinking a soda sweetened with stevia - more accurately called Satan's Leaf.

Disgusting.  This one looked like a crap shoot, but how can you pass up a bacon flavored soda?  A regular cola has a smoky flavor to it, so this should be a natural fit.  It's not.  Don't be deceived by your experience with crispy delicious bacon, and the way it makes even a salad taste like an indulgence.  This soda tastes exactly like grinding up bacon and stirring it into a seltzer water.  Too sweet, too salty, too bacony.  Every single dial on this drink needs to be turned down from eleven, because they combine in your mouth, Voltron-like, to form a perfect assault on your tongue that forces your body to react in pure self defense by rejecting this drink harder than it would a replacement liver donated by Winston Churchill.

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