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Soda Selector: April 2021

Welcome to the first edition of Soda Selector. In the words of a former president, I’ve been “drinking that garbage” since my childhood. Since I don’t have much of a taste for coffee or most alcoholic beverages, soda is still my go-to beverage for a caffeine fix or a not-so-hard-earned treat. Back in 2019, my roommate Kirby and I started our own soda review podcast, Sippin’ On Some Soda, and since the show is on an indefinite hiatus, I figured I would continue my soda journey solo for now in this new column. Each month I’ll be trying three sodas that are new to me and letting you know if they’re worth a sip or not.

Fentimans Victorian Lemonade
“Ice, lemonade, my neck was drippin’.” -Don Toliver, 2020.

Fentimans is an English company established in 1905, best known for its ginger beer and Curiosity Cola. We tried Curiosity Cola for the first time on episode six of the soda podcast and were intrigued by its unique and relatively bitter taste. Also “botanically brewed,” Fentimans Victorian Lemonade is another beverage with an interesting list of ingredients that us half-wit American lemonade drinkers may not expect: fermented ginger root extract, beet sugar, and herbal infusions (speedwell, juniper berry) among others. It’s also 19% juice, putting mainstream beverage company lemonades to shame.

To add to the olde style sensibilities of this drink, you can observe a layer of pulpy material at the bottom of the bottle before you “upend before pouring” as the label directs. The drink has a pungent aroma, as any lemonade should, and you can certainly taste the lemon juice in the high end of it and the pear juice in the low end. Also, key to a bottled or canned lemonade, Fentimans Victorian Lemonade perfectly balances the amounts of carbonation and acidity present. It would’ve been too easy to make it too tart and blame the layman drinking it for lacking a sophisticated palette. It’s not as distinct as Curiosity Cola is, but make no mistake, it is several steps above the mass-produced sugar water you’re used to. Sampling this in the February arctic blast that crippled the American Midwest made me nostalgic for the 80 degree days on which my parents would ask me to mow the lawn.

Bonus points: there is a cute pooch on the label and the old British man on the Fentimans website History section is getting off a real fit. Shoutout to the fine people at KC Soda Co. for carrying this one.

Mountain Dew Frost Bite
According to the Mountain Dew Fandom wiki page (where I intend on spending more time in the coming months), Frost Bite is a “cool melon” flavor with a “cobalt blue” color. Originally available only at Walmart, I grabbed a bottle from Midtown Market as I took a miserable little mid-blizzard walk to retrieve some toiletries and snacks. On the label, there is a very pissed looking shark breaching out of the water. The drink has the distinct Mountain Dew base flavor (I’m kind of impressed by how consistent it is among all the variants they manufacture) with added melon flavor and a light, sort of tangy aftertaste. If I can recall them correctly (it’s been a moment since I drank either), it’s not too far off from White Out or Voltage, perhaps somewhere in between. It’s also no less sugary or caffeinated than any other Dew, so its utilitarian element remains. Overall, it’s not the best or worst Mountain Dew variant I’ve tried and should serve as a fun pick for Dew fans looking to mix up their rotation a bit.

Cock Cola
I grabbed this one on that same trip to Midtown Market. Why did I choose this one? I’ll let you decide. Bottled in Nevada and distributed by Rocket Fizz, Cock Cola has a big old rooster on its label. The label also reads “made in the USA with pure cane sugar,” two more wins as far as I’m concerned. Below the rooster is a claim that the beverage has a “strong cola taste” and I will not deny that. It has more of an acidic kick to it than most name brand colas and despite not being too dynamic, that kick makes it more fun to drink than many off-brand colas. I think I was a bit foolish to expect much from a novelty beverage such as this, but if novelty sodas are of interest to you, this one’s definitely worth a try. No bull.


[This article first appeared in Issue 1 of Shuttlecock's free monthly print edition. Click here to read more about the issue and find your copy.]  

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