GROUPON GUIDE TO CHICAGO

Taste-Testing Unfancy Fizzy Drinks, from Green River to Soda Shaq

BY: ANNA SKORCZESKI | 7.29.2013 |

Taste-Testing Unfancy Fizzy Drinks, from Green River to Soda ShaqArtisanal housemade sodas are all the rage at restaurants such as Table, Donkey and Stick and DMK Burger Bar. Catherine De Orio recently profiled the process for making them in her Tasting Trends column on Eater.com. Despite the appeal of these specialty drinks, sometimes—in this summer heat—you muster up a thirst that can only be quenched by a healthy dose of yellow No. 5, blue No. 1, or caramel color.

© Stephanie Bassos, Groupon

With Wine Enthusiast’s tasting guidelines in mind, a few of our writers steeled their sweet teeth and sampled four sodas, a medley of nostalgic and new, that are readily available in Chicago's grocery and corner stores.

Lime Jarritos

Summary: made in Mexico, brand introduced in 1950, made with real sugar and natural flavors that include lime from Colima, purchased at Target at 2656 N. Elston Ave.

Visual Evaluation: Ghostbusters ectoplasm green, Nickelodeon Gak green, crossing-guard vest green, very effervescent, enormous bubbles

Tasting Notes: kick of lime right up front, then you get this syrupy mouthfeel at the end; lime barely discernable through sugar; light, candy notes

Suggested Food Pairings: tacos, ceviche, spicy food, smoky barbecued chicken

Cocktail Uses: a revised gin and tonic with an herbaceous gin to balance the syrupy finish; add tequila for an emergency margarita

Green River

Summary: made in Chicago, brand introduced in 1919 with Prohibition, made with real sugar, purchased at Strack & Van Til at 2627 N. Elston Ave.

© Stephanie Bassos, Groupon

Visual Evaluation: leafy green, almost too green, looks like you could dye an Easter egg, "now that is a color"

Tasting Notes: mild flavors all the way through; seems a little flat, like filling from those wax juice tubes you ate as a kid; basically Sprite; taste is a letdown after seeing the color

Suggested Food Pairings: sushi, grilled cheese, a burger and fries (from the tester who grew up drinking it at Ed Debevic's)

Cocktail Uses: add whiskey for a green 7 and 7 on Saint Patrick's Day or splash into a rum and Coke for a gnarly looking Cuba Libre

Sprecher Cream Soda

Summary: made in Glendale, Wisconsin, brand introduced in 1985, made with raw Wisconsin honey in gas-fired kettles, purchased at Strack & Van Til at 2627 N. Elston Ave.

© Stephanie Bassos, Groupon

Visual Evaluation: the color of America's amber waves of grain; honey-colored; frothy head like a beer; so many bubbles!

Tasting Notes: great vanilla scent, butterscotch, warm taste, lots of complexity, hint of smokiness underneath all the sweetness, toasty like a marshmallow

Suggested Food Pairings: s'mores, french toast, pork with applesauce and sour cream, in an ice-cream float

Cocktail Uses: in a boozy ice-cream float; with RumChata; get some scotch in there and bring the smokiness to the forefront

Orange Soda Shaq

Summary: made by AriZona Beverage Co., brand introduced in 2013, made with all natural ingredients, contains 2% juice, comes in a 23.5-ounce can, purchased at 7-Eleven at 2401 N Milwaukee Ave.

© Stephanie Bassos, Groupon

Visual Evaluation: not the bright orange I was expecting, sort of basketball orange, brackish

Tasting Notes: tastes like Triaminic, chalky, everything that’s decent about it seems like it’s there to cover something up

Suggested Food Pairings: Children's Tylenol, those gummy orange wedges covered in sugar, as a salmon glaze or marinade

Cocktail Uses: medicine-themed drinks for a medical-school bar; a weird old-fashioned; add sparkling wine for a Shaq-mosa; vodka when all else fails

© Stephanie Bassos, Groupon

Photo: © Stephanie Bassos, Groupon

Check out the Guide's other taste tests:

The Definitive Ranking of Girl Scout CookiesThe Worst Halloween Candy

Guide Staff Writer
BY: Anna Skorczeski Guide Staff Writer
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