About Nathan's Soda Guide
From a very young age I have enjoyed food and drink in it's many and varied forms but the form that is most dear to me is definitely the soft drink. Here in the US that is most often a sugary carbonated liquid often called a "soda" (or "pop") and while most of the reviews you will find on this site are about that particular subset I tend to stray far beyond the bounds of what most people would call a "soda".
Exploring the bounds of soft drinks is something I have been doing for most of my adult life. In the late 90's and early 00's I hosted tasting parties where I assembled as many varieties of soda that I could find and finally in 2010 I started to post short reviews to Twitter. I had been intending to eventually set up a website where I could archive and easily reference my reviews some day but in the fall of 2020 after deciding that reading Twitter really wasn't good for me, I finally needed to put this site together.
All of my old Twitter reviews have been collected and posted here. Since quitting Twitter in late 2020 I'm fairly happy that I have managed to post new reviews regularly and I plan to continue to do so as long as I can find new and interesting things to drink. I suspect there will be at least one more fairly major site update eventually.
I also very occasionally post random things to my long-running personal blog.
I am playing around with implementing contact form but if you want to talk soda in the meantime please send email to my name at soda dot guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is your favorite soda?
The answer is never simple primarily because there is so much variety out there and I've tried a few of them. I usually try and narrow the response down to favorites of a particular category or flavor. For example:
- Favorite root beer: 1919
- Favorite cola: Riggs & Forsythe Dry Cola
- Favorite kombucha: Prohibition White Elephant
What is the "weirdest" thing that you have tried?
Another of the most common questions I get asked and another one I have a really hard time answering. I think the reason is that what qualifies for "weird" is often really incredibly different to the person who is asking the question. One of the best sodas that I have ever tried is Empire Bottling Works Spruce Beer and it really tastes very reminiscent of the smell of a North American spruce tree. Do I consider that particularly weird? Not really. Root beers as a category are one of my favorite subset of flavors and that is based on the saps and barks of various plants, including the Red Birch tree, so why would sourcing your flavor from a different tree be any more "weird" than something that is considered a classic American flavor? Additionally conifer flavored beverages have a history stretching back thousands of years, including the modern Greek Retsina, so why would a spruce flavored soda be so strange? Except that nearly anyone I have ever talked to about that soda considers it to be the height of novelty.
I have definitely tried a few drinks that were well outside the white, suburban, upper-middle-class, American, Christian, etc. set of normal experiences and palettes that I was raised with, but that doesn't intrinsically make any of them "weird". They are all just another opportunity to try something different and I personally feel that a breadth of experience is almost always better.
Where do you find all of these drinks?
Around the turn of the century this was a much more common question and had a lot fewer answers. However, since then the relative popularity of regional and small batch soft drinks has really exploded and places that carry them along with it. These days in the Twin Cities metro even at most supermarkets there will be a selection of at least 4 or 5 lesser known brands and several have full sections of shelf space in the "health food" or beverage sections devoted to a wide variety of soft drinks, sodas and otherwise. For example my local convenience store, Tim and Tom's Speedy Mart, tends to stock at least 20 different interesting bottles at any given time.
Here in the Twin Cities we are also fortunate to have two very good specialty retailers that carry hundreds and sometimes thousands of different bottles:
- Blue Sun Soda Shop now has two locations and is probably the best source locally.
- Minnesota's Largest Candy Store is a good second option and offers things other than soda for anyone else who might come along for the trip.
In the late 2010s and early 2020s there has been a fairly well marketed non-alcoholic movement that has provided an opportunity for lots of interesting flavors produced as "Near Beer", "Spirit Replacement", "Functional Beverage", "Mocktail", and any of a number of other appellations. Some are still and some are carbonated, and in the later case often might as well be a "soda" except for the $$ price tag and upscale marketing. It is definitely worth having another look at either the mixers section of your local liquor store, or check to see if they might have added a non-alcoholic section. There are even non-alcoholic bottle shops in some places. In the Twin Cities a trip to one of the Marigold locations in Minneapolis or St Paul can be a fun but potentially expensive afternoon.
I like to visit small specialty markets, especially those that cater to cultures and cuisines that were not part of my upbringing, and often find interesting things to try.
You can also order just about anything on the internet. The only problem being that shipping costs for large volumes of liquids can get fairly prohibitive, especially since the minimum order from most bottlers is 12 cans, 24 bottles, or more. But if that's the only way to try something truly unique, sometimes it can be worth the cost. With recent reviews I have been trying to make note of where I have sourced a particular item with links when available, and the brand pages from the sidebar are being slowly updated with information when I post a review for one of their products.
TLDR - As with any hobby the real trick is to know what you are looking for and actually go looking for it. Sometimes you find things in the strangest places. Just be warned that shipping bottles of liquids from long distances can get very expensive.
Why don't you review any cherry flavored drinks?
Natural cherry is one of my most favorite flavors, but unfortunately it causes me significant digestive disruption even in its more artificial incarnations.
Why don't you review more drinks with artificial sweeteners?
The answer is sometimes similar to my issue with cherries, sometimes an issue of preference, and sometimes an issue of availability. I have always intended to try a few more "diet" sodas. Maybe someday a few more will appear, but it is unlikely that they will ever be anything like a majority. That said the drinks I sample do not have to have any sweetener at all and there are quite a few with little to no sugar that I have rated quite highly over the years.
Are you still posting reviews?
Unfortunately I experienced a health issue in late 2022 that has meant I have greatly cut back on my consumption of both sugar and carbonated beverages. I am finally able to enjoy the occasional fun soft drink again and plan to post a new review at least monthly for the foreseeable future.