Boozy sodas are blowing up. Ever since Not Your Father’s Root Beer bubbled onto the scene last year with its hard version of the classic pop, many others have followed, including a batch of hard frescos that contain real fruit juice and 5 percent alcohol. Here are eight that we tried during a recent tasting panel at the Allrecipes HQ in downtown Seattle. The winner, announced below, just might surprise you.
The details: With 4.2 percent alcohol, this one was among the least boozy of the bunch. Cane sugar and ginger combine for a balance of sweet and spicy, though more than one taster said the sugar dominated. Henry’s also makes a hard orange soda.
The details: This tribute to Mexican sodas that comes in at 5 percent alcohol is brewed with hibiscus, which give it a gorgeous color and a faint floral scent. It provoked strong reactions of a love/hate variety with a few disparaging “it tastes like a wine cooler” or, worse, “cough syrup.” Yet, fans found it “juicy like Kool-Aid, tangy… in a good way” and described it as having a “great flavor.” Also available in cans.
The details: Mexican tamarind fruit and a splash of apple fuel this juice-driven drink. That distinctive fruit grows in pods that look a little like peanut shells, and they have an almost savory flavor. For centuries, tamarind has been used for medicinal purposes, settling stomachs and cooling fevers. Tasters, in fact, said it tasted like cough syrup and gummy candy, while others sang its praises: “Very unique!” “Balanced, juicy.”
The details: A malt beverage that’s made much like beer, Crabbie’s is 4.8 percent alcohol. Tasters found the ginger component lacking. “It doesn’t taste like ginger. It tastes like apples.” Additional flavors include Scottish Raspberry and Spiced Orange.
The details: Brewed with ginger root since 1905, this classic from England is 4 percent alcohol. Tasters loved the spiciness of the ginger, calling out Hollows & Fentimans as “refreshing,” “crisp,” and “very flavorful.” The label design also received high marks, with one taster saying the info-driven packaging reminded them of Dr. Bronners soap. “Upend before pouring for full enjoyment,” one line instructs.
The details: Aged on whole cherries after it’s brewed, this cola has 5.5 percent alcohol. It reminded tasters of Dr. Pepper, and the Southern staple Cheerwine, but three called it out for a similarity to cough syrup. There’s also a Best Damn Root Beer, and Apple Ale.
The details: A craft ale infused with spices, this 5.9 percent root beer is the brainchild of a father-son team from Small Town Brewery in Wauconda, Illinois. There were thumbs up for its root beer flavor, some calling it “scary good.” A couple of tasters dinged it for being “too medicinal.” Not Your Father’s Ginger Ale is also a big seller, and a higher alcohol version of the root beer is due out this summer.
The details: Another malt beverage that’s made using the same process as beer, this “hard” soda hails from the home of the famous amusement park. It’s just one of a long list of beers made by Innovation Brewery. Panelists found it too sweet and “artificial tasting.”
And the Top 3 boozy sodas are… Hollows & Fentimans was the overwhelming favorite with Not Your Father’s Root Beer coming in second and Tangy Tamarindo Hard Frescos placing third. Some might be surprised that an old-timer beat two newbies, but that’s how the voting went down.
More Tasting Panel results: