Weekly Wire
Salt Lake City Weekly Liquid Assets

Break the monopoly on refreshment and go for a summer soda-rama.

By Ben Fulton

JUNE 15, 1998:  Liquid rules our lives in a very literal sense. The majority of the earth is covered with it. The human body would die without it. So why not have some fun with it?

Coca-Cola? Sprite? A Big Gulp so big you need a life preserver to crawl out of it? That stuff is strictly for dullards and anyone else who slaves to the beat of mind-numbing routine. Even Snapple is tame given the mind-boggling array of canned and bottled sodas, teas, spritzers, smoothies and juices that wait patiently in the unexplored corners of a grocer's fridge.

Of course, never discount the ability of your local brew pub to turn out an exquisite batch of root beer or ginger ale. You've never lived until you've had a fresh-minted glass of soda from either Red Rock or Hopper's. Upscale slurpers already know about orange- and lemon-flavored San Pellegrano, the Italian soda of choice after a steaming demitasse of espresso. Score sixers of this golden elixir at Tony Caputo's Market and Deli, 308 W. 300 South, or Granato's at 1391 S. 300 West.

Beyond that, the possibilities are endless. New twists on refreshment abound, but where are the brave souls needed to ferret them out? In a fearless quest to bring you the skinny on drinks you've never heard of, City Weekly assembled a panel of three to sample more than 30 of the most exotic beverages we could find. Most of these can be found at your local health-food cornucopia, Wild Oats Community Markets, which has locations at 812 E. 200 South, 4695 S. Holladay Blvd., and 2425 S. 700 East. For the Latin flavors, try Talamahu Market and Bakery located at 1175 S. Glendale (1555 West). And why not help those ailing Asian economies with the purchase of something from Japan or S. Korea? The Oriental Food Market at 667 S. 700 East has as all you need.

Then there's the newest wave in refreshment, led by Hansen's new line of "functional beverages" in varieties hyped as "Energy," "Anti-Ox," "Stamina," and "Destress." The latter will have you melting off the sofa or front porch, laced as it is with soothing herbs and other tasty natural medicinals. Want a buzz? Red Bull, the British soda reported to contain synthetic bull testosterone, is still unavailable for sampling in Utah. Hansen's, however, might beat the Brits at their own game as its line of "functionals" catches on.

A few of these drinks are veritable wet dreams. Some are downright duds. Some were so puzzling they left us undecided, but all steered our taste buds in different directions. Ratings of 1 to 5 move from worst to best. Read on, and stay thirsty.


Arizona Herbal Tea with Honey
Price per ounce: about 8 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Markets.
Comments: Flavorful enough, but tea enthusiasts will complain that the honey is way too predominant. Where is the tea flavor? Nice looking bottle, however. Rate it 3.

Boing! (Mexico)
Price per ounce: about 8 cents.
Where to buy: Talamahu Market and Bakery.
Comments: Like drinking a melted strawberry popsicle, or a melted strawberry Starburst with water added. Strictly for kids, this. Rate it 1.

Cherry China Cola
Price per ounce: about 9 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Market.
Comments: Is it the Szechuan root, the cassia bark, or the Malaysian vanilla? An even, not-to-sweet concoction that deftly unfolds onto the tongue without too much fizz. Bravo. Rate it 4.

Clausthaler Premium non-alcoholic beer (Germany)
Price per ounce: about 12 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Market.
Comments: Beer without alcohol is like sex without an orgasm, right? Not if it's Clausthaler, one of the few near-beers brewed in accordance with Germany's Reinheitsgebot purity laws. Beats the boots off of O'Douls with a hearty hops aftertaste. Perfect for missionary reunions. Rate it 4.

Crushed Citron Juice (S. Korea)
Price per ounce: about 6 cents.
Where to buy: Oriental Food Market at 667 S. 700 East.
Comments: A bit like drinking purŽed grapefruit peel. Flat, but still sweet with a bitter kick. Rate it 3.

Ginseng Citrus Squeeze, Blue Sky Premium with Gingko
Price per ounce: about 5 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Market.
Comments: So light, it's almost airy. Dissolves off the tongue in soft blazes of cloud-like glory, but still retains a lingering presence. Round and bouncy, and with ginko it's unforgettable. Ha! Perfect after a bike ride. Rate it a solid 5.

Ginseng Up, orange flavor
Price per ounce: about 10 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Market.
Comments: Like flat, watered-down orange juice. Extremely drinkable, but not exactly charming. Rate it 3.

Green Tea Drink by Itoen
Price per ounce: about 10 cents.
Where to buy: Oriental Food Market.
Comments: In a word? Horrid. At 10 cents per ounce it's also the worst bargain for your money. Smells like tadpoles died in it, tastes like algae, and looks like a urine sample. This stuff is supposed to be good for you. Don't believe a word of it. Rate it a solid 0.

Guarant Brazilia
Price per ounce: about 7 cents.
Where to buy: Talamahu Market and Bakery.
Comments: 30 million South Americans can't be wrong. If you're sensitive to sweets, this will taste like Juicy Fruit in a cup. Just call it El Shasta. Rate it 4.

Guava Nectar by Jugos Del Valle (Mexico)
Price per ounce: about 5 cents.
Where to buy: Talamahu Market and Bakery.
Comments: The thickerer. Reconstituted guava pulp concentrate. The key word is "pulp." Drink only if your blood is too thin. Rate it 2.

Hansen's Natural Fruit Juice Smoothie, apricot nectar flavor
Price per ounce: about 9 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Market.
Comments: If you can't find Hansen's line of "functionals," go for their Smoothies. This is nectar done right. Rather than bowl you over with sweetness, this works its charm slowly. Rate it 4.

Iron Beer Soft Drink (Cuban recipe from Miami)
Price per ounce: about 5 cents.
Where to buy: Talamahu Market and Bakery.
Comments: A true winner, and the best Latin drink of the whole bunch. Based on a 1917 recipe from Havana, this Miami-produced soft drink harkens back to the old soda fountain days of Ironport. Think of a light cola crossed with root beer and Caribbean spices. Rate it 5.

Jarritos, various flavors (Mexico)
Price per ounce: about 5 cents.
Where to buy: Talamahu Market and Bakery and various Mexican restaurants including La Salsa.
Comments: Strictly for kids who have yet to burn out on sugar and artificial color. It's the drink you always see, but never order, in Mexican restaurants. Stay away. Rate it 1.

Jones Cherry Soda
Price per ounce: about 9 cents.
Where to buy: Your local Chevron gas station.
Comments: As Mick Jagger sang, "My favorite flavor, cherry red." This is a maraschino in a cup, or gourmet kiddie soda. Rate it 4.

Sangaria Jujube Drink (S. Korea)
Price per ounce: about 5 cents.
Where to buy: Oriental Food Market.
Comments: The caramel and brown sugar in this prune drink is hard to miss. Still, a lot better than whatever your grandparents drink. Rate it 3.

Kick Citrus Soda
Price per ounce: about 5 cents.
Where to buy: Talamahu Market and Bakery.
Comments: Every bit as nasty as Mountain Spew, even when watered down. The can contains this warning: "Hardcore beverage inside. Chug with caution." Who are they kidding? Rate it 1.

Knudsen Spritzer, peach flavored
Price per ounce: about 6 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Market.
Comments: This peach is, well, the pits. Heavy fuzz tones almost obliterate any true essence of the fruit. Rate it 1.

Malta de Bavaria, Pony brand (non-alcoholic malt drink from Columbia)
Malta Goya (non-alcoholic beverage from Florida) and
Malta India (non-alcoholic malt beverage from Puerto Rico).
Price per ounce: about 7 cents.
Where to buy: Talamahu Market and Bakery.
Comments: Latin countries are apparently big on these non-alcoholic malt beverages. It's hard to see why. Yeasty, drenched in seltzered molasses and barley, sludge-like in texture, all three are the drink of your worst nightmare. If you like tar in a cup, by all means give 'em a try. The taste hurtles toward the negative zone. Rate it a solid 0, all of them.

Mineral Water Cider (S. Korea)
Price per ounce: about 8 cents.
Where to buy: Oriental Food Market.
Comments: Not wholly offensive. After three journeys into malted hell, this is a treat. Bubbleicious in a bottle. Rate it 2.5.

Mugicha, Calpis Brand (Japan)
Price per ounce: about 10 cents.
Where to buy: Oriental Food Market.
Comments: Smoked tea? Someone left this brew in the barrel too long. A pointless exercise in taste diversion. Bland is, as Bland does. Rate it 1.

Odwalla Quenchers, various flavors
Price per ounce: about 18 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Markets.
Comments: At 18 cents an ounce, these damn well better be good. Indeed they are. The ginger in the "Cranberry Calypso" left a heavenly aftertaste. The more you sip it, the more you like it. A real grower, as are the "Strawberry Lemonade," "Summertime Lime," and Odwalla's lemonade. Not too sweet, not too thick, not too tart. A perfect balancing act. All won solid 5's.

Pine Bud Drink (S. Korea)
Price per ounce: about 12 cents.
Where to buy: Oriental Food Market.
Comments: Not nearly as repulsive as it sounds. What could taste like a car air-freshener instead gave off a fresh-and-sweet, lift-you-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sensation. Neato, pale green color, too. Rate it 3.5.

Purdey's Original Elixir Vitaes (UK)
Price per ounce: about 21 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Markets.
Comments: Sleek, futuristic bottle wins points for presentation. Who could possibly make rare botanical extracts mixed with apple and grape juice taste like carbonated toilet-bowel cleaner? Leave it to the British. Don't fall for it! And it looked so promising. Rate it 1.

Reed's Extra Ginger Brew
Price per ounce: about 9 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Markets.
Comments: The bite. The fire. The strong, clean finish with heady overtones exploding into a nexus of bright flavor. Not for the faint-of-ginger hearted, but for anyone interested in serious refreshment. Reed's Raspberry Ginger Brew, Spiced Apple Brew, and Original are all equally as good. A solid, show-stopping 5.

Shikhye Rice Punch (S. Korea)
Price per ounce: about 10 cents.
Where to buy: Oriental Food Market.
Comments: Oats and haywater for your equine friends. Welcome back to malt hell. A mistake not to be repeated. Rate it 0.

Siberian Sun Ginseng Brew
Price per ounce: about 8 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Markets.
Comments: One of the few ginseng drinks that actually tastes like ginseng. Mellow, pleasant, but generic all the same. Good for anyone with a low tolerance for all things sweet. As one panel member said, "I'd rather have a bottle of this in front of me than a frontal lobotomy." Rate it 3.

Sac Sac Grape Juice (S. Korea)
Price per ounce: about 10 cents.
Where to buy: Oriental Food Market.
Comments: The best Asian drink of the lot. Light taste with real grape bits floating in your cup. A novelty drink without being too novel. Rate it 4.

Sky Shake, Blue Sky brand vanilla maple flavor
Price per ounce: about 15 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Markets.
Comments: Globs of guar gum and rice syrup solids. This looks like baby sick coming out of a can, but the taste isn't too horrid. The label promises a meal-in-a-can. At least you get something—after the agony of drinking it has passed. Rate it 0.

Tazo herbal teas and juices, Brambleberry flavor
Price per ounce: about 12 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Markets.
Comments: Beats the hell out of Snapple, but smells a bit like chlorine. Still, this plays a good refreshment game. Clean, smooth, and thirst-quenching. Rate it 4.

Unpolished Rice Drink (S. Korea)
Price per ounce: about 6 cents.
Where to buy: Oriental Food Market.
Comments: Strictly an Asian thing. Westerners like their barley in a stew, not a thick, hard-to-pour beverage. No wonder it's made with Job's tears. Once we got past the cosmetics though, it did taste like a rather pleasant liquid breakfast cereal. Rate it 2.

Virgil's Special Edition Bavarian Nutmeg Rootbeer
Price per ounce: about 23 cents.
Where to buy: Wild Oats Community Markets.
Comments: At 23 cents per ounce, all this did was remind us how great our local brew pubs do with their own root beer recipes. Great bottle, however. And the nutmeg did add some oomph. Rate it 4.

Yogloo Yogurt Drink, mandarin orange flavor (Japan)
Price per ounce: about 10 cents.
Where to buy: Oriental Food Market.
Comments: File under cream-sicle, with smooth condensed milk overtones. Perfect for any nasty, summertime cold. Just call in to work sick, chill and enjoy. Rate it 4, if you like cream-sicles.


Weekly Wire Suggested Links












Page Back Last Issue Current Issue Next Issue Page Forward

Arts & Leisure: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Cover . News . Film . Music . Arts . Books . Comics

Weekly Wire    © 1995-99 DesertNet, LLC . Salt Lake City Weekly . Info Booth . Powered by Dispatch