Origin: Bedford, New Hampshire
One of the nation's first mass-produced soft drinks, Moxie remains a regional favorite in New England and Pennsylvania even now that it's been bought by Coca-Cola. The drink, whose advertising helped popularize the term "moxie" to mean courage or grit, is reportedly less sweet than other sodas and slightly bitter due to the inclusion of gentian root extract as flavoring.
Origin: Waco, Texas
First bottled in 1937, Big Red is a bright-red cream soda whose flavor is most commonly compared to bubble gum, though it's actually sourced from citrus oils blended with vanilla, a standard for cream soda. A favorite throughout the South and fixture of Juneteenth celebrations, Big Red is today distributed by Dr. Pepper, meaning more Americans can now find it in states other than Texas, Kentucky, and southern Indiana.
Origin: Salisbury, North Carolina
Founded in 1917 and passed down through five generations, Cheerwine is purported to be the "oldest continuing soft drink company still run by the same family." Their flagship beverage is a red-tinged, black cherry-flavored soda that's so popular in its home state that it's inspired a line of ice cream for local grocery stores and a limited-edition Krispy Kreme donut flavor.
WAIALUA SODA WORKS' LILIKOI
Origin: Waialua, Hawaii
Though only founded in 2003, this soda company employs century-old local bottling traditions and timeless Hawaiian flavors like white cane sugar and Kauaian honey to make their lightly carbonated beverages stand out. Available in the continental U.S. through retailers on the West Coast and in Maryland and Virginia, mango, pineapple, and lilikoi (passion fruit) comprise their most uniquely tropical flavors.
Origin: Breese, Illinois
Excel is an old-fashioned soda company in that they still run a returnable bottling line in the Midwest where they're headquartered and they also sweeten their drinks with only cane sugar. One of their most unique and popular sodas is Blueberry Breese, made with real blueberry extracts and subtler citrus flavorings.
Origin: Richland Center, Wisconsin
Distributed by Tennessee's Double Cola Co., Ski is a soft drink beloved in the Midwest and Southeast, perfect for outdoor activities and summer lounging thanks to the inclusion of real orange and lemon juice, in contrast to artificially flavored citrus sodas. Ski and its cherry-flavored variant Ski InfraRED can also be found at select locations in Utah and Alaska.
Marketed as "the original ginger soda," this soft drink, initially brewed in 1886 by a Detroit drugstore owner, might not have been the first ginger ale sold in stores, but it's certainly the oldest surviving variety. It's more robust and gingery than newer brews and remains especially popular in Michigan. The late Aretha Franklin recommended using it as a glaze for Christmas ham.
When Faygo was originally founded in 1922 by two Russian immigrant bakers, brothers Ben and Perry Feigenson, they produced only three flavors to match their cake frostings; grape, strawberry, and fruit punch. Today, the Detroit-based bottler has more than 40 distinct flavors like Cotton Candy, Peach, Rock N' Rye, and Jazzin' Blues Berry, which are distributed to retailers throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Central Southern states.
NuGrape was first invented in 1906 and first bottled for commercial sales in 1922. It's since been acquired by several larger soda companies including Big Red and Moxie, but the original recipe — made with real sugar but artificial grape flavor — is still as dependable as ever, found in candy stores and independent grocers in the Southeast.
Origin: Johnson City, Tennessee
Launched in 1949, Dr. Enuf was intended as a healthier, vitamin-fortified alternative to other sugary soft drinks and first marketed as an "energy booster." They still contain almost a day's serving of B vitamins, while their herbal and diet herbal variations add ginseng and guarana to the mix. It's hard to find outside of Northeast Tennessee and the surrounding regions, except at locations of the chain restaurant Cracker Barrel.
BUFFALO ROCK GINGER ALE
Origin: Birmingham, Alabama
Invented in 1901, the revelation of Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale was in adding carbonation to a tonic formulated by a Selma, Alabama-based pharmacist to soothe upset stomachs. The bubbly fizz combined with the notably strong ginger and spice content to create a refreshing summer beverage. Its popularity only grew during Prohibition when it became a popular mixer with bootleg liquor, which is why the Pepsi-owned bottler still advertises several cocktail recipes on its site.
Origin: Bainbridge Island, Washington
This craft brewer of root beer and ginger ales was founded in 1990 to create a non-alcoholic alternative for Puget Sound-area Oktoberfest celebrations, then sold to a Portland-based brewer in 1992. Today their line incorporates distinctly Northwestern flavors like Ginger Peach, Black Cherry, and Oregon Marionberry, which are sweetened with local honey and/or cane sugar.
FILBERT'S OLD TIME ROOT BEER
Originally a family-owned service delivering ice and milk via horse-drawn wagon, Filbert's added root beer to its roster in 1926, when the beverage's popularity skyrocketed due to Prohibition. Along with 28 other flavors, their draft-style root beer is still brewed by a member of the Filbert family in the same neighborhood and is commonly found at restaurants and independent markets throughout the Chicagoland area.
Origin: Abita Springs, Louisiana
You might know Abita for their popular craft beers, but the New Orleans-area brewer also dabbles in the non-alcoholic sphere with their root beer, which is unique among competitors for using real Louisiana sugarcane rather than high-fructose corn syrup. Also made using spring water, yucca, and sassafras, Abita's root beer can be commonly found throughout Louisiana as well as at Disneyworld's Port Orleans resort.
MAINE ROOT SODAS
Origin: Portland, Maine
This fair-trade-certified soda producer sets itself apart by using as sweetener only organic sugarcane from Brazil, where they invest part of their profits to support local schools and hospitals. Despite the name, their sharply carbonated sodas like their flagship root beer, blueberry, and pumpkin pie ale can now be found in 7,500 locations or purchased through their online store.
GOOSE ISLAND VANILLA CREAM SODA
Now owned by brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, Goose Island has what some call the biggest success stories of the craft brewing industry, but their offerings aren't limited to just beer. Beginning in their original Lincoln Park brewpub, they've also established a line of cane-sugar-sweetened sodas in flavors like vanilla cream, spicy ginger, and concord grape that are distributed nationwide but most ubiquitous and popular in the Midwest.
SQUAMSCOT BIRCH BEER
Origin: New Fields, New Hampshire
Founded in 1863, Squamscot now stands as New Hampshire's last remaining independent soda bottler, and they represent the state's natural resources well with distinct soft drink flavors such as birch beer, maple cream, and the seasonal favorite mistletoe mist. You can order them online through specialty soda retailers — otherwise, good luck finding them outside northern New England.
Origin: Oak Creek, Wisconsin
One of many craft sodas owned by the WIT Beverage Co., Caruso's Legacy is a line of Italian-style sodas originating from Wisconsin, with attractive bottle designs that truly seem to elevate the soft drink's prestige. Their best may be the dark cream soda, which supplements the standard vanilla cream with a rich caramelized flavor.
KUTZTOWN BIRCH BEER
Origin: Kutztown, Pennsylvania
One of the oldest continually operating businesses in its town, Kutztown Bottling began in 1851 brewing beer and soft drinks alike from natural spring water. Soda became the primary focus during Prohibition, and the two halves of the company split in 2002, with the new Kutztown Soda Works distributing their soft drinks like red cream soda and birch beer to small retailers mostly throughout the Eastern Seaboard and Appalachian states.
JIC JAC RASPBERRY SODA
Origin: St. Louis
This vintage soda brand originating from St. Louis in the '50s is today bottled by the Orca Beverage Soda Co. in Mukilteo, Washington, meaning it can be found in the Northwest as well as at specialty soda retailers across the country. Jic Jac's most notable flavor is their neon blue raspberry, which gets points for using real raspberry extracts and cane sugar as sweetener.
JACKSON HOLE HUCKLEBERRY SODA
Origin: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
This soda company creates caffeine-free flavors that reflect the evocative scenery and Old West mythos of its Yellowstone-adjacent hometown, like Buckin' Rootbeer, South Fork Strawberry Rhubarb and Snake River Sarsaparilla. Their huckleberry soda is another favorite among customers, approximating the flavor of the tart mountain berries commonly favored by foraging bears.
RUMMY GRAPEFRUIT SODA
Another vintage brand kept in circulation by Chicago's Excel Bottling, Rummy is a grapefruit soda made with pure cane sugar that was originally intended as a sour cocktail mix. Today, it remains popular among soda enthusiasts and well-reviewed in flavor roundups for its smoothness belying the bitterness of its main fruit flavoring.
ALE-8-ONE GINGER SODA
Origin: Winchester, Kentucky
Ale-8-One started bottling and distributing fruit-flavored sodas in 1902 in longneck refillable bottles, which customers could "return for deposit," exemplifying the close, reciprocal relationship the company still has with its (mostly local) customers. Their flagship flavor uses real ginger, citrus, and light carbonation and now comes in a variety of sizes and packaging, available through their online store or at select retailers in northern Kentucky.
Origin: Salt Lake City
Apple Beer brings the German tradition of non-alcoholic fassbrause, or "keg soda," to the Western and Rocky Mountain states with delicious results. The tasty marriage of carbonated soda and apple cider frequently ranks as one of the best beverages in Utah and has been produced naturally with cane sugar as sweetener since 2006.
ZUBERFIZZ COCO FIZZ
Origin: Durango, Colorado
Founded in 2002, Durango Soda Co. aims to reinstate old soda brewing techniques that valued natural ingredients like cane sugar and dispensed fountain sodas on tap. Beginning with mom-and-pop restaurants around Colorado, they've expanded to make their line of classic and unconventional flavors like Coco Fizz (chocolate cream) and Key Lime available through select grocers nationwide.
COCK'N BULL GINGER BEER
Origin: Los Angeles
For a truly authentic Moscow Mule, Cock 'n Bull's distinctly sharp ginger beer is the only way to go, as the famous cocktail was invented by the Cock'n Bull restaurant's founder in collaboration with the then-owner of Smirnoff vodka. In the decades since, the company's broadened their portfolio with diet, cherry, and "bitter" lemon and orange flavors, all equally well-suited for mixing with alcohol or sipping on their own.
HOSMER MOUNTAIN SARSAPARILLA
Origin: Willimantic, Connecticut
Founded before World War I and passed down through multiple owning families, Hosmer Mountain Soda gradually expanded their product line to include an energy drink and non-carbonated lemonade, but their best offerings remain the old-fashioned flavors like Birch Beer and Sarsaparilla. They have two retail locations in Connecticut.
SEABOLD GINGER BEER
Origin: Los Angeles
Created by brothers Jon and Pat Mathisen and inspired by the flavors they encountered while traveling through India and Southeast Asia, Seabold Ginger Beer incorporates non-GMO, organic ginger, lemons, cane sugar and spices for their bold yet balanced brews. Beyond the flagship ginger beer, the brothers also produce a turmeric and black pepper version, as well as concentrated cordial of each flavor that makes for a great addition to cocktails. Seabold is currently available throughout the Greater Los Angeles area at shops and farmers markets, but may be sailing further afield in the future.
DR. BROWN'S CEL-RAY
Origin: New York
Dr. Brown's is a brand of kosher sodas commonly found in New York and South Florida (where New Yorkers retire), as well as at Jewish delicatessens across the nation. Cel-Ray is undoubtedly their most memorable variety—the celery-flavored soda is made with real celery seed extract, said to lend a pungent flavor similar to but slightly more peppery than ginger ale.
BEEFDRINKER TERIYAKI BEEF JERKY SODA
Origin: Gardena, California
This savory soda comes to us from Real Soda in Real Bottles, one of the nation's most substantial purveyors of glass-bottled soft drinks, based in Southern California with select distributors in other Western states. Beefdrinker is a teriyaki jerky-flavored soda that smells like soy sauce upon opening and tastes much the same, albeit with the natural sweetness of cane sugar and a long peppery aftertaste.
LENINADE SOVIET STYLE SODA
Origin: Gardena, California
Here's another beverage from Real Soda that's just weird enough to make one curious for a taste. Leninade is a communist-themed soft drink in bright red whose packaging is littered with mock-propaganda slogans and other in-jokes to entertain Soviet history buffs long after they've finished the beverage itself, said to taste rather like pink lemonade.
VIGNETTE WINE COUNTRY SODA
Origin: Berkeley, California
If you don't drink but still want to enjoy the in-depth discussions of grape varietals and tasting notes, Vignette is the soda for you. They raise their sodas' sophistication level several notches by sweetening their beverages with only the juice of California wine grapes, yielding flavors like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Rose.
Founded in 1924, this Chicago brand has become harder to find on retail shelves since being acquired by several larger bottling companies, but still produces signature flavors like diet chocolate fudge and Canfield's 50/50, for distribution primarily within the Midwest. The latter is a soft drink split between lime and grapefruit flavorings, lending itself to amaretto sours and other cocktails.
POP SHOPPE LIME RICKEY
Origin: London, Ontario (Canada)
Founded in 1969, the Pop Shoppe was a Canadian pop company that sold soda exclusively through its own retail locations, adding distributors in the American Midwest and Portland, Oregon-area. After going under in 1983, the brand was revived in 2004 along with many of its most nostalgic flavors, like this non-alcoholic spin on a Rickey cocktail. The brand can now be found in specialty stores across the U.S. and Canada.
With cans marked by a googly eyed smiley face, Goombay Punch is the Bahamas' "happy soda," a sugary refreshment ideal for the tropical weather with its bright yellow complexion and profile of lemon and pineapple flavor. It's ubiquitous throughout the island nation and found more rarely at stateside liquor stores and importers.
Brazilians love their native rainforest fruit guarana, and Guarana Antarctica harnesses its complex fruity flavors into soft drink form. Now owned by Anheuser-Busch, the soda is produced in four countries across the world and distributed to even more, including the United States.
With a flavor somewhere between root beer and Coca-Cola, Julmust is the seasonal drink of choice in Sweden and Norway come Christmas time, at which time it's also made available through overseas retailers like IKEA and Cost Plus World Market. Invented as a non-alcoholic alternative to beer and wine, Julmust is a style of soda rather than a specific brand, so many independent bottlers and retailers in Sweden will produce their own brews using varied recipes employing hop extract, malt, unique spices, and sometimes oak casks for aging.
Origin: South Korea
Milkis employ all the standard soft drink ingredients with one crucial addition — milk. Now available and gradually gaining traction in the European and North American markets, the South Korean soda has a creamier texture than others and fruit flavors varying from apple and banana to melon and mango.
Passiona was invented in 1924 by an Australian dairy farmer to avoid wasting his farm's surplus of passion fruit. Now manufactured by Schweppes Australia, the carbonated refresher is still a favorite in Australia and New Zealand, but rarely found outside Oceania.
HAMOUD BOUALEM BITTER SODA
Founded in 1878, Hamoud Boualem is one of Algeria's oldest companies, soft drink or otherwise. With a market share in their home country roughly equivalent to Coca-Cola, they produce a wide range of soft drink flavors, including "slim" and "bitter" varieties, which are also exported to nations like France and Canada with large Algerian emigrant populations.
RAMUNE WASABI SODA
Japanese companies know how to push the boundaries of snack food flavorings far beyond what most Westerners are comfortable with, and their soft drink manufacturers are no exception. Ramune, for example, sells sodas in flavors such as plum, chili oil, curry, and wasabi. Almost as distinct and confusing for Western soda enthusiasts are the bottles they're sold in, each one sealed with a marble you'll have to pop out into the beverage before drinking.
LAOBAMAS BLACK GARLIC SODA
Black garlic is noted for its many health benefits, and this hard-to-find Swiss soft drink harnesses them into an undeniably unique flavor profile. The smell is reportedly free from any off-putting garlic fragrance, while the taste is reportedly like a tart cola with grilled and garlicky aftertastes.
Origin: Trinidad and Tobago
Mauby is a Caribbean traditional beverage fermented from sugar and the bark of trees in the native Colubrina genus that's now popular as a commercial soft drink. PepsiCo's Mauby Fizz is the most widely distributed brand, which is said to have a sweet yet slightly bitter flavor and produce laxative effects in some drinkers.
TRIBECO BIRD NEST WHITE FUNGUS SODA
Salangane bird's nests and white fungus are both high-end delicacies noted for their supplemental health benefits in Vietnam and other East Asian countries, so this beverage doesn't sound quite as weird over there as it does in the states. The drink is sweet with a chunky texture owing to the fungus and allegedly contains vitamins and minerals that strengthen immunity and improve aging resistance.