Regional Sodas
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Moxie, Cheerwine, and Other Regional Sodas the Rest of the Country Needs

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Regional Sodas
catnap72/istockphoto

Pop Culture

In certain industries, the biggest brands are so dominant we sometimes forget there's a wider variety of options to choose from. This is surely the case when it comes to soft drinks, with big names like Coca-Cola and Pepsi products typically occupying all the supermarket shelf space and edging out smaller regional soda bottlers. Nonetheless, America still has its fair share of locally distributed sodas worth sampling — you just might have to drive to another part of the country to do it. The following list highlights some of the best regional sodas made in the U.S., as well as a few other unique flavors found internationally.


Related: Classic Soda Fountains That Will Make You Feel Like a Kid Again

Post Coca-Cola acquisition can of Moxie. Purchased in New Hampshire.
Post Coca-Cola acquisition can of Moxie. Purchased in New Hampshire. by Vermont (CC BY-SA)

Moxie

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.

Retro labelled four-pack
Retro labelled four-pack by Dennis Brown (CC BY-SA)

Big Red

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.


Related: Texas Gifts to Showcase Your State Pride

Cheerwine
World Market

Cheerwine

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 inspired a line of ice cream for local grocery stores.


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Waialua Soda Works' Lilikoi
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Waialua Soda Works' Lilikoi

Origin: Waialua, Hawaii
Though founded in only 2003, this soda company employs century-old local bottling traditions and timeless Hawaiian flavors such as white cane sugar and Kauaian honey to make its 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) make up its most uniquely tropical flavors.



Blueberry Breese
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Blueberry Breese

Origin: Breese, Illinois
Excel is an old-fashioned soda company in that it still runs a returnable bottling line in the Midwest, where its based, and sweeten drinks with only cane sugar. One of its most unique and popular sodas is Blueberry Breese, made with real blueberry extracts and subtler citrus flavorings.


Related: 28 Regional Grocery Stores That Shoppers Love

Ski
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Ski

Origin: Richland Center, Wisconsin
Distributed by Tennessee's Double Cola, 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 with artificially flavored citrus sodas. Ski and its cherry-flavored variant Ski InfraRED can also be found at select locations in Utah and Alaska.

Vernors
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Vernors

Origin: Detroit
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.



Faygo
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Faygo

Origin: Detroit
When Faygo was 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, including 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
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Nugrape

Origin: Atlanta
NuGrape was 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 as dependable as ever, found in candy stores and independent grocers in the Southeast.



Dr. Enuf
Dr. Enuf by Brent Moore (CC BY)

Dr. Enuf

Origin: Johnson City, Tennessee
Launched in 1949, Dr. Enuf was intended as a healthier, vitamin-fortified alternative to other, more sugary soft drinks and first marketed as an "energy booster." The drink still contains almost a day's serving of B vitamins, while the 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.


Related: 34 Beloved Local Eats That Can Be Shipped to Your Doorstep

Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale
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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.

Thomas Kemper
Thomas Kemper

Thomas Kemper

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 its line incorporates distinctly Northwestern flavors such as Ginger Peach, Black Cherry, and Oregon Marionberry, which are sweetened with local honey and/or cane sugar.

Filbert's Old Time Root Beer
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Filbert's Old Time Root Beer

Origin: Chicago
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, its 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.

Abita Root Beer
Abita

Abita

Origin: Abita Springs, Louisiana
You might know Abita for its popular craft beers, but the New Orleans-area brewer also dabbles in the non-alcoholic sphere with a root beer 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. 


Related: 17 Cheap Beers That Locals Love

Maine Root soda
Main Root Sodas

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 it invests part of its profits to support local schools and hospitals. Despite the name, the sharply carbonated sodas such as the flagship root beer, blueberry, and ginger brew can now be found in 7,500 locations or bought through its online store.

Goose Island Vanilla Cream Soda
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Goose Island Vanilla Cream Soda

Origin: Chicago
Now owned by brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, Goose Island has what some call the biggest success stories of the craft brewing industry — but its offerings aren't limited to beer. Beginning in a Lincoln Park brewpub, the company also established a line of cane-sugar-sweetened sodas in flavors such as vanilla cream, spicy ginger, and concord grape that are distributed nationwide but most ubiquitous and popular in the Midwest.

Squamscot Birch Beer
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Squamscot Birch Beer

Origin: New Fields, New Hampshire
Founded in 1863, Squamscot now stands as New Hampshire's last remaining independent soda bottler, and it represents 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  — otherwise, good luck finding them outside northern New England.

Caruso's Legacy
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Caruso's Legacy

Origin: Oak Creek, Wisconsin
One of many craft sodas owned by WIT Beverage, Caruso's Legacy is a line of Italian-style sodas originating from Wisconsin, with attractive bottle designs that seem to truly elevate the soft drink's prestige. Its best may be the dark cream soda, which supplements the standard vanilla cream with a rich caramelized flavor.

Kutztown Birch Beer
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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 soft drinks such as red cream soda and birch beer to small retailers mostly throughout the Eastern Seaboard and Appalachian states.

Jic Jac Raspberry Soda
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Jackson Hole Huckleberry Soda
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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, including Buckin' Rootbeer, South Fork Strawberry Rhubarb, and Snake River Sarsaparilla. Its huckleberry soda is another favorite among customers, approximating the flavor of the tart mountain berries favored by foraging bears.

Rummy Grapefruit Soda
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Rummy Grapefruit Soda

Origin: Chicago
Another vintage brand kept in circulation by Chicago's Excel Bottling, Rummy is a grapefruit soda made with pure cane sugar that was intended originally 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
Ale-8-One

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. Its flagship flavor uses real ginger, citrus, and light carbonation and now comes in a variety of sizes and packaging, available through an online store or at select retailers in northern Kentucky.

Apple Beer soda
Walmart

Apple Beer

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.

Coco Fizz Chocolate Soda
Coco Fizz Chocolate Soda by Brent Moore (CC BY-NC)

Zuberfizz Coco Fizz

Origin: Durango, Colorado
Founded in 2002, Durango Soda aims to reinstate old soda brewing techniques that valued natural ingredients such as cane sugar and dispensed fountain sodas on tap. Beginning with mom-and-pop restaurants around Colorado, the company expanded to make its line of classic and unconventional flavors such as Coco Fizz (chocolate cream) and Key Lime available through select grocers nationwide.



Cock'n Bull Ginger Beer
Cock'n Bull

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 its portfolio with diet, cherry, and "bitter" lemon and orange flavors, all well-suited for mixing with alcohol or sipping on their own.


Related: Beyond Beer: 8 Non-Alcoholic Drinks for a Party

Hosmer Mountain Sarsaparilla
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Hosmer Mountain Sarsaparilla

Origin: Willimantic, Connecticut
Founded before World War I and passed down through multiple owning families, Hosmer Mountain Soda gradually expanded its product line to include an energy drink and non-carbonated lemonade, but its best offerings remain old-fashioned flavors such as Birch Beer and Sarsaparilla. 

Seabold Ginger Beer
Seabold Ginger Beer

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 bold yet balanced brews. Beyond the flagship ginger beer, the brothers also make a turmeric and black pepper version, as well as concentrated cordial of each flavor that makes for a great addition to cocktails. Seabold is 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
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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 its 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
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Beefdrinker Teriyaki Beef Jerky Soda

Origin: Gardena, California
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
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Leninade Soviet Style Soda

Origin: Gardena, California
Here's a beverage that's just weird enough to make one curious for a taste. Leninade is a communist-themed soft drink in bright red with packaging 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.

Wine Country sodas
Wine Country sodas by Dutchbaby (CC BY)

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. It raises its sodas' sophistication level several notches by sweetening beverages with only the juice of California wine grapes, yielding flavors such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Rosé.


Related: Not Just Napa: 30 American Wineries With Good, Cheap Wine

50/50 soda bottle
50/50 soda bottle by Doughbgpa (CC BY-SA)

Canfield's 50/50

Origin: Chicago
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 such as 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
World Market

Pop Shoppe Lime Ricky

Origin: London, Ontario
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, including this one found in specialty stores across the U.S. and Canada.

Goombay Punch
Goombay Punch by Spanish Flea (CC BY)

Goombay Punch

Origin: Bahamas
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.


Related: 10 International Fast-Food Chains America Is Missing Out On

Guarana Antarctica
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Guarana Antarctica

Origin: Brazil
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.

A glass bottle of julmust.
A glass bottle of julmust. by Albin Olsson (CC BY)

Julmust

Origin: Sweden
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 such as 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 make their own brews using varied recipes employing hop extract, malt, unique spices, and sometimes oak casks for aging.



Milkis
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Milkis

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
Amazon

Passiona

Origin: Australia
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 Slim soda
Mercato

Hamoud Boualem Bitter Soda

Origin: Algeria
Founded in 1878, Hamoud Boualem is one of Algeria's oldest companies, soft drink or otherwise. With a market share in its home country roughly equivalent to Coca-Cola, the company makes a wide range of soft drink flavors, including "slim" and "bitter" varieties, that are also exported to nations including France and Canada with large Algerian populations.

Ramune Wasabi Soda
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Ramune Wasabi Soda

Origin: Japan
Japanese companies know how to push the boundaries of snack food flavorings far beyond what most Westerners are comfortable with, and 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.



Mauby Fizz
Amazon

Mauby Fizz

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
Alibaba

Tribeco Bird Nest White Fungus Soda

Origin: Vietnam
Salangane bird's nests and white fungus are 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.