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Taste Test: Orange Cream Sodas
#2: Thomas Kemper
After the orange soda taste test, we knew we'd have to rate its vanilla-laced stepchild, the orange cream soda.
No one knows for sure who came up with the first orange cream soda, but it probably came into existence in the 1870s when soda jerks like Pennsylvania's Robert M. Green (who's credited with inventing the ice cream soda), married vanilla ice cream with his flavored soda waters. In modern times, many brands seem to have shifted their marketing to capitalize on the popularity of Creamsicles, as evidenced by the number of bottles boasting renditions of the frozen orange-and-vanilla ice cream treats.
We gathered 10 brands of orange cream soda, rated each one, and picked our favorites.
Orange Cream Sodas We Tried
We know that there are more orange cream sodas available in the United States than these ten, but these were the ones we could acquire locally and via Galco. If we didn't try one of your favorites, tell us what we missed in the comments below!
Each soda was sampled in a blind taste test and judged on the following criteria:
- Carbonation: No one likes flat soda, but too much fizz can sting the mouth and mask flavors. In addition to the levels of initial carbonation, we also looked at how quickly these sodas lost their bubbly effervescence once emancipated from their respective bottles.
- Sweetness: This is soda, so there should be some sweetness, but it shouldn't be so sugary as to become undrinkable. Does the sweetness taste natural, leaving your mouth feeling crisp and clean, or does it feel syrupy, coating your tongue? We rated them on a scale from "dry" to "sugar rush," and the best fell somewhere in between.
- Overall orange cream flavor: Getting the proper balance between orange and cream is a tricky tightrope to walk. And to be honest, most of the brands we tried struggled with this, typically leaning more toward straight orange sodas and forgoing much, if any, of a creamy aspect. We looked for the sodas that best represented a liquid version of that master of orange-and-vanilla ice cream, the Creamsicle.
Each soda was tasted and re-tasted in a blind sampling, after which we tallied up the votes to find our three favorites:
The Top Three
Easily the creamiest of all the sodas we tasted, with assertive vanilla overtones just inching past the orange notes. Tasters picked up on hints of tangerine, which makes sense, given that this soda is flavored with mandarin and tangerine oils. For those whose like their orange sodas extra creamy, this one's for you.
2. Thomas Kemper
Thomas Kemper is known for using honey to sweeten its sodas, and it's definitely noticeable here. We still picked up on the pure vanilla extract, but the honey was the strongest flavor at play in this soda. Sweet, but not too sweet, either. We liked it!
And the Winner Is...Americana
Far and away the most balanced of the sodas we tried, with the perfect proportions of orange and cream flavors. Our tasting group described it as smooth, drinkable, with just the right amount of carbonation. There's a mild tartness from the orange and a strong vanilla presence that everyone at the tasting found appealing. It's definitely on the sweet side, but as a Creamsicle substitute, it's the best we tried.
Why the Losers Lost
One thing that really struck us about this taste test was how disappointing these sodas were Beyond the top three, many tasted just too synthetic and chemical to us. Two of the sodas were described as tasting like cough syrup; Robitussin, to be exact. A surprising number of the sodas we tasted suffered from the same problem: Too much orange, little to no cream.