While most orange sodas strictly adhere to the "soda fountain" blueprint (and do very well by it, as you'll soon discover), newcomers have attempted to shake things up by introducing sodas that feature—gasp!—real fruit juice. We tasted twelve brands and endured puckered mouths to bring you our five favorites. Continue through the slideshow to see who earned top marks.
California-based Nesbitt's has been around since 1924, with their orange variety appearing in 1927 (one part syrup to five parts water). In 1938, California orange juice was introduced to the bottled version, distinguishing it from its competitors. We liked the extra hint of citrus and tart overtones found in this soda, though everyone admitted it was still on the sweet side.
4. Capt'n Eli's
Of the five favorites, Shipyard Brewing's offering was the only one that made a legitimately compelling argument that orange soda can resemble the fruit it's named after. "Like a light orange juice," noted one taster. "Love the genuine citrus," wrote another. One of the few brands our mouths could tolerate drinking large quantities of. Oh, and the graphic novel series of the same name is pretty cool, too.
"Wanta Fanta...don't you wanta?" The tagline is inescapable and obnoxious, but something about this soda really clicked with our tasting group. Coca-Cola owns the label, but the soda originated in pre-World War II Germany (the name is derived from the German word fantasie, meaning "to use your imagination.") Fanta has the archetypal orange fountain soda flavors going for it, with "strong orange tones" being the predominate comment from the tasters. It shares obvious similarities to both the Crush and Sunkist sodas. And speaking of Sunkist...
Chances are, if you walk into your corner drugstore or the nearest 7-11, this is the soda you'll find stocked in the coolers. It's only been around since the late 1970s, and there's nothing terribly special about the recipe (lots of high-fructose corn syrup going on here), but we liked that the citrus was primary here. The orange flavors, artificial as they were, came through strong, rendering the sugar much more mild than many of the other sodas tasted. The excellent carbonation kept it fizzy throughout the tasting session.
Barely edging out Sunkist, Faygo won us over by nailing the balance between the tart and the sweet. By managing to avoid being too dry or overly syrupy, Faygo's orange soda didn't contribute to the tasting group's increasingly puckered mouths, a feat that most of its eleven competitors couldn't claim. By a nose, the most drinkable orange soda we tried.