Serious Eats: Drinks

Soda: Manhattan Special's Non-Coffee Sodas

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[Photo: John M. Edwards]

I can't get enough of Manhattan Special's Espresso Coffee Soda. That obsession evolved in stages. When I first grabbed one and tasted it for a review, I found it interesting. But a few days later, I saw it in a store, and found myself with a bottle in hand at the cash register. And about a week later, I was purposefully walking by stores I knew carried it just so I could have one. I love ripping the cap off and slurping down the first gulp to prevent it from volcano-ing over onto my hand.

But I only recently discovered that Manhattan Special makes other soft drinks, the Black Cherry, Vanilla Cream, and Gassosa. It was hard to believe those standard-sounding flavors could outmatch the Espresso, but we had to give them a try.

Their Gassosa is a lemon-lime soda, much like Sprite. It's rich and full-bodied, slightly tart and acidic, with a better crisp than Sprite. And it's sweeter than I expected, most likely because looking at it I expected a flavored seltzer. (It borrows its name from the Italian term for soda water, gazzosa, which is a bit confusing.) I found it very interesting, but probably too sweet to be refreshing.

The Vanilla Cream was not terribly creamy. Don't get me wrong, I liked it; it's just more of a vanilla soda, which I feel it succeeds at—mild, subtle, and refreshing, probably good for people who don't like flavor-heavy sodas. But the Black Cherry was one of my new favorites. Very deep in cherry flavor, and almost syrupy but not quite, it's not too sweet, definitely made from cane sugar, and one of the richest, most deeply flavored black cherry sodas I've had.

None of the three has replaced the Espresso Coffee Soda as my favorite, but they're all worth knowing about as complements to the flagship soda. The best of the three is, in my opinion, the Black Cherry, but the others aren't bad. They're the friendlier cousins of the brash, outgoing espresso leading character.

About the author: John M. Edwards, resident parasite at Serious Eats World Headquarters, can eat tall Double Downs in a single bite. Follow him on Twitter.

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