Serious Eats: Drinks

Soda: My Lifelong Fresca Obsession

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[Photo: Dave Katz]

When a Cheesecake Factory moved into my suburban California hometown at the end of my high school years, there was one thing about it that excited me above all else. It wasn't the 33 flavors of cheesecake, or the choice of about two dozen entrĂ©es from every imaginable cuisine for $12. No, I was excited about their soda selection. Because for about two bucks, they'd give you a stunning 32 ounces of Fresca from the fountain—and then they'd give you free refills. (Hey, I couldn't drink legally; I took my kicks where I could get them.)

I've always thought Fresca one of the most underappreciated citizens of the diet soda world. It's been around since 1966—the little brother to Sprite, which is just five years older—but has nowhere near the name recognition. After all, there's a whole genre of lemon-lime sodas, the 7-Ups and Sierra Mists of the world; there may be Squirt and a few other imitators, but why aren't there more carbonated grapefruit drinks? It's a mass-market soda that never quite broke into the mainstream; you don't see Fresca on an average soda fountain next to the root beer and Dr Pepper. But perhaps that's part of its appeal; it's still just a little bit of a novelty.

I find it tastes much more recognizably "grapefruit" than Sprite does either lemon or lime, and like it that way. That it's calorie-free is, to me, just a bonus; I like Fresca enough that I'd probably drink it even if it were fully sugared. And I think the reverse is true, too; it's one of few diet sodas in which I can't really taste the aspartame—even some avowed regular-soda drinkers I know have a thing for Fresca.

Any other Fresca fanatics out there? And why do you love it so much?

About the author: Carey Jones is the Senior Managing Editor of Serious Eats. Follow her on Twitter (@careyjones).

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