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Where I grew up, the Sonic chain of drive-in fast food burger restaurants was thin on the ground. New York is not exactly a city with a car culture. So I was a bit slow to get onto the Sonic Cherry Limeade boat, but now that I'm aboard, I can say with reckless abandon that it is truly the king of fast food soft drinks.

What makes it so?

Let me point out a few key factors:

  • It's made with real limes. Seriously. Four real lime halves per large drink. When was the last time you saw a real lime anywhere near a fast food establishment, much less one that's squeezed to order?
  • The tiny pellet ice. Pellet ice ensures a quick dilution and chill, ensuring that in the short window of time it takes for you to order your drink and the time the pleasantly smiling carhop passes it through your window, it's already at maximum chill factor. Brain freeze upon first sip. This is essential in the hot Texas sun, as I found out a few weeks ago.
  • The styrofoam cup. Because if using a condensation-covered, poorly insulated, wax-coated paper cup is really the answer to saving the environment, then screw mother earth, I'd rather have my drinks ice cold FOREVER. I'll take a shorter shower in exchange, I promise.
  • HAPPY HOURS. What other fast food chain offers daily half priced drinks and slushies from 2 to 4 p.m.?
  • Tater tots. Not much more to say about that, other than that they fit in your cup holder, and are perhaps the perfect driving snack.

p.s. Click on the image at the top of the page for a full-sized reminder.

p.p.s. DON'T FORGET TO TIP YOUR CARHOP.

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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