Serious Eats: Drinks
We Try All the Flavors of AriZona's Soda Shaq from 7-Eleven
Shaquille O'Neal already represents Reebok, Icy Hot/Gold Bond, Buick, and Zales. Clearly, cream soda is the next logical step. The retired basketball player/cop/video game martial arts master/actor has partnered up with AriZona Beverages to release Soda Shaq Cream Soda, available in blueberry, orange, strawberry, and vanilla in 23.5-ounce cans. The sodas, each featuring a different Shaq facial expression, can only be found at 7-Eleven stores, where they sell for 99 cents.
AriZona promotes the fact that all four flavors are made of all-natural ingredients, including carbonated filtered water, sugar, honey, vanilla extract—from Madagascar, they say—and citric acid. There are also specific and ambiguous fruit and vegetable juices for flavor and color. These sodas are a bit less bubbly than the average canned and carbonated soft drink, and a single can holds three servings, with a total of 72 grams, or roughly 17 teaspoons, of sugar. We're assuming that to the 7' 1" Shaq, 17 teaspoons of sugar is nothing.
Vanilla Cream Soda
The closest of the bunch to a plain cream soda is the vanilla flavor. Poured into a glass (because everyone pours their AriZona drinks into a glass, right?), it has a color similar to that of an American lager. It seems a bit fizzier than the others, and the strong vanilla flavor does indeed taste quite natural. But of the four, this one is the sweetest of the set, cloyingly so, especially when paired with salty food such as pretzels. Still, some tasters chose it as a favorite.
Blueberry Cream Soda
Had we been handed the blueberry soda blind, we wouldn't have been able to identify the fruit as easily as we could with the other cans in the lineup. There's a little blueberry there, but also something that tastes like grape, and overall, the soda doesn't have a particularly strong fruit flavor. That doesn't mean it's bad, though—the fruit actually paired pretty well with the vanilla flavors. You could even garnish this with fresh mint if you want to get fancy.
Orange Cream Soda
It took us a second to place the flavor, and then it hit: the orange cream soda tastes like a Creamsicle. A slightly less artificial Creamsicle, mind you, but a Creamsicle nonetheless. It's not as fizzy as most orange sodas, and not as bright as, say, a fresh clementine, but it's our overall favorite—especially good when turned into a vanilla ice cream float.
Strawberry Cream Soda
Soda Shaq's strawberry flavor smells like strawberry ChapStick, and tastes like it, too. It's the most fruit-forward of the bunch, and although we still tasted the vanilla, it was less evident than in the other three drinks. We found that it paired well with dark chocolate, which toned down the strawberry flavor a bit, and came across not unlike a real chocolate-covered strawberry. It's the one flavor that we wouldn't want to drink on its own.
Have you tried the Shaq sodas? What did you think?