Taste Test: We Try Every SodaStream Soda Syrup Flavor

20140302sodastreamprimary.jpg

Our 5 Favorites

Cherry Cola
Pineapple Grapefruit
Sparkling Natural Pink Grapefruit
Naturally Sweetened Cola
Cream Soda

For those of us living in fourth-floor walkup apartments, the ability to make your own seltzer at home seemed like a miracle when it was introduced. Before I got my first SodaStream machine, I would carefully consider whether each grocery item was worth lugging home across the neighborhood and up those four flights of stairs. Seltzer only sometimes made the cut, pre-SodaStream. Making seltzer at home from tap water meant no more fighting for grocery bag space, plus no more recycling a million plastic bottles. (Or carrying that recycling back downstairs...)

But not everyone's big on drinking seltzer straight. If you're a soda drinker, you might have to stock up on different bottles or cans of each kind of soda you drink. So it's nice that SodaStream offers flavoring syrups so you can make your own sodas one batch at a time. (Most of the containers have enough syrup to make the equivalent of 33 12-ounce soda cans.) Some syrups are made in collaboration with brands like Ocean Spray or Crystal Light, but others are SodaStream's own formulation, and I was curious: how do these sodas taste? Which flavors are worth buying, and which are skippable? Because I like a challenge, I set out to try every single flavor of SodaStream soda syrup: 59 different flavors in all.*

*Since we began this mega-tasting project, a few new flavors have been released. You'll have to try those yourself and let us know how they are!

As I tasted my way through, some trends emerged. The flavors that work best tend to be nostalgic, old-school sodas: the sweet, fun, colorful stuff that might remind you more of a vintage ice cream parlor than the hip small-batch concoctions you'd find in a gourmet shop. We liked many of the candy-colored fruity sodas, and classic flavors like cola, cream soda, and root beer all had at least one nice version. These syrups work as replacements for supermarket brands, and the concentrated syrup will take up less space than a case of your standard sodas. (Sodas where you'd want a fresher flavor, like for sparkling lemonade, tended not to succeed as well as, say, sweet cherry cola, though there were some exceptions.)

One warning: These syrups make you confront the fact that soda, even if you buy it in canned or bottled form, is pretty much a viscous sugar-flavor syrup added to sparkling water. The syrup looks a little terrifying. On the other hand, you get to control how much of the sweet stuff you add—the recommended dosage for most of these is 1 part syrup to 23 parts bubbly water (the bottle's cap works as a measuring tool to make it easy) but you can choose to add less if you just want a hint of sweet soda flavor.

So, how do the sodas taste? Here are the reviews for every flavor I tried. (Asterisks indicate all of the top picks.)

Colas

20140302colasodataste.jpg

Cola: The classic cola is rich and full-flavored, sweet and caramel-laced. It's not quite as tart and citric as Coca-Cola, but it's not a direct Pepsi replicate either. It's a friendly cola that we're happy to drink: unless you have a strong preference in the Pepsi vs. Coke arena, you'll like this one fine. (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Naturally Sweetened Cola: This soda tasted a bit crisper than the standard cola syrup, and we liked that. It has a brightness that reminded us more of Coke, though we think Pepsi fans will like it too. If you're looking for a syrup to easily make cola at home, this is the one we'd recommend.* (750 mL, around $9.96 online)

Diet Cola: The diet cola is more like the regular cola than like the 'naturally sweetened' version, but there's nothing wrong with it. It has a straightforward cola profile and just about the right amount of sweetness, though some may wish for a bit more of the citrusy crispness that Diet Coke offers. (500 mL, around $4.49 online)

Caffeine-Free Diet Cola: You would think that this would taste just like the other diet cola, but it seemed a little sweeter to us. Anyway, if you are looking for cola flavor without the caffeine, here you are. We just wished for a touch more tart flavor to balance the sweetness. (500 mL, around $4.27 online)

Cola Free: This one is targeted at Coke Zero fans, and shares that soda's slight richness, but it also confused us a bit by throwing in some fruity flavors. It doesn't quite all integrate together, so we'd pass on this. (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Cherry Cola: This is really well done. It has the crispness of a good cola and the round fruity flavor of cherry without veering into medicinal or oversweet territory. Cherry flavor and cola flavor share equal billing here, and it works.* (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Diet Cherry Cola: A little more tart, a little less round, and little less rich-tasting than the regular Cherry Cola, but still not bad. Is there a bitter note on the finish? Only some people would notice it. (500 mL, around $6.95 online)

Diet Cola With Lime: This soda's flavor brings cola together with a blast of full-flavored lime lollipop, but the lime side is more lime-oil and peel than fresh, tart squeeze of citrus. We'd rather drink the plain cola and add our own lime. (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Cream Sodas

20140302creamsoda.jpg

Cream Soda: There will be some kid, somewhere, who tries to drink the Sodastream Cream Soda syrup straight, because it smells so much like delicious candy. (Kids: not a good idea.) The soda is a bit darker than we expected, but the flavor is spot on. This stuff is sweet, caramelly, buttery, and completely ready for ice cream floats. Add a little extra seltzer if it's too potent for you, but your kids are going to chug this stuff.* (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Diet Cream Soda: It's not quite as full and rich as the standard Cream Soda, but the flavors of the Splenda-sweetened version are still there. If you're craving sweet stuff, this'll satisfy. (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Dr. Pete

20140302drpete.jpg

Dr. Pete: Sweet and laced with what tastes mostly like cherry and vanilla, this soda is nearly a dead ringer for Dr. Pepper, though it lacks the mysterious pruney tinge of the original.* (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Diet Dr. Pete The diet version is lighter and slightly more citrusy than the original, but it drinks really well—we thought it compared favorably to the name-brand diet version. Thumbs up!* (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Energy Drinks

20140302sodaenergy.jpg

Energy: We weren't able to identify exactly what flavor this high-caffeine drink (80 mg per 8 ounce serving) was going for, but it's really not bad. Sweet and slightly tart, almost like an apple soda, without the off-flavors you often find in energy drinks. This was our favorite of the energy drink options. (500 mL, around $6.96 online)

Diet Energy: This seemed almost identical to the energy drink at first, but it faded to a bitter finish. (500 mL, around $6.96 online)

Energy Mango: This one's not bad: rich, fruity mango flavor works pretty well in soda form. But the classic energy-drink metallic flavors weren't hidden in this one. (500 mL, around $6.96 online)

Energy Cranberry: This one has nice tart fruity flavors, but they're intermingled with tinny notes that turned us off. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Crystal Light Wild Strawberry Energy: This pink drink tastes just like strawberry bubblegum (in a tasty way!) but the finish is a bit offputting. (500 mL, around $6.96 online)

Fountain Mist

20130302fountainmist.jpg

Fountain Mist: If you drink Mountain Dew, you know what to expect here: bright Chartreuse color, a strong dose of caffeine, and a vaguely citrusy flavor. There's a bit of a chalkiness to this soda, but it'll still get your heart racing. (500 mL, around $4.99 online)

Diet Fountain Mist: This yellower soda syrup yields a similar-tasting sweet-citric soda, though it seemed a tad sweeter to us than the basic Fountain Mist. (500 mL, around $9.69 online)

Fruity Sodas

20140302fruitsodas.jpg

Pineapple Grapefruit: This might not be the most popular flavor of soda among mainstream brands, but it's a tasty combination, even though this soda syrup contains no fruit juice. It's sweet and refreshing, and just a little tart, the kind of thing that would be great in a snow cone. Though some might wish for a little more sourness to balance the tropical pineapple flavor, this was one of our favorite flavor options.* (500 mL, around $9.99 online)

Sparkling Natural Pink Grapefruit: While you might want to dial down the dosage a little to cut the sweetness, this soda captures a great range of grapefruit flavor, from sweet and juicy to tart to pithy and bitter (in a good way.) Thumbs up!* (750 mL, around $9.99 online)

Diet Pink Grapefruit: This tastes a little crisper than the 'Sparkling Natural' Pink Grapefruit soda, and it lacks the complex pithy side of the fruit's flavor. It's a little one-note, but not bad. As with many diet sodas, the aftertaste was the one disappointment. (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Orange: This is a bold, rosy orange soda that smells just like the orange candy of your youth (or your present.) Classic, old-school flavor—most comparable to Crush—is what you've got here. This definitely isn't for Orangina fans or those looking for a natural orange flavor. It's the straight up classic sweet orange pop, and if that's your kind of thing, you'll like this a lot.* (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Diet Orange: This sucralose-sweetened soda is pretty similar to the non-diet version, perhaps a touch less sweet and with a hint more tartness and bitterness, not unlike an orange peel. The aftertaste, though, makes us hesitate to recommend it. (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Sparkling Natural Orange & Pineapple: A little tart, plenty sweet, fruity and fun. If you like orange pop but are looking for something with just a little bit more real-fruit character, you'll like this. (750 mL, around $9.99 online)

Diet Orange Mango: This sweet and fruity diet soda is mango-flavored without being over-the-top perfumey. There's just enough crispness to make this sucralose-sweetened soda drinkable. We liked it. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Sparkling Natural Black Currant & Pear: While some will find it a touch too sweet, we liked the berry flavor of this soda. The pear flavor (and apple juice from concentrate) slips into the background, but does seem to offer a rounder flavor. This is a nice one!* (750 mL, around $9.99 online)

Lime: This bright-green lime soda won't remind you of a fresh lime, but it's not really meant to. This is old-school pop that's meant to remind you of your favorite lime candy. It's bright, tangy, and fun. (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Diet Lime: This had an assortment of off-flavors we didn't taste in the standard lime soda. (500 mL, around $4.99 online)

Lemon-Lime: This clear, Sprite-like soda is sweet and refreshing, with a bright lemon note and no off-flavors. Thumbs up if you like Sprite! (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Diet Lemon-Lime: The diet version of the lemon-lime is quite similar to the original; bright and crisp. Diet sodas don't always stack up, but this does. (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Strawberry: If you ever wished for Fruit Snax in soda form, this sugar-sweetened strawberry soda is for you. It's super sweet when used at full dosage, though you could use a little less for a less-bold flavor. In addition to artificial flavor, this soda contains carrot juice concentrate, black currant juice concentrate, and elderberry juice concentrate. It reminded us a little of strawberry bubblegum, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Kool-Aid Grape: This dark purple drink tastes just like the purple popsicles of your youth. If that sounds refreshing to you, you'll like this stuff, though some might find it a little one-note. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Ocean Spray Cranberry: This syrup looks scarily similar to red paint in the bottle, but it's made with sugar (yep, that's the first ingredient) and cranberry juice concentrate. It has that sweet-berry flavor you'd expect from cranberry cocktail, and it's definitely more sweet than tart. Wwe can't think of any reason to buy it in place of your regular cranberry juice beverage, except perhaps to save fridge space. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Ocean Spray Cranberry Raspberry: Do you like raspberry candy? Then you'll like this stuff, which is sweet and berrylicious, though it pretty much lacks any tartness. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Ocean Spray Cranberry Grape: You can probably divide the world into two groups: those who like grape-flavored food and drinks, and those who don't. If you're in the first group, there's a chance this might not be grapey enough for you, since it's mixed with a hint of cranberry flavor. Think 'mixed berry' not 'purple drink.' If you don't like anything grape-flavored (grape-flavored candy, grape-flavored soda, grape-flavored fluoride treatment at the dentist) then you won't like this either. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Sparkling Natural Apple Mango: This mix, which also includes orange juice from concentrate, is pretty much what it promises: super floral and tropical mango flavor is front and center. We found the mango-nectary flavor a bit too sweet to enjoy for more than a few sips; your sugar tolerance will determine how much you like it. (750 mL, around $9.99 online)

Crystal Light Fruit Punch: This electric-red punch isn't as flavorful as it looks. There are berry flavors at first but then it fades to seltzer fast. Maybe fruit punch really doesn't work as a sparkling drink? (500 mL, around $6.96 online)

Kool-Aid Cherry: Your opinion on this will depend on how much you like regular cherry Kool-Aid. I don't think the red drink really benefits from carbonation, and cherry is a tough flavor for any drink to pull off well. Skip. (500 mL, around $5.94 online)

Kool-Aid Tropical Punch: It comes in a blue container, but this sparkling punch is vivid red and packed with classic Kool-Aid flavor. The soda version had an offputting aftertaste, though, so we'd skip it. (500 mL, around $6.29 online)

Ginger Ales

20140302gingerale.jpg

Ginger Ale: There's nothing wrong with this soda: it's mild, sweet, lightly gingery and citrusy in an unobtrusive way. If you buy a standard grocery-store brand, there's no flavor-based reason not to switch to this. (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Sparkling Natural Ginger Ale: This soda is sweetened with sugar instead of a sugar/sucralose mix. The flavor seems a bit more vivid, with a touch more ginger bite, but the sweetness level is so high that we found it a little out of balance. (750 mL, around $9.96 online)

Diet Ginger Ale: Where the Sparkling Natural Ginger Ale had a pleasant gingery aroma, this soda has almost no scent. The flavor is all sweetness, lacking the ginger we were hoping for. (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Lemonades

20140302lemonades.jpg

Country Time Natural Lemonade: If you regularly use Country Time powder, there's no reason not to try this liquid version. It's more like a bitter-lemon soda than fresh sparkling lemonade, though. We liked it a bit better than the standard Country Time Lemonade flavor. (750 mL, around $9.99 online)

Country Time Lemonade: We found this version, sweetened with a mix of sugar and sucralose, to be not quite as full in flavor as the 'Natural' version. (500 mL, around $6.96 online)

Country Time Half and Half: You might be surprised at the color of this fizzy lemonade iced tea: it's almost as dark as cola. The flavor's pretty nice, fruity and mellow, but this is only for people who like their iced tea quite sweet. If you're looking for the dry side of black tea, you'll miss it here. (500 mL, around $6.96 online)

Country Time Pink Lemonade: Though it comes in a pink bottle, this stuff makes sparkling lemonade that's only the very palest shade of pink. It's sweet and fruity but we the aftertaste is a bit bitter. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Crystal Light Lemonade: This stuff reminded us of sweet lemon-flavored Emergen-C packets; not something we'd seek out for its flavor. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Crystal Light Raspberry Lemonade: This stuff has a deep magenta color and sweet berry flavor. We like it more than the standard Crystal Light lemonade, but it's really only for people who like their drinks extra-sweet. No lemon tartness here. (500 mL, around $6.96 online)

Tonics

20140302tonicsoda.jpg

Tonic: Made with sugar, citric acid, natural flavors, and quinine, the tonic is bright and bitter, with sweet lemon-lime flavors up front and a good quinine punch at the end of each sip. This isn't a subtle botanical mix like all the fancy small-batch tonic syrups you can buy these days, but if you like some Canada Dry in your gin, you should buy this for your Sodastream.* (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Diet Tonic: The diet tonic tastes a bit sweeter than the standard version, a bit like lemon-lime candy with a harsh finish. Your G&T deserves better. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Root Beers

20140302rootbeersodastream.jpg

Root Beer: This flavorful root beer is more vanilla than spice, leaning heavily on sweetness. It lacks the bite of some more complex versions, but it's tasty nonetheless.* (500 mL, around $4.96 online)

Diet Root Beer: This super-sweet root beer reminded us of cream soda. It's not bad, bit it felt a little thin in flavor, with a tinny citrus edge at the finish. (500 mL, around $4.49 online)

Sparkling Natural Root Beer: This sugar-sweetened version had some off flavors and an unexpected bitterness. Stick with the regular version. (750 mL, around $9.96 online)

Tea Sodas

20140302greenteasodastream.jpg

Sparkling Natural Green Tea: When I think of delicate green tea, soda doesn't immediately spring to mind, but if you're looking for a sweet and slightly citric soda with a hint of tea flavor, this may appeal. It has more tea character than the 'iced tea' offerings on this list, but the sugar level was a little high for us. (750 mL, around $9.99 online)

Green Tea Mixed Berries: Berry-flavored sodas are always going to be sweet, and this is no different. The flavors are good, though, really popping with raspberry-blackberry-blueberryness, even if the sugar level is over the top. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Peach Iced Tea: This syrup's scent gave us happy memories of peach Jolly Ranchers and peach 'Clearly Canadian' drinks. The ripe peachy tea flavor combination works, though it's definitely heavy on the fruit and light on the tea. (500 mL, around $6.96 online)

Crystal Light Peach Iced Tea: This is our favorite of all of the Crystal Light offerings for Sodastream. As with the regular iced tea, it's first-and-foremost a sweet and fruity soda, but there is a hint of sweet-tea flavor backing up the fruit. (500 mL, around $6.96 online)

Diet Green Tea Pomegranate Peach: This soda is just beyond-the-pale sweet, without a hint of pomegranate's tartness. This was our least-favorite flavor of the tea options. (500 mL, around $6.99 online)

Whew! Now all that's left is to try mixing them together to get flavor combos like the Coke Freestyle Machine. But maybe I'll leave that to you.

About the Author: Maggie Hoffman is a Senior Editor at Serious Eats, based in San Francisco. She founded Serious Eats: Drinks in 2011. You can follow her on Twitter @maggiejane.

Soda syrup samples and sodamaker provided for review testing.

Comments

Add a comment

Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: