Monday, March 31, 2008

Champ's Cola | George Prince Endorsed Since Sometime in the 20th Century

Hey kid. So you really think you've got what it takes? Champion George Prince is on your side to help you get there, but don't assume it's gonna be easy. With a strict diet of carbonated water, cane and/or corn sweeteners, citric acid, RED D&C #40, caramel color and plenty days skipping school to play video games in your pajama pants, you too can become the best.

Champ's Cola is one of many sodas produced by CAWY, easily the most successful bottler of soft drinks in Cuba. Known in the industry as "champagne cola," it's actually a lighter tasting version of Quinabeer (which I haven't found a can of yet). Throughout Latin America this sort of cream soda-meets an orangesicle-with Coke flavoring is actually quite common. Think Dr. Pepper or Mr. Pibb with a bit of freshly squeezed citrus thrown in for fun. Like bubblegum, it's the taste of artificiality. Not for the faint of heart.

I can only imagine Quinabeer came about sometime after Iron Beer (E-run-beer), another Cuban drink popular around West Tampa (and one of my personal favorites, especially when mixed with rum). Many Cuban-Americans are proud drinkers of Iron Beer, and the stuff is sold in most supermarkets and some gas stations throughout Central Florida.

Both products also feature an illustrated guy on the can who's mysteriously either a bodybuilder, weightlifter, boxer, or normal yet very muscular person. Since the Iron Beer* guy is merely a simple drawing, Quinabeer and Champ's decided to put a name with the face, using "Champion" George Prince for marketing (he's an obscure yet real person, famed and idealized kind of like Chuck Taylor).

Take that! Whoa.. Easy, kid. 
If you're not in Florida, you can always snag a Quinabeer six-pack for fairly cheap at

(*Note: I desperately tried to make this post more about Champ's than Iron Beer. I guess the outcome was inevitable. There will be much more to come on Iron Beer later.
Trust me.)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dr. Pepper Giving Every American a Free Soda If Axl Rose Releases Chinese Democracy In 2008

It's the biggest news in soda this week.

Should Guns N' Roses finish their long-delayed album Chinese Democracy sometime this year, we'll all be drinking together. Holding hands, drinking Dr. Pepper, and singing GNR (preferably pre-1994 GNR, of course) together.

From CNNMoney:
In an unprecedented show of solidarity with Axl, everyone in America, except estranged GNR guitarists Slash and Buckethead, will receive a free can of Dr Pepper if the album ships some time -- anytime! -- in 2008. Dr Pepper supports Axl, and fully understands that sometimes you have to make it through the jungle before you get it right.

"It took a little patience to perfect Dr Pepper's special mix of 23 ingredients, which our fans have come to know and love," said Jaxie Alt, director of marketing for Dr Pepper. "So we completely understand and empathize with Axl's quest for perfection -- for something more than the average album. We know once it's released, people will refer to it as "Dr Pepper for the ears" because it will be such a refreshing blend of rich, bold sounds -- an instant classic.
Wow, Doc. You seem to be the only American left that's still carrying the torch for this album. The rest of us are less than optimistic. But that's awfully nice of you. Were Charles Alderton alive today, do you think he'd be a fan? I dunno. I've personally always sort of pictured him curled up next to the speakers playing Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band at mid-volume range, so the neighbors might not get too upset. But who can know for sure.

From Pitchfork:
This is an admirable feat of marketing wizardry for all parties involved. Today, folks are once again reminded that, yes, it sure would be great to hear Chinese Democracy before Axl Rose completes his transition into plastic he-beast. Dr. Pepper aren't risking much, since the likelihood of Chinese Democracy arriving this year (hell, this decade) is as slim as it's ever been. And, hey, if Chinese Democracy does, in fact, emerge before 2009? All that sweet Dr. Pepper should help wash down the taste of bitter, bitter disappointment, after nearly twenty years spent waiting for an album that sucks.
That seems more like it. Thanks to Cary Norton via the comments for this. We've still got a good eight months to see if anything actually happens. In the event something does, I'll be expecting full testimonials of album and drink from everyone. Well, maybe just album. We already know how good the drink is.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge, Diet Cherry Chocolate Fudge, and Diet Swiss Creme | Because Fat People Are Harder To Kidnap

This week my mom and I went grocery shopping at a local health food store. After failing to find pork grinds for my dad's birthday (should've known) three healthy beverages found their way into my basket. No, we didn't drink them one right after the other, though the thought might have crossed my mind.

Canfield's sodas are sweetened with aspartame and entirely free of calories and sugar. Don't let the "diet" part turn you away, as any one of these are likely better than every Weight Watchers ice cream product combined.

Being the primary flavor in the Canfield's repertoire, Diet Chocolate Fudge is good. Almost like, puddin' pop good. I recommend giving a can to your son every time he trims the hedges. Even if it's the hottest week of July and he throws up afterward, he'll never stop thanking you for it. The C.D.C.F. was first introduced in the 70s, and again in 1984, when Chicago Tribune reporter Bob Greene compared it to a hot fudge sundae. This triggered a great, if not brief era for the thick and creamy drink, as many angry soda consumers were looking for a New Coke alternative.

It's funny what adding cherry flavoring does to the mix, as Diet Cherry Chocolate Fudge ends up making a good idea less brilliant. If you were to throw some chocolate-covered cherries in a blender and add water, you might get something similar to this. Think Coca-Cola Black Cherry Vanilla, where for a while you might say, "Hmm.. this ain't half-bad," but if you offer a sip to the other folks in your household, well, let's just say they'll have your head if you ever mistakenly bring home that twelve-pack again.

To me Diet Swiss Creme tastes like a cream soda with less kick. It's the prettiest can, but probably the most easily overlooked. Still by far my favorite of the three. Though the other flavors should probably be consumed by themselves, the Swiss Creme made a delightful addition to my lunch (PBJ, an apple, and chips, for the curious). I'm gonna have to do it again sometime, looking back on it now.

Canfield's Beverages aren't too difficult to find at health food markets, or Beverages Direct (the latter only if you're lazy and money means nothing to you). I have yet to throw back a Canfield's 50/50- the brand's light Grapefruit and Lime concoction- but I figure there'll be plenty of time for that later. Plenty of time.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Rojita | Red Nectar Of The Nicaraguans

The first thing attracting me to this soda bottle is obvious. Upon traveling to a local Spanish market on W. Waters Ave., I saw young Rojita (Raw-hee-tuh) sitting there all alone in between the Sprites and Mountain Dews. She was like a motherless child begging for someone to pick her up. I mean, look at the face!

(Note: I say "her" in much the same way old dudes swagger on about their classic cars. The longnecked clear bottle with the Cadillac-red beverage sloshing around inside. Of course when I mention Rojita for now on it'll be impossible to separate the soda itself from the precious little girl with the half-smile. If you don't see what I mean yet, you surely will later.).

I got in my car and boy was it warm out today, so I immediately reached for my bottle opener and drank the thing, which seemed more in line with Coca-Cola's Fanta Roja than Big Red. Unfortunately, it had a strange rubber-y taste that made it difficult to finish. My roommate had a sip too, and said something about a mission trip.

It was difficult to find much information on this strange brew, which I have the feeling'll be the case with plenty of the sodas reviewed in the future.

This much I know: it's a popular local drink in León, Nicaragua that first appeared in the early 70s, among the likes of Milca and Kola Shaller. Someone said the company was bought by Pepsi at one point though I can't find proof of this anywhere. If you wanna find the stuff in the U.S., you're probably out of luck unless you're a resident of Florida. I'd check the corner store first. Then if no luck there, some distributors can be found in Miami, such as Productos El Ranchito.

You might be wondering what the cute but non-P.C. pioneer girl with the feather headband has to do with Nicaragua or soda. What does she have to do with anything? Well, if 5% of the population in Nicaragua consists of Native Americans, take a guess. It's pretty offensive, and didn't occur to me until well after finishing my drink. Since "roja" is Spanish for red, "Rojita" must mean "Little Red."

Now when I think of that cute half-smile I just feel sad.

(photo courtesy of Tracy Blacher via flickr)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Remember the Cola Wars? | Pepsi vs. Coke | Why All This Fighting When There Could Be A Perfect Bottle Of O'sippie Somewhere In The Vicinity?

Why, when picking sodas, must people have to choose between products offered from one of the above two companies? I'm guilty as well, knowing full and well there are hundreds if not thousands of third party options. Why not throw an occasional Jones in the mix? If you're anything like me, you drink at least one soda every day. Alright alright, let's begin with some honesty. I drink more than that. Two or three, at least. These days usually directly from the soda fountain in a cone cup (my current job requires pulling several late shifts).

Well, I'm breathing this blog into existence mainly to generate some well-deserved attention for the oft-overlooked sodas quietly hiding in the back alleys of our world. I'll need your help. Any strange soda-related material you come across or would like to see should be sent my way pronto. Check back often to find out about interesting corporate and privately owned soda companies, or simply if you're wanting to find out where you can grab your own bottle of Rat Bastard Root Beer for the living room mantle (it's at The Soda Shop, if you were in fact actually wondering). *Pardon the stock image, by the way. We're working on it.

So stay tuned for weekly posts including soda news, personal anecdotes, history lessons, photos, interviews and much more regarding anything and everything related to the strange and wonderful world of independent caffeinated beverages.