GuS – Grown-up Soda – Extra Dry Ginger Ale

For a number of years now, John and I have been buying only soda with sugar, and not high-fructose corn syrup. We might each have, at most, one or two a week, but we often end up splitting one, sometimes doing a half and half with a can of seltzer. We like to think it’s because our tastes have, *ahem*, “matured” over the years, but even a whole soda is sometimes too much sugar when you just want a bit of fizzy sweetness.

[Note: I did just find Sierra Mist in the store in little 7 oz. cans, which is also made with sugar instead of HFCS, so it looks like we’re not the only ones thinking this way!]

Another habit we’d picked up in restaurants is making/requesting a glass of seltzer with just a wee bit of a lemon-line soda to sweeten it up a little.

If you’re a die-hard, regular 2-liter soda, full everything, drinking fan, you’re probably shuddering as you read this. LOOK AWAY NOW!!!!

Recently I ran across GUS – Grown Up Soda – a not-inexpensive 4-pack in the grocery store specialty drink section. It’s a 12 oz. bottle of soda, and it’s made with about half the sugar (not HFCS) of a regular 12 oz. soda, and is flavored with real ingredients! The ginger ale is made with real ginger and has a hint of ginger-hotness without being overwhelming, and the cola is made with real cola nut! (Haven’t tried the pomegranite yet – that’s next.) But… seriously…. real cola nut!  The last cola we knew of that actually had cola in it was Blue Sky Cola, and we haven’t seen that in years now. Oh, and no caffeine.

GuS’s are exactly as advertised – “not too sweet”, and they have terrific refined flavor and excellent fizz. It really is a grown-up soda! We highly recommend trying these if you’re looking for the less-sweet, still tasty alternative without going the way of artificial sweeteners.

(And if you’re a fan of the tv show Psych, there’s the added bonus of always trying to think up funny replacement names for the brand. If you don’t know what I mean, go watch a few episodes – LOL. )

Wine Catch Up (Not Ketchup)

Over the last few months (probably about four) we’ve sampled a few bottles of wine: a 2009 Lancatay Cabernet Sauvignon (Argentina), a 2008 Henry Lagarde Malbec (Argentina), and a 2008 Umbria Pinot Grigio (Italy).


Both of the Argentina reds were excellent, had tasty, bold flavor, and packed a bit of a punch alcohol-wise too. The Italian Pinot Grigio was actually a bit too mild in flavor for either of us. The bottle we had seemed a bit on the light side taste-wise.

Sorry I can’t be more specific – next time I’ll try to post about the wine within a week of having tried it, instead of months, when I can’t remember many details! In any case, we’d both recommend either or both of the Argentina wines if you’re up for some robust reds.

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Blue Sky Cola

Blue Sky Cola was one of the first ‘colas’ we’ve run across in a LONG LONG LONG (long!) time that had any HINT of the origins in it – namely the cola nut. Now, Blue Sky Cola has ‘cola nut flavoring’ and we’re not sure EXACTLY what that means, but the important thing is that it tasted like what we thought it should taste like!

We were very happy with the cola-y flavor of this soda and will be getting more of it next time we find it on the grocery shelves. Now, it doesn’t have any caffeine, and it doesn’t have any phosphoric acid, and perhaps it’s this lacking combination that gives the texture of this drink a ‘softer’ feel than coke/pepsi or even Jones cola, which are sharper in the mouth. Still, the ‘softer’ feel doesn’t detract at all from the experience. So we can heartily recommend Blue Sky Cola – they also have a root beer and maybe some other varieties. In any case, we were just very happy to find a locally available cola made with much tastier CANE SUGAR (Jones cola doesn’t seem to be in stores in Upstate NY yet – alas!) instead of high fructose corn syrup. Go Blue Sky!

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Virgil’s Real Cola

Since moving to New York from California one of the hardest to find food items for us has been cane sugar colas. When we saw Virgil’s in a local grocery store we were thrilled! We love Virgil’s Root Beer with it’s unique spices and figured their cola would be equally distinct.

Well, it was distinct, there’s no doubt about that, but I’m sorry to say that I didn’t like it at all. The first sip seemed mediciney at first and after a while I realized that it reminded me of carbonated Listerene. It’s either the clove bud oil or the cassia oil (or both) that coat your tongue when you drink it, slightly numbing it and drowning out the other flavors. There are also lemon, orange and lime juice extracts which you can barely taste but when it does come through it hits like orange juice right after you brushed your teeth. Bleh.

I’m very confused as to why they called this a cola, as it is not like any cola I have ever tasted. And like most, it has no mention of cola nuts in the ingredients. So where did they get the idea that this is a “real cola?” Maybe the marketing department thought calling it a cola would attract more buyers. (It worked on us.)

We’ve actually found one brand of cola that has “cola nut flavor” in the ingredients, but that’s the subject of another post.

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Tropicana Relents!

Yay! Tropicana has decided to go back to their old packaging! When I first saw the new packaging, the word, “generic” came to mind immediately, even before I discovered that’s what happened when MOST people saw the new packaging – LOL.

Perhaps the color of the orange juice just paled in comparison to the actual orange we were used to. Or maybe the font they chose just didn’t stand out as special like the old one. Or maybe both! Click here for short article and side by side comparison.

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Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

I picked up the complimentary ‘Something Extra’ magazine from our local Nob Hill Foods supermarket the other day. While I was wandering through the pages, my attention caught on the recipe for homemade hot chocolate mix. I was excited because over the last year we’d been looking at the ingredients in all the standard single serving packets of hot chocolate on the market, and it seems that (excluding the more expensive or gourmet brands) there was a lot of unnecessary ingredients in them, including sucralose, which tends to give us both slight headaches. The one with the fewest ingredients was Swiss Miss (sans marshmallows), so we’d been using that.

Anyway, the recipe was pretty good, but we felt it needed a touch more sugar, so here’s our tweaked version of their recipe:

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

3 cups instant dry milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar (to taste)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. cinnamon (optional)

Just mix all of the ingredients together in a sealable plastic ziplock bag and store it in a container with a tight fitting lid. To make a cup of hot chocolate, add 1/3 cup of the mixture to a mug with 8 oz. steaming hot water and stir well. (Makes about 15 mugs.)

We’re very happy with the way it came out!

Safeway Organics Blood Orange Italian Soda

If you’re a fan of orange soda, but don’t like the fake orange, high-fructose corn syrup stuff, you’ll be needing to try Safeway Organics Blood Orange Italian Soda. It’s fantabulous! Really orangey, really tangy, and has great ingredients: carbonated water, organic blood orange juice from concentrate, organic sugar, citric acid, natural blood orange flavor, black carrot juice (for color, which is a little weird perhaps since the soda is like a pinky-orange color, not ORANGE-orange), and natural orange flavor. (Contains 12% juice) And you can honestly say it’s Italian because it’s imported from Italy – LOL.

So anyway, if you love orange soda, go pick up a four-pack of these beauties and revel in the flavor!!

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Virgil’s Root Beer

It’s almost a meal unto itself – one bottle of Virgil’s Root Beer is more like a dessert. It’s really not just another carbonated drink you can pound down while you’re eating a burger. It must be savored and meditated upon!

There’s so many complex flavors dancing around on your tongue everytime you take a sip, you’ll wonder how you ever drank those mass-produced, high fructose corn syrup “root beers” before at all. It’s not cheap, but if you consider it an investment like a fine wine that will raise the experience to the level it deserves to be.

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Octopus Dumpling Soda

It’s what you’ve all been waiting for! A soda drink made with the flavors of diced octopus, tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, konnyaku, and green onion, topped with okonomiyaki sauce, green laver (aonori), mayonnaise, and katsuobushi (fish shavings).

And no, I’m never going to try it, but that doesn’t stop me from blogging about it.
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