Fancy soda
May 16, 2022 3:26 PM   Subscribe

What are some fancy, carbonated, non-alcoholic beverages that I can get at stores in the Berkeley CA area?

Parameters: Generally speaking, I like ginger and citrus flavors, and I dislike berry flavors. But pretty much any flavor goes, for the purposes of this question. Unsweetened or naturally low in sugar is good, but with no artificial sweeteners, no stevia, and no monkfruit. Caffeine is OK at less-than-Jolt strength; alcohol and CBD are not.

I'm looking for stuff that I can buy in small quantities (less than a pint and fewer than a four-pack) to try out. Is there a store you recommend in Berkeley, Albany, or El Cerrito that sells single bottles of interesting stuff? Most of the grocery stores have plenty of options in liters or six-packs, but not in smaller quantities. In past years I would have gone to Fred's for this, but they've closed. Maybe there's another deli that has a good selection?
posted by expialidocious to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If Alameda is an option, you should check out Rocket Fizz. They have an amazing beverage selection and most (all?) can be bought by the single bottle.
posted by sacrifix at 3:39 PM on May 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

I think Star Grocery has a decent selection. This is not fancy, but I really like Spindrift's lemon soda, which you can buy at Trader Joes by the single can (if they don't have them out singly, they let you open up a carton and take one out).
posted by pinochiette at 3:40 PM on May 16, 2022

Any desire to order online? Galco's (in LA) has an incredible selection.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:14 PM on May 16, 2022

I haven't been to Berkeley in a decade, but in many other areas of the country, Fentiman's is good and sold singly at fancier bodegas. Sorry if that's too mainstream but they are good!
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:30 PM on May 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Dry sparkling beverages? My favorite is vanilla but the orange is good too. I've never tried the ginger. They're widely available, pretty fancy, and I've definitely seen people just buy singles from the supermarket.
posted by potrzebie at 5:16 PM on May 16, 2022

Bundaberg guava! They have it at Safeway. So good.
posted by Threeve at 5:46 PM on May 16, 2022

San Pellegrino sparkling sodas in Pompelmo (grapefruit) flavor. Delicious!
posted by Bigbootay. Tay! Tay! Blam! Aargh... at 6:08 PM on May 16, 2022

I don't know if these are available where you live, but I really like Rishi Sparkling Botanicals. They're complex, unusual, and not at all sweet.
posted by juliapangolin at 7:49 PM on May 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you want individual servings… Lagunitas Hop! (carried at Whole Foods and a number of specialty beer stores)

If you are making at home and don’t mind a little bit of assembly… a dash of culinary ginger juice/a dash of kombucha (Kevita’s ginger and tart cherry are best IMO)/a dash of juice concentrate (tart cherry, again, is a fave) topped with a grapefruit La Croix!
Ginger beer, grapefruit juice, lime juice, soda water - 2:2:1:2! Serve over ice with lime slices.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 7:50 PM on May 16, 2022

Does GoodEggs delivery to Berkeley? If so, and if you can afford the delivery fee and want to get other things from them, you can get several interesting fancy sodas from them, including some single cans. If nothing else, maybe that page can give you some more ideas.

Since you didn't mention it, have you checked Berkeley Bowl? They're likely to have a lot of single bottles and cans of the fancy craft sodas in their deli/prepared foods/cafe sections.

I don't recall if there's a Whole Foods in that area now, but they also generally have singles in their deli/prepared area as well.

Some brands to try:
Olipop (I like their Cherry Vanilla and their Vintage Cola)
Izze (I like their Clementine)
Fentiman's as already mentioned (I like their cherry cola)
Dry as already mentioned (I like their Rainier Cherry and their Cucumber)
Bundeberg, as already mentioned (they have a neat Blood Orange flavor)

And this may seem a little out of left field, but there both Q and Fever Tree make sodas sold as cocktail mixers, but are great on their own (and to be very clear, do not contain any alcohol themselves).
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:58 PM on May 16, 2022

Fentimans Rose Lemonade! SO GOOD
posted by nayantara at 8:00 PM on May 16, 2022

I’m a huge fan of Mash, lower in sugar than most sodas and with good flavors, including a lemon ginger which is quite lovely.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:11 PM on May 16, 2022

Ashby Supermarket (corner store at Ashby and MLK) is not fancy at all, but they generally have some interesting sodas available. It's been a minute since I've been there, but there were small producers, obscure stuff, etc.

Market Hall Berkeley on 4th Street has stuff like San Pellegrino Italian Soda, Izze Sparkling Juice and Bruce Cost Natural Ginger Ale. I think they may also carry Gus or Dry. Look at the cooler on the left as you walk in the doors. Also, if you go (and if you are meat eater), their Italian sub is fantastic.

Like rhiannonstone mentioned, Q and Fever Tree have great soda/mixers. Both are carried at Berkeley Bowl, although I don't recall if you can purchase less than a four-pack of their small bottles.
posted by jenquat at 9:31 PM on May 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

I really love some of the tonics fentimen's makes straight
posted by PinkMoose at 10:41 PM on May 16, 2022

I found dandelion and burdock in cost plus world market (probably also Fentimans, but it is usually the cheapest of pop so a fancy brand is not required). It's a canonically English weird drink - think root beer, except it's so much better.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 1:06 AM on May 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

Chinotto is an Italian soda that kind of tastes like a mixture of Coca Cola, tonic water, and Angostura bitters. Or those dark colored Ricola cough drops. It’s flavoured with herbs and quinine - which has a bitter, sweet taste. similar to tonic water. It’s got real sugar. It’s an acquired taste, but once you’re used to it, it’s addictively fantastic with pizza. Brio and San Pellegrino are both great brands of chinotto.

Kombucha has lots of variations. It’s fermented tea with sweeteners and flavourings. It does have the tiniest bit of natural alcohol, like half a percent. It tastes like weak iced tea with a little balsamic vinegar and club soda added. There are huge variations in what sweeteners and flavourings are used in different brands. Again it’s an acquired taste but once you’re used to it, it’s delightful and also good for your gut!

Fentiman’s brand rose lemonade is nice. You can add a little more rosewater - maybe a rose water rim on our glass- if you like a stronger rose taste.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:39 AM on May 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

The commercial kitchens down on 4th or 5th in West Berkeley - walking distance to Berkeley Bowl West - had a place that makes shrubs. I can’t remember what the name was, but I think you could buy directly from a little storefront.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 4:13 AM on May 17, 2022

Sanbitter, Crodino, etc. are delicious little bottles of sparkling nonalcoholic bitters that are delicious over ice with or without diluting with sparkling water. Ratto's Deli, pick up some Chinotto while you're there (per nouvelle-personne's recommendation above).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:40 AM on May 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

A friend turned me on to Magnesium mineral water from Eastern Europe (Czech I think?) It tastes like normal sparkling water but somehow it’s just really good water - has a smooth sweet subtle taste. No sweeteners or flavourings and the Mg level is low enough that you’re not gonna overdo it.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:26 AM on May 17, 2022

Barbarian (formerly Khanna Pena) on Shattuck half a block below University used to have an impressive selection of interesting sodas. I'm not sure if it's quite as extensive since the redesign, but it's worth checking out

If you make it to Rocket Fizz in Alameda, buy a bottle of Moxie, my favorite weird soda. It's the oldest commercially produced soda in the US, made with gentian root, and very-medicinal tasting.
posted by knucklebones at 9:25 AM on May 17, 2022

If you'd like something apertif-ish: I've enjoyed Ghia Spritz lately! They come in 8 oz cans, and there's a regular and a ginger flavor. Both are nice, I prefer the regular. It tastes kinda of like an aperol spritz. I've seen them IRL at Bi-rite and another nice grocery store, and they are also available online.

I also like chinotto as mentioned upthread, Ghia is along those lines just less sugar.

I also enjoy the hopped sparkling waters and teas from Hoplark, which I've seen IRL at Whole Foods and have bought online too.
posted by soleiluna at 10:48 AM on May 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

RocketFizz rules! Their sodas don't always taste the best, but they have cool bottles:
Bacon soda pop
Bloody nose

It's worth the trip.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:18 PM on May 17, 2022

Bundaberg Ginger Beer is imported Aussie ginger beer that is the best. I've seen it at BevMo; it may be elsewhere also but it is great stuff.
posted by lhputtgrass at 1:42 PM on May 17, 2022

Whole foods has single cans of waterloo and spindrift in their grab and go section.
posted by brujita at 1:51 PM on May 17, 2022

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