Bubbling up with sugar-infused zing, old-school soda beverages evoke youth, fun, nostalgia—and living dangerously
Nostalgia may be one of life’s guiltier pleasures—but with soda, the guilt deepens. Square in the crosshairs of the anti-soda National Soda Summit types, no doubt, are people like Chris Dunn and Lisa Pelgrim, the couple who own the Rocket Fizz shop in the Santa Clara Valley city of Campbell.
There, they use the appeal of old-fashioned sodas, the glass bottles, the colorful names, and the age-old bottlers of our youth to hook young and old alike on this deadly beverage.
“The concept around Rocket Fizz,” Dunn confesses, “is we create this feeling of nostalgia, a feeling of going back to a time of innocence when you weren’t concerned with how many calories is this, and what is this doing to our waistline?”
Rocket Fizz, a 28-store (so far) franchise operation based in Southern California, sells hundreds of sodas, mostly from small producers, almost all using pure cane sugar, and 85 percent in glass bottles.
Dunn grew up in Texas drinking ‘Dublin Dr. Pepper,’ which used the original formula, with cane sugar, not high fructose syrup. “The taste,” he says. “The pure cane sugar has a crisper taste to it. For me, the high fructose comes off a little flat.”
Regional sodas retain a strong appeal. Dunn can tell where his customers come from by what they buy.
“Faygo from Detroit has almost a cult following,” he says. “My favorite in the whole store is Faygo Rock & Rye. Imagine a cherry cola with a cream back, and the rye gives it just a little bit of a vanilla bourbon flavor.”
Then there’s Moxie, legendary, infamous, the soda that gave the word ‘moxie’ to the world, as in “it takes real moxie to drink this stuff.” Designed originally as ‘nerve food,’ the concoction’s creator warned customers its taste would take getting used to.
Asked what it tastes like, Dunn laughs.
“I laugh because I can explain almost any soda in my shop that I’ve tasted. Moxie’s the one I completely fail at trying to describe. I actually like it. Imagine a muddy root beer with a bit of a spearmint taste. It is a very, very unique soda.”