Cream Soda Tasting, with History, Cocktail and Home-made Recipes

HISTORY

The exact origins of Cream Soda are hard to come by; all but one reference seems to point to it being of American creation. It is also possible that for a long time the terms “ice-cream soda” and “cream soda” were interchangeable.
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I spoke to a chap who’s family have been making cream soda for generations and he said that he thought that the modern bottled version was produced to recreate the ice-cream soda of American ice-cream parlours. He also mentioned that, at times, Cream Soda has been green and been flavoured with lime.
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The oldest reference to Cream Soda that I managed to find was in the recipe given below, from Vol. 10 of the Michigan Farmer, published in January 1852. Although it contains some dairy products, I think that it would be a far cry from today’s varieties.
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TASTING

In our tasting of these, we tried a total of seven; here are our thoughts.
A&W
Like the A&W Root Beer, this is made with aged vanilla, but, unlike the Root Beer, it also contains caffeine.
Colour: Amber Brown (like Root Beer)
Nose: Pure vanilla, although one panelist picked up pink wafer biscuits.
Taste: Not too fizzy and quite smooth. Heavy, with lightly buttery vanilla and a short finish.
Overall score: 21

Barr’s American Cream Soda (ASP)
Colour: Clear, with a hint of straw yellow
Nose: Short, predominantly vanilla
Taste: Medium-high fizz and an unobtrusive flavour of milk bottle sweets with some vanilla. Overall, rather thin in terms of flavour. Cloying and artificial at the end, with a slight soda-water quality.
Overall score: 15

Ben Shaw (SodSac)
Colour: Clear
Nose: Fruity vanilla
Taste: Very sweet, but quite watery; not balanced. The initial flavour of vanilla implodes to a watery nothingness, followed by a cloying feeling. Very disappointing.
Overall score: 12

Morrison’s “The Best” Cream Soda
Made with real Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla.
Colour: Clear, with a faint green/yellow tint
Nose: Vanilla ice-cream with a touch of berries.
Taste: Medium fizz, a touch of citrus (but more akin to citric acid than any particular fruit) and vanilla and then a flavour void. Artificial, with an unpleasant metallic flavour at the end.
Overall score: 9

D&G Cream Soda

This one was described on the front of the can as a “Mixed Flavour Soft Drink” and on the back as having a “Mixed Fruit Flavour”.
Colour: This drink was clear, but had little white specs floating in it. (see picture)
Nose: Very faint; slightly fruity, with a touch of vanilla.
Taste: Awful: a mess of sickly vanilla and artificial fruit flavours.

A real shame, as their Old Jamaica Ginger Beer is superb. The reaction from the panel was so strong that I’ve decided to include some of their quotes:

“Awful and offensive.”
“If you want a nice Cream Soda, don’t buy this.”
“Don’t buy this.”
Overall score: 4

Barr’s Originals (“Cream Soda with a Twist of Raspberry”)
According to the can, this is based on Barr’s original recipe and contains only natural flavours.
Colour:
Nose: Rhubarb & Custard,  jam and cream, jelly & ice-cream
Taste: Tastes like jelly and ice-cream and the jelly & ice-cream flavoured Panda Pop. Nice and jammy and silkily creamy. Good, strong flavour with a good balance. All members of the panel liked this.
Overall score: 27

Mark and Spencer Cream Sodas
Marks & Spencer’s own-brand Cream Soda, which is flavoured with “Vanilla Cream Soda”.
Colour: Clear
Nose: Vanilla ice-cream, with a slight nutty/popcorn element.
Taste: “About right” was the judgement of most of the panel (high praise indeed). Pleasant to drink; strong, but not overpowering. The vanilla was not too sweet and not cloying.
Overall score: 26

COCKTAILS

In addition to trying the sodas on their own, we tried some cocktails where it is used as a mixer.

#1 Cream of the Crop
[25ml Johnnie Walker Black Label, 50ml Cream Soda, Ice and a Lime Wedge]
This was served at the Johnnie Walker Racing Bar at Goodwood Revival. We thought that this was an unusual cocktail that works surprisingly well and it was my favourite of the drinks that they had at the bar.

 The cream soda is immediately evident as a very appropriate choice of mixer, given our vintage setting; the nose was strong, creamy and sweet, like milk bottle sweets. The taste was similarly sweet, with a smooth, creamy texture; the milky creaminess stayed at the top of my mouth. The Black Label came through afterwards, but it was faint and mainly served to add some weight with a slightly heavier, spicy, dark-toffee-like sweetness, highlighted by the orange. This would be good for those with a sweet tooth who don’t think that they could like a whisky cocktail.

Moscow Moo

Moscow Moo

#2 Moscow Moo
[50ml Vodka, 100ml Cream Soda, 25ml Lime Juice]
This is, essentially, a Moscow Mule with the ginger subbed for cream soda. I found this to be rather pleasant: fresh and creamy, with a zingy tartness from the lime that livens the drink up. Mrs. B was very keen, too.

The Kitten Cooler

The Kitten Cooler

#3 Kitten Cooler
Nice and cooling, with extra flavour from the grenadine and the lime juice. Be careful not to overdo the grenadine; just a splash can add some jammy berry flavours that work well with the cream and citrus. This is a good way to spice up a mediocre cream soda.

MAKE YOUR OWN

Finally, I tried two methods of creating home-made Cream Soda. Here are the results.

L:R Vanilla Syrup Method and 1852 Recipe

Vanilla Syrup
This was quite sweet, with a strong vanilla flavour and could maybe do with a bit more depth. I used some vanilla flavouring, but I think a slower-infused syrup using vanilla pods and maybe some small amounts of another spice would be better.

1852 Recipe
The product of this recipe smelt like egg white and rather disgusting, with a similar taste. It’s quite sweet and very hard to drink. A product of its time, I think.