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.

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Cocktails with Johnnie Walker

Cocktails with Johnnie Walker
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Last Friday, DBS donned his finest three-piece and grey fedora, and I, my favourite, flowery frock and we set off for our very first trip to the Goodwood Revival. Despite my having seen various advertisements and heard discussions on this event by friends in the vintage community, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the sheer scale of this event. There were literally people everywhere and a vast majority were dressed in honour of the Golden Age, including children; at one point we spotted a school party, all dressed in grey and crimson vintage uniforms and caps. All in all, it was quite a sight, even for someone used to seeing people dressed in vintage, and so I was immensely grateful to be grounded by the focus of our day: Johnnie Walker whisky.
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We found the Johnnie Walker Racing Bar by walking through a vintage style Tesco store, through the subway beneath the racing track, and past a vast array of beautiful and exceptionally well-cared for vintage cars. The bar was set up within a wooden shed that had been meticulously decorated to look like one that might have been used by Rob Walker, with racing car, tools, desk, books and a tea mug, complete with dregs.

The Rob Walker Workshop - Click to enlarge

The Rob Walker Workshop – (Click to enlarge)

On the opposite side of the garage was a bar, serving Johnnie Walker Red and Black Label whiskies, plus a selection of cocktails created especially for the occasions. Given my fondness for scotch, I was delighted to be able to try the Johnnie Walker selection with the wonderful Colin Dunn (who we met at the recent Talisker event at Cowes Week, which you can read about here), but today, I thought I would run through the cocktails to hopefully inspire some experimentation before our British summer disappears completely! I will write about the whiskies on their own shortly, in a separate post.
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Red Rose

Red RoseIngredients:

25mls Johnnie Walker Red Label
Fentimans Rose Lemonade
2 strawberries
1 lemon wedge
Method:
Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the Red Label. Top with the lemonade, drop in a strawberry and stir. Garnish with a pinch of chopped strawberry and a lemon wedge.

 This was, frankly, delicious. Delicate, but flavourful, the scotch hits your tongue first, with its sweeter, fruity notes highlighted, followed by a gradual increase in flavour that transformed into a strong, rose flavour, just like Turkish Delight. The finish was fruity and fresh, with the strawberries coming through and the lemon just rounding off the sweetness of everything else. Having recently tried Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade alongside some of its Floral Soda counterparts and knowing that it has a delicate flavour, I was amazed at how much of the rose came through in this drink. Lovely!
 Johnnie Walker Buck

Johnnie Walker BuckIngredients:
25mls Johnnie Walker Red Label
Top with ginger ale
2 lime wedges
Method:
Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the Red Label. Top with ginger ale and a squeeze of lime, using the lime wedges as a garnish.

In contrast to the Red Rose, the J.W. Buck was incredibly savoury. I found the nose to be ever so slightly salty – reminding me of the Tequila Fruit Cup that DBS made – which was supported by the freshness and acidity of the lime. When I tasted it, I got the sense that this drink worked very well with the whisky, allowing the spicy, woody notes to come through without any sweetness to mask them. The savouriness of this drink made it easy to drink, but this is unlikely to be the favourite of someone who prefers sweeter cocktails.

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Stirling Collins

Stirling CollinsIngredients:
25mls Johnnie Walker Black Label
25mls lemon juice
10mls gomme
25mls rhubarb and apple juice
Soda
1 lemon wedge
1 sprig of mint
Method:
Shake the Black Label, lemon juice and gomme with the rhubarb and apple juice and pour into a tall glass. Top with soda and garnish with a lemon wedge and mint sprig.

This was an interesting one. I had two during the day they tasted slightly different, although both had a spicy nose, followed by the distinctive smell of the rhubarb and a slight, lemony bitterness. On the tongue, I thought that it was well-rounded, despite evolving a lot in the mouth. The first one that I had tasted a lot more of rhubarb, whereas the second was surprisingly savoury – as with the Buck, bordering on salty – and refreshing, especially given the amount of fruit juice in it. The rhubarb flavour became stronger in both drinks, with a tartness that reminded me of old-fashioned rhubarb boiled sweets, followed by a decidedly savoury finish.
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Cream of the Crop

Cream of the CropIngredients:
25mls Johnnie Walker Black Label
Cream soda
Method:
Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the Black Label. Top with cream soda and garnish with an orange wedge. (Apple works too!)

Incredibly different to the last two! 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.
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.Stirling Collins and Johnny Walker Buck

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In Conclusion…

Although I obviously liked some of these cocktails a lot more than the others, I thought that the selection overall was superb for that very reason: I have no doubt that most people would find a firm favourite amongst the list.

For those who like their whisky cocktails to taste predominantly of whisky, there was the Johnnie Walker Buck; for those who like heavier whisky notes, but something else going on as well, there’s the Red Rose; the Stirling Collins will satisfy those that like a more fruity expression of their whisky; and, finally, for those who would prefer less heavy whisky notes, want to try something new, or just have a sweet tooth, there’s the Cream of the Crop.

My personal favourite was the Red Rose, followed by the Johnnie Walker Buck, but I could happily drink any of these lovely concoctions, especially on such a glorious summer day as we had last Friday. I will be writing on the whiskies themselves shortly, no doubt by which point the autumn chill will definitely be in the air.

– Mrs. B.

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