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Blind Soda Taste Test: Can Any Cherry Soda Beat Cherry Coke?

I love soda. More than any other vice I cover (tequila, weed, fast food) nothing gets me psyched like a blind soda taste test. So I’ll admit I took great pleasure as I cruised through the aisles of multiple markets filling up my cart with cherry soda after cherry soda for this piece.

But while cola is my all-time favorite type of soda, cherry cola runs a close second. And yet I have meandered across this mortal coil without having a “go to” brand the way I do with cola (Coke, naturally). I have yet to find “the one.” So this test is poised to serve as quite the utility for you and me both.

Can anything top market leaders Cherry Coke and Wild Cherry Pepsi? Let’s find out!

Methodology

For this blind taste test, all sodas were tasted while I wore a blindfold, recording my impressions via voice memo. This way the colorless sodas wouldn’t be as easy to pick out.

The only thing we eliminated was low-sugar cherry seltzers — as they would stand out way too easily in this blind taste test. I made an exception for New York Seltzer Black Cherry which is so packed with sugar, that it’s essentially just a regular soda and not really a health-conscious seltzer drink.

Here is our class:

  • BAWLS — Cherry Soda
  • Boylan — Black Cherry
  • Cheerwine
  • Coca-Cola — Cherry Coke
  • Cock ’n Bull — Cherry Ginger Beer
  • Hanks — Black Cherry Soda
  • Henry Weinhard’s — Black Cherry Cream
  • Original New York Seltzer — Black Cherry Soda
  • Pepsi — Wild Cherry Pepsi
  • Saranac — Shirley Temple
  • Sprecher — Cherry Cola
  • Virgil’s — Handcrafted Black Cherry

Part 1: The Tasting

Taste 1:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Very bright and cherry forward on the nose. This has a great appetizing smell to it, but that doesn’t really translate to the flavor. The carbonation is very weak, there isn’t enough fizz on the body, and the flavor is a bit too sweet to be enjoyable.

It’s fine for a sip, but I can’t imagine crushing a bottle of this stuff.

Taste 2:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Absolutely no cherry smell on the nose, but this one still has a pleasingly sweet smell. The cherry is very subtle here, I’m getting much more of the cinnamon and vanilla aspects of cola, and not a lot of cherry. It’s there, but you have to strain for it.

That’s not bothering me, though. I like this one a lot.

Taste 3:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Truly bad. The nose has a nice soft cherry smell to it but the flavor is blunt and flat with a gross bitter aftertaste.

Taste 4:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

This is Wild Cherry Pepsi. I know that not because I’m a fan of Wild Cherry Pepsi, I’m not, but it has that fizzy smell and round flavor characteristics of Pepsi.

It’s an improvement over regular Pepsi definitely, but my taste buds are geared to Coca-Cola, so this just tastes like the enemy to me.

Taste 5:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Very sweet and bright on the nose with a soft almost bubble-gum-like flavor. It doesn’t really read as cherry to me, it just tastes light, sweet, and fruity.

From my notes: “Lack of cherry aside, it’s delicious.”

Taste 6:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

A nice rich flavor, I’m getting vanilla, sweet dark cherry, orange peel, and some cinnamon dancing with the fruitier qualities. A bit too sweet on the after-taste, but overall this is a good one.

Taste 7:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

This one has a great fizz to it that feels crisp on the tongue. The flavor has deep cherry notes with a nicely balanced aftertaste of sweet and bitter tones. Very complex!

Taste 8:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Creamy with a balance of cherry and vanilla flavors and a strangely soft mouthfeel. It almost tastes like some kind of soda float. I’m not the biggest fan of cream sodas, which this clearly is, but the cherry makes this sweet flavor a bit more palatable for me.

Taste 9:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

I’m questioning if this is really a cherry-flavored soda or if we’ve made some kind of mistake. Where is the cherry? You get a slight fruity tinge when it first hits the tongue but the flavor is quickly dominated by spicy ginger notes and a throat-burning aftertaste.

This is very herbal and spicy — I can’t see myself drinking a whole bottle but I can see this mixed in a cocktail with some dry gin and a twist of lime and mint.

Taste 10:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

This one hit me with an intoxicating cherry smell that came across as very natural. Just the smell got my salivary glands going, which I can’t say for any of the tastes proceeding this. This tastes like a number one — it has a strong fizzy bite with a balance of natural cherry notes, vanilla, a hint of citrus, and some cinnamon on the backend.

From my notes: “A real medley of flavors.”

Taste 11:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

This smells like straight-up cran-raspberry juice. Seriously, I’m getting Ocean Spray vibes from this one. The flavor is a 1:1 match for a Cherry Tootsie Pop. I don’t know what this is, but it tastes like cheap cherry candy.

Taste 12:

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Nicely balanced, I’m getting some darker cola tones with a sweet cherry lift on the backend. The cherry flavor is well represented here, but it never gets too overwhelming or candy sweet. It’s a toss-up between this one and Taste 10 for my number one pick.

Part 2: The Ranking

12. BAWLS — Cherry Soda (Taste 3)

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Price: $2.69

BAWLS has got to be the worst name for a soda brand, and after two different soda taste tests in which BAWLS has performed poorly, this might be my least favorite brand of all time. BAWLS is a brand that infuses its soda with the Amazon basin’s guarana berry I guess the guarana berry tastes awful because this has no redeeming qualities. It’s off-puttingly bitter.

The Bottom Line:

A sweet bright cherry smell with a dirty blunt and bitter flavor. Steer clear of this one.

11. Virgil’s — Handcrafted Black Cherry (Taste 11)

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Price: $7.99 (4 pack)

Virgil’s isn’t a brand that you’d assume would be bad considering it’s one of the most visible “hipster” soda brands out there. Trader Joe’s has it, Whole Foods has it, BevMo, Total Wine, Wal-Mart, this shit is everywhere! Should it be? Because Virgil’s isn’t good, in fact, I’ve never had any Virgil’s product that hasn’t tasted like overly-sweetened garbage.

The Bottom Line:

Don’t let the fancy branding fool you, Virgil’s is garbage and the Black Cherry is one of the brand’s worst.

10. Cock ’n Bull — Cherry Ginger Beer (Taste 9)

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Price: $6.99 (4 pack)

If BAWLS is the worst name for a soda brand, Cock n’ Bull takes the spot for the second worst soda brand name. This was a hard one for me to rank because on one hand, I think it doesn’t taste anything like cherry. This is a cherry-infused ginger beer and it tastes more like a ginger beer than anything else, so as a cherry soda I think this leaves a lot to be desired. \

Having said that, I think it’s delicious.

As I alluded to in the blind portion, I think this soda would make a great base for a cocktail, it has this complex shifting character that I think would add a lot to a mixed drink. In a ginger beer blind, I think this will hold up well, but in this cherry soda taste test, we have to rank this one near the bottom of the list.

The Bottom Line:

Worth a pick-up if you like ginger beer. As. a cherry soda, it doesn’t come across as cherry-forward enough.

9. Henry Weinhard’s — Black Cherry Cream (Taste 8)

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Price: $6.79 (6 pack)

Take my ranking of this one with a grain of salt because I’m not a fan of cream soda. In fact, I straight up don’t like it, but this one has a complexity to it that I can respect and appreciate. Henry Weinhard’s makes its Black Cherry Cream soda with bing and black cherries from Oregon, black raspberry, and bourbon vanilla, and you can taste that craft, the flavor is very rich and complex, but overall I don’t really like the cream element. It’s too sweet and distracting for me to enjoy.

But that’s my issue, if you like cream soda, you’re going to love this.

The Bottom Line:

One of the best cream sodas I’ve ever had, but I don’t like cream soda so I can’t give this a higher ranking than this. If you do, you’re going to find a lot to like her.

8. Pepsi — Wild Cherry Pepsi

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Price: $6.49 (12 pack)

Although I’m not a Pepsi fan I will say that Wild Cherry Pepsi is a clear improvement over the OG. The flavor leans a bit more on cola flavors than I’d expect a cherry soda to, but the cherry flavor is definitely present and does add some excitement to it that makes it admittedly appetizing.

The Bottom Line:

A slight improvement over Pepsi.

7. Boylan — Black Cherry (Taste 1)

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Price: $8.79 (4 pack)

I like Boylan a lot, the flavor has a nice bright and refreshing cherry-forward taste to it, but the carbonation is just too weak for me to give this a higher spot. When soda doesn’t have a strong fizz, it tends to stick to the teeth in this really unappetizing way I can’t help but be turned off by.

Maybe my bottle was a fluke but other Boylan flavors have failed to grab me either, so I think it’s the brand. Fizz this shit up a little, team Boylan!

The Bottom Line:

Good flavor but it has no fizz. If you like your soda to have strong bubbles and a biting flavor, this comes across too flat.

6. Saranac — Shirley Temple (Taste 5)

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Price: $7.99 (6 pack)

I had a feeling there was something different about this tasting, it had a tart brightness that all the other sips lacked, and that’s because it’s Saranac, which isn’t so much a cherry soda as it is a Shirley Temple.

Yes, I’m well aware that a Shirley Temple is essentially cherry sprite or 7-Up, but Shirley Temple is made with grenadine, and even though grenadine is sometimes cherry flavored (sometimes pomegranate!) it doesn’t really taste all that much like cherry, it kind of sort of just tastes like, well … grenadine. It has its own special unique flavor

The Bottom Line:

If you love the light, bright, and tart bite of Shirley Temples, this bottle by Saranac is a great one.

5. Original New York Seltzer — Black Cherry Soda (Taste 7)

New York Seltzer
Amazon

Price: $1.29

I am truly shocked to find a seltzer ranked so highly! I don’t know what it is about clear colorless soda, there is just something unappetizing to me about it. And apparently, that’s all in my head because when I couldn’t see the sodas, this one didn’t taste any different from the experience the other sodas provided.

The New York Zeltzer brand was everywhere in the 80s and 90s at convenience stores but for whatever reason, this one disappeared and now I can only find it in markets in the cold bottle section.

The Bottom Line:

Don’t be fooled by the word seltzer in the name, this isn’t some low-calorie health soda — it’s just as sugar packed and delicious as the best of them!

4. Coca-Cola — Cherry Coke (Taste 6)

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Price: $6.49 (12 pack)

I’m not surprised to see Cherry Coke in the top five, I’m a Coke head, and that characteristic Coca-Cola bite is just something I look for in a soda, regardless of flavor. Overall, I don’t like this nearly as much as Classic Coca-Cola which has a stronger bite and a less sweetened flavor, but it’s hard to be disappointed with this cherry cola.

It has a great balanced flavor.

The Bottom Line:

Not quite as good as Coca-Cola Classic but this is an excellent cherry cola. Easily Coke’s second-best flavor.

3. Cheerwine (Taste 2)

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Price: $4.99 (4 pack)

Cheerwine has been around since 1917 and one sip of this stuff was enough to convince me of why. I really like this soda, it’s not as cherry-forward as any of the other brands on this ranking, but I really love the equal balance of cherry and cola notes. On the Cheerwine website, the brand proudly proclaims that it is “the south’s unique cherry soft drink” and we co-sign that.

This is definitely unique, and that is its strength.

The Bottom Line:

A great soda. It leans a little more on citrus and vanilla cola notes than cherry flavors, but that’s its strength, not its weakness.

2. Hank’s — Wishniak Black Cherry Soda (Taste 12)

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Price: $5.99 (4 pack)

It was hard to pick a top spot in this ranking but after a few re-tastings of the top two, I have to give this second place spot to Hank’s. This soda might’ve landed in second place but it’s absolutely worth picking up and might even be your favorite over our top choice, depending on what you’re looking for in a cherry cola.

If you want a subtle gentler expression of cherry with a rich and creamy body, this is the brand for you. If want you want is bite, you’re going to want to reach for our number 1 choice.

The Bottom Line:

Sweet, creamy, well-balanced, complex, and rich in flavor.

1. Sprecher — Cherry Cola (Taste 10)

Cherry Cola Blind
Ashley Garcia

Price: $34.99 (12 pack)

The top spot in our blind cherry cola taste test goes to Sprecher, a brand out of Milwaukee Wisconsin that holds the title of the oldest craft brewery in the city. For this cherry cola, Sprecher infuses a cola base with Door County cherry juice and blends the brew with real Wisconsin honey, resulting in a complex bouquet of flavors that taste natural, fruity, and floral, but still delivers that characteristic cola bite.

You can really smell and taste that natural cherry juice in this, it cuts through the flavor in a way that none of the other bottles could, and for that alone I think it deserves the top spot.

The Bottom Line:

Truly the best marriage of cherry and cola flavors. It has a bite, a zesty zing, and a juicy sweet floral sweetness that comes across as natural, while still delivering the sweetness.

I’ve never had a cherry cola more perfect than this. If you’re hooked on a different brand you should definitely make the effort to give it a try.

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