Bliss in a bottle

What do you call a carbonated beverage? Soda? Wrong. Pop? Sorry, wrong again. Soda pop? No offense, but that’s just extremely wrong. As a Mississippian born and raised, I know what to call a carbonated beverage. By God, you call it a Coke. Even if it’s not actually a Coke, it’s a Coke. I don’t care if it’s a Pepsi or a 7-Up or a Grape Nehi—it’s still a Coke.

OK, maybe that’s strictly a Southern thing. As a kid growing up in the 1970s, I can remember going on road trips with the family and making the inevitable rest stop at a gas station or convenience store. “Anybody want a Coke?” my father would say. “I do,” I’d pipe up. “What kind?” he’d ask. Because, although there was—and is—only one soft drink brand named Coca-Cola, we all knew there were many types and flavors of “Coke,” and I’m not talking about the low-calorie kind. Only as I got a little older and met kids who hailed from north of the Mason-Dixon line did I realize there were other words for that bubbly, burpy bliss in a bottle. (Even so, to this day, I still have zero tolerance for “soda pop.” It just bugs me, like pronouncing “pecan” as “PEE-can”—I’m looking at you, New England!)

To this day, I love a good Coke, preferably in the form of a Dr. Pepper. But I’m even crazier about the new craft sodas that are springing up in pizzerias around the country. As described in Tracy Morin’s article, “Top of the Pops.” craft sodas have piggybacked the microbrew movement from the fizzy fringes into mainstream acceptance. Well, sort of. Actually, the trend has only just begun, but already it’s showing a lot of promise. Craft sodas are breathing new life into beverage menus industry-wide; they enhance the dining experience and differentiate your pizzeria from your competitors. In many cases, they leverage locally grown and seasonal ingredients—everything from pomegranate and strawberries to ginger and clove—to create dynamic flavor combinations with an organic edge. And they appeal to all ages: Younger customers see craft sodas as new, different and intriguing; older consumers fondly recall similar beverages from their long-ago youth and want to recapture that magic once more.

For pizzeria operators, summer is the perfect time to roll out a selection of these palate-pleasing pops. Fortunately, Tracy’s article, in-depth and thorough as always, tells you pretty much everything you could ever want to know about incorporating craft sodas into your beverage menu. So check it out, make a few phone calls and start revolutionizing your beverage menu today.

But do me one favor: Don’t call them “soda pops.” Just don’t. I can live with “soda,” and I can tolerate “pop,” but I have to draw the line at putting those two words together. I mean, that’s just nuttier than a PEE-can pie.