Since my OC Weekly archive has pretty well established what a friggin' manchild I am, I really don't feel any shame admitting that, about once a month, I take a trip down to the Block at Irvine or up to Westwood — not to navigate the bar or club scene, but instead to hit up the a candy store.
Granted, RocketFizz is no ordinary candy store. RocketFizz is essentially the most awesome candy store that has ever existed (outside of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, of course). It offers the widest array of novelty, hard-to-find, and just plain delicious sugary treats this side of Oompa Loompaland.
However, my favorite thing at Rocketfizz is the sodas. (I know, I know – look, I don't drink alcohol, okay? This is about the closest I get to beer tasting, and it's fun as heck.) This isn't the kind of crap your mom will find on the shelves of Cost Plus, people – the soft drink selection at any Rocketfizz location is downright INSANE, so I figured I'd share some of my favorites with you, dear reader, fine flavored beverages that you won't be able to find at your local 7-Eleven.
These are my top-five favorite alcohol-free beverages, worth the trek down the 405 or 57.
5. Moxie Elixir
An American classic, the original Moxie brand elixir hearkens back to a simpler time, when the people of the U.S. only bothered with soft drinks because Prohibition left them absolutely desperate for something other than dirty water and weak-ass teas. Introduced in 1876, Moxie is the official beverage of the state of Massachusetts, and is a nice break from modern sodas – almost bitter, mildly sweetened, Moxie feels like the cooler older brother of Dr. Pepper. If Abraham Lincoln had survived long enough, he most assuredly would've endorsed this rooty treat.
I don't buy it everytime I go to Rocketfizz, but my weird friend from Nebraska swears by it.
4. Bawls Guarana
Poor Bawls. Like the X-Games, Kevin Smith's dignity, and the Gameboy Color, this super cool gamer fuel really lost its popularity with the mid-2000s. Heavily marketed towards early FPS players and other such basement dwellers, Bawls had a huge store presence following its invention in 1997, even making its way onto shelves in your local convenience store, but now Bawls Guarana – which has a genuinely delightful berry flavor and provides a pretty insane caffeine boost.
I'm not sure about the "SCIENCE!" behind Bawls caffeine extract process, but I know that I'd take a mouthful of Bawls over a Red Bull any day.
Yes, I was obligated to make that joke. Have you never been 15?
3. Birch Beer
Gather round, nerds – Root Beer is dead. Meet Root Beer's superior-in-every-way replacement: Birch Beer. There's that same vaguely spicy underlying flavor, but that's where the similarity dies. If Luke Skywalker is Coca-Cola and Han Solo is Dad's Classic Root Beer, then Boylan Brewing Company's Birch Beer is the smooth Lando Calrissian, a vaguely minty, almost creamy elixir that flows naturally over the tongue and doesn't have that signature "bite" that comes with brown sodas.
Boylan's Birch Beer is of the traditional cola color, but if you can find it, I prefer some of the clear brands – the smooth mint flavor is more present.
2. Bundaberg Ginger Beer
I'm gonna preface this contender by noting that, with one exception – the "Bitters and Lemon Lime" flavor – every single Bundaberg soda deserves a place on this list. I decided to opt for their frontrunner, the spicy yet smooth Ginger Beer that can kick ass at any temperature. If you've never had Ginger Beer, imagine Ginger Ale, but with testicles attached. It's sharp and spicy and leaves an almost peppery burn in your throat that, honestly, is quite delightful. And out of all the classic "Jamaican" ginger beers and old school cool guy "Ginger Elixirs," Bundaberg Brand Ginger Beer takes the cake.
Bundaberg also makes delicious Blood Orange and Grapefruit sodas, among others, and any one of them is worth a taste. Trust me – the bottle's all cool-shaped and it's got a kangaroo on it.
1. Sprecher's Puma Kola
This is, without a doubt, my favorite soda. In the world. Hands down. Imagine Coca-Cola, but designed by Willy Wonka. Fine cola extracts mixed with vanilla and cinnamon, brewed in barrels at the Sprecher brewery in Wisconsin – a soda fountain that ALSO makes a ton of other irresistible soft drinks. Plus, it's got a goddamned puma on the bottle, roaring and everything. You pound this bad boy, and you feel like a goddamned lion tamer.
I am being one hundred percent literal when I say that every single time I go to RocketFizz, I pick up a Sprecher soda – usually the Puma, but often the Cherry Cola or the Root Beer. They're not messing around. I take their product as seriously as Cleo Tobbi takes LA beer.