The New Orleans area is blossoming into a soda hub. The latest addition is Fest Cola (www.festcola.com), a line of four sodas bottled locally, sweetened with Louisiana cane sugar and bearing New Orleans-themed names. Fest's approach is clearly aimed at a teenage and twentysomething crowd. The soda's website is plastered with slogans including, "Big boring colas are highly fruct up" and "If you have to suck, use a straw."
Behind the snark and slick branding, how do the sodas taste? Here are my findings. One bubble indicates a soda that falls flat, and 10 bubbles is a soda of fizzy perfection.
Flambeaux: This riff on the classic orange Creamsicle drink is marketed as "satsuma mint" flavored. The soda is lighter and bubblier than many other orange sodas, and the herbal aftertaste of the mint operates almost like a palate cleanser. It's one of the most drop-by-drop enjoyable orange sodas to sip on its own, due in large part to the well-balanced citrus and sweetness. 8 bubbles.
LuLu: If you've ever wanted a carbonated beverage aged in bourbon barrels, this bourbon cream soda might be as close as you'll ever get. With a smoky, cigarlike aftertaste and oaky finish, it seems like the kind of drink kids would enjoy in a treehouse while pretending to be adults (candy cigarettes not included). 6 bubbles.
Bamboula: While an almond-flavored soda might seem like an excuse to get a liquid marzipan fix, Bamboula avoids this pitfall. The clean, lightly vanilla-flavored taste makes it the best of the bunch to use as a cocktail mixer, particularly with rum or perhaps Scotch. 5 bubbles.
Papa Joe: A kicked-up root beer, this pecan-tinged drink is rich without being cloying, and has the buttery taste afforded by the South's favorite nut. While whiffs of the soda may indicate typical root beer spice, lovers of a tongue-tingling sarsaparilla-style kick might be sorely disappointed by the soda's more subtle taste. It also goes flat quickly. 7 bubbles.