Soda is All the Fizz in Philly
Handcrafted beverages are bubbling up all over town
Soda as we know it had its early origins in Philadelphia, thanks to a few enterprising doctors and pharmacists: Many historians believe Dr. Philip Syng Physick sold the first flavored carbonated beverage, while transplanted Englishman Joseph Hawkins patented a device to pump bubbly water for dispensing in his apothecary in 1809, thus setting the stage for drugstore soda counters.
Today soda is enjoying a resurgence in the region, with local chefs, bartenders and craft producers adding fresh new twists to the carbonated soft drink. With newfangled flavors like jalapeño lime or an old-school specialty like Black Cherry Wishniak, Philly’s sodas bring pop to restaurant drink menus.
Take a look at a few of the best thirst-quelling concoctions in town, below:
Legendary Local Beverages
Dr. Physick Soda Pop
Originally introduced as a tonic for gastric disorders, Dr. Physick Soda Pop served as a remedy for the ill for just $1.50 a month. It’s been repackaged for modern drinkers in Black Cherry flavor, made with sugar cane, and is now sold at Old City’s historical sites, as well as other local venues.
Created by Levis Hot Dogs founder Abe Levis, Champ Cherry derives its name from its champagne-like qualities. Reissued and now distributed by Elliots Amazing Juices, Champ Cherry continues to please its devoted local fans.
“Is it Frank’s? Thanks,” went the popular tag line for locally made Frank’s, which produced orange, ginger ale, grape and vanilla cream sodas. Still capturing nostalgic taste buds? The Black Cherry Wishniak now canned in Baltimore, along with other Frank’s flavors.
Produced and bottled in Trevose, Hank’s Beverages offers root beer and its own version of Wishniak Cherry, plus Orange Cream, Vanilla Cream and Birch Beer varieties.
Quick & Bubbly
Best known for its gourmet frankfurters and Belgian frites, Hot Diggity puts just as much thought into its potables. Customers slurp up homemade drinks in flavors like cilantro-jalapeño-lime, as well as small-batch craft brands like Fentiman’s, Maine Root, Champ Cherry, Moxie Cola and Dr. Physick’s.
Details: 630 South Street, (267) 886-9253, thehotdiggity.com
Lucky Old Souls
The folks at eco-friendly burger truck Lucky Old Souls mix homemade cream, ginger, hibiscus, lime, lovage and sarsaparilla sodas with Brooklyn-based P&H Syrups.
Details: Changing locations, luckyoldsouls.com, twitter.com/losburgertruck
Jake’s Sandwich Board
The soda fountain taps overfloweth at Jake’s Sandwich Board, with microbrewed selections in orange, cherry, cola and lemon/lime as well, as local favorites such as Levi’s Champ Cherry, Vanilla Cream and Pennsylvania Dutch birch beer.
Details: 122 S. 12th Street, (215) 922-0102, jakessandwichboard.com
At the upscale wine bar/pizzeria Zavino, the Root Bean Soda combines Philly-made Root liqueur with homemade cream soda for a decidedly adult spin on the root-beer float.
Details: 112 S. 13th Street, (215) 732-2400, zavino.com
Garces Trading Company
Garces Trading Company mixes up three hand-bottled carbonated cocktails every season. The current lineup of refreshments includes the Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth and orange), Pepino Fresco (Cuervo Gold, St. Germain, celery juice, cucumber juice and lemon) and Avenue 1111 (Tanqueray, lime cordial, ginger beer and mint).
Details: 1111 Locust Street, (215) 574-1099, garcestradingcompany.com
Just in time for summer, Rum Bar wows patrons with Island Pop, house-made sodas paired with Caribbean rums, including grapefruit and Appleton V/X, pineapple and Atlantico Platino, and blueberry with Bacardi Wolf Berry.
Details:2005 Walnut Street, (215) 751-0404, rum-bar.com
From The Fountain
The Franklin Fountain
A fully restored, old-timey soda counter, The Franklin Fountain serves as a porthole into the past, with 25 soda flavors (everything from the obscure teaberry and sassafras to the more familiar chocolate and cherry), which can be embellished with a shot of alcohol or a scoop of the fountain’s celebrated ice cream.
Details: 116 Market Street, (215) 627-1899, franklinfountain.com
Front Street Fountain
Media’s Front Street Fountain brings back the fizz with egg creams and floats, as well as homemade pops (cherry, orange, banana, vanilla, chocolate).
Details: 1 W. Front Street, Media, (610) 565-4130, frontstreetfountain.com
The local chain Nifty Fifty’s sates nostalgic yearnings for simpler times with burgers, fries and 100 different flavors of sodas, ranging from blue raspberry and chocolate strawberry to cotton candy and toasted marshmallow.
Details: Multiple locations. niftyfiftys.com
Farm To Straw
The locavore movement goes liquid at bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) spot Russet, where the changing roster of seasonally inspired homemade sips includes concoctions such as pear and ginger.
Details: 1521 Spruce Street, (215) 546-1521, russetphilly.com
Earth Bread + Brewery
Mt. Airy’s Earth Bread + Brewery serves up homemade beer, as well as homemade sarsaparilla soda and ginger ale.
Details: 7136 Germantown Avenue, (215) 242-6666, earthbreadbrewery.com
Vernick Food & Drink
Newcomer Vernick Food & Drink boarded the seasonal, local beverage train with herb-inflected offerings such as fresh ginger and lime, raspberry and basil, and cucumber smash.
Details: 2031 Walnut Street, (267) 639-6644, vernickphilly.com
Rooting For The Home Team
Yards Brewing Company
Taking the brewery business into an under-21 direction, Yards Brewing Company produces a root beer alongside its other award-winning ales, and it’s now available in the brewery tasting room and at selected local sandwich shops.
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
At the local chain of Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, homemade root beer is a sweet surprise, available to sip as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Details: Multiple locations. ironhillbrewery.com
Great Bottled Selections
Stephen Starr’s Brit-styled gastropub, The Dandelion stocks plenty of non-alcoholic options, including Luscombe, Ribena, Jin Ja, Belvoir and Fentiman’s sodas.
Details: 124 S. 18th Street, (215) 558-2500, thedandelionpub.com
When regular old American sodas won’t do, the bebida selection at the Loft Distict’s well-loved Jose’s Tacos delivers with its Jarritos, Boing and Jumex.
Details: 469 N. 10th Street, (215) 765-2369
Mexican Coke, Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer and multiple flavors of Jarritos delight the chicken-eating masses at Rotisseur.
Details: 102 S. 21st Street, (215) 496-9494, rotisseur.net