By: The Switch Beverage Company
I Paid: 99 cents for an 8.3-ounce can (prices may vary by region)
The Switch pitches itself as “a great tasting, all natural beverage that’s the perfect balance between juice and carbonation.” It’s 100 percent juice (from concentrate), with no sugar, corn syrup, artificial colors, or preservatives added. But the cans are vibrant purple, red, or orange in color, with iconic illustrations of grapes, cherries, and oranges and tangerines, respectively. The art screams “soda pop.” Surprisingly, so does the taste.
Cleaner and crisper than the equivalent Welch’s juice, the Grape Switch is perfectly carbonated (gently, that is, not harsh or overfizzy), unexpectedly sweet, and reminiscent of apple cider. The Black Cherry variety is loaded with real cherry flavor, vivid and refreshing. And Orange Tangerine has a sharp citrus hit, but the edges are sanded off by a bit of sweetness. Despite the lack of added sugar or corn syrup, the Switch is a charming stand-in for soda—great with a pizza or a toasted sandwich, for example.
One key to understanding the beverage is knowing that the stuff isn’t diet. Each 8.3-ounce can has between 127 and 140 calories; the same amount of Mountain Dew has 118 calories. Clearly whatever is making these drinks so delicious (probably a concentration of the natural sugars in the fruit juices) also makes them calorie bombs. And we’re back where we started: If it’s soda and it’s delicious, it’s probably not great for you. Ah well. At least the Switch gives you 100 percent of your recommended daily vitamin C.
By: Twelve Beverage LLC
I Paid: $9.99 for a 25.4-ounce bottle (prices may vary by region)
It’s increasingly easy to find something more sophisticated to offer your nondrinker friends than Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider. The new alcohol-free Twelve joins other luxury, carbonated, not-very-sweet juices with adult flavorings like Dry Soda and GuS. It’s a lightly fizzy tea-and-juice concoction created by chefs Alfred Portale and David Burke that looks like white wine, comes in a wine bottle, and costs nearly $10. Its rather nonsensical name is a play on that old adage about not drinking before midday: Its tag line is “noon to midnight.”
Twelve is actually worth the money. It smells floral and peachy, and tastes slightly astringent and salty; its finish is refreshingly clean and pleasantly thought-provoking. The astringency and tartness of tea is balanced with light carbonation and the gentle, moderating influences of herbs and fruit. Yes, Twelve is something you can serve at an upscale gathering with a straight face, no designated driver required.