Healthy Soda for Grownups

Ocean Spray Sparkling Juice

Ocean Spray Sparkling Juice

I Paid: $3.99 for four 8.4-ounce cans (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 5 stars

Marketing: 4 stars

Society as a whole has gotten wise to the fact that when you drink Mountain Dew or its Coke product equivalent, you're pumping your body full of empty calories. And yet we still like the fizzy sweetness of soda. Enter the half-sodas or health sodas or whatever you'd like to call them. They provide much of soda's refreshment and pizazz, but with less sugar, more fruit juice, fewer to no preservatives, and little to no artificial colorings.

Ocean Spray has jumped aboard the trend-boat with its sparkling drinks, and it's done a beautiful job. The Sparkling Cranberry variety leads with the flavor of grape juice, but cranberry gives it a pleasingly tart backbone. The overall effect of this 90-calorie, 70-percent-juice product is crisp refreshment, minus added colors, flavors, or preservatives.

The vital stats for the Sparkling Pomegranate Blueberry are the same, although the flavor is a bit less sweet, with a crisp berry finish. In a nutshell: It's soda for grownups.

And while the calorie difference between Ocean Spray's sparkling juices and soda is modest (10.7 calories per ounce for Ocean Spray, 11.6 calories per ounce for Coca-Cola), the standard Ocean Spray can is considerably smaller (8.4 ounces for Ocean Spray versus 12 ounces for Coke), and the ingredients considerably more wholesome.

Is this the soda of the future? We can only hope so. It's the soda of my personal future, at any rate.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.