With all the low-sugar, low-calorie soda options out there, one flavored tonic company has a new selling point. Olipop builds its recipes atop a blend called OLISMART, a mixture of herbs and spices (mostly roots and root extract, but flowers and bark, too) that provides fiber and prebiotic digestion for gut health.
If you’re looking to replace the stream of soda in your day with Olipop, there are some points of note. The first is that each Olipop can contains 9 grams of fiber, though there’s no pulp in it. Maybe don’t drink more than three in a day at first, unless you want to rocket past your recommended 25 to 30-gram fiber intake per day — and that’s not even counting fiber from solids in your diet. What may be a bigger point of concern is there’s only so much inulin the body can tackle at once. Anyone who’s ever eaten a sunchoke (aka a Jerusalem artichoke) knows what to expect, though Olipop dispenses with the gut pain some people experience from sunchoke.
And, as with any other popular soda brand, you might get mild gas from Olipop. It’s nothing you can’t live with, and maybe not guaranteed … and certainly less than you’d get from a plate of beans. Build your tolerance up slowly, or leave this one on the shelf until the sixth date.
Still, the variety of flavors makes it worth giving Olipop a shot. So, naturally, we ranked all 12 flavors.
12. Classic Root Beer
We know the best root beer brands here at Tasting Table, and we were excited to see if Olipop’s version would hard into the spice, and whether the root-rich OLISMART would bring a lot of complexity to a flavor of soda that far too often rests on its sugary laurels. Lacking the three types of sugar that real root beer relies on (high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maltodextrin), Olipop has the potential to hit a new vein in a devoted fandom.
The flavor opens strong, with a very reminiscent root beer taste. But in half a second or so, that root beer taste is booted out of the band, leaving only the all-too-thin taste of its base.
As long as you keep swishing it around your mouth, it can convince you this is your one true love, but the second it comes to rest, the fantasy fades, and this sparkling tonic (rather than what we think of as soda) is revealed to be an imposter in a spicy wig. Shame, considering it has cassava root, marshmallow root, and slippery elm bark. This could have been an actual root beer. Sorry, root beer fans — this isn’t bad, but it isn’t root beer.
That said, it might still make a nice float as long as you have no illusions and pick a sprightly ice cream that can take advantage of the weaker root beer flavors.
11. Crisp Apple
It’s odd how much Crisp Apple smells and tastes like bubble gum, without any tutti-frutti ingredients like strawberry or banana. The apple does come through, but it’s more of a McDonald’s apple pie vibe than anything else.
However, the more prebiotic OLISMART flavor is much less noticeable in Crisp Apple than in most of the higher-ranked flavors, where it both detracts and adds in equal counts. Here it’s not so much diminished as buried by an apple taste that comes on a little strong — another oddity in a list whose lesser flavors tend to falter from coming in weak. The OLISMART taste is a tough one to describe. It’s vegetal, but less off-putting than that word suggests, and sometimes contributes very well to the upper part of this ranking. Does fiber itself have a taste? We’re not entirely sure, so we’ll settle for calling this one a botanical mystery.
10. Vintage Cola
As with root beer, Vintage Cola has an almost impossible task: stepping into an arena perfected by a soda flavor over a century old. And like Olipop Root Beer, it’s at its best in large mouthfuls, swigged and swirled around the palate. But after that first impact, it quickly recedes to its own thing. And that own thing isn’t bad. It’s actually rather pleasant, in a Cherry Coke kind of way — odd, considering Olipop also produces a more deliberate Cherry Cola flavor. But just as often, this one leaves you with the impression of drinking Dr Pepper, just flatter and watered down.
A word to the wise: let this one sit for a bit. After the fizziness passes, it’s kind of a pleasant cola-juice, which is not something you can say about Coke or Pepsi. Looking at the fantastic collection of ingredients here and everywhere (sunchoke! cassava root! himalayan pink salt!) you wonder if chasing a few classic soda flavors is the wisest route to take. Maybe Olipop should call a flavor like this Wowie Maui or Electric Blue or something, and sidestep any direct flavor comparisons.
Lest we be too hard on it, there’s more than one thing to Vintage Cola’s great credit — your teeth don’t feel soft and squeaky after you drink this stuff. That’s a great grab for any cola junkie.
9. Doctor Goodwin
It’s not true Dr Pepper, but it does come closer to impersonating a medical professional than Vintage Cola ever did impersonating Coke. While the front end is nice — all the right fruity, nutty, and cola notes — the back end is mopping the floor with that OLISMART taste, and it reacts way too much to all that Doctor Goodwin left behind. The complexities of its profile build its own nemesis here, and you’ve got a real Doctor Goodwin-Jekyll & Mr. Pibb-Hyde situation on your hands.
Sorry, Doc, but you’re another entry in the portion of this ranking that’s at its best in large gulps, chugged quickly … or at least followed by the next bite in your adjoining meal before your aftertaste sets in and undoes all the goodwill you made for yourself. Besides, there’s a better version of the cola and cola-adjacent genus coming up very shortly on our list.
8. Cherry Cola
Cherry Cola flavor succeeds more as a cherry than a cola, but it’s pretty good at doing both. You’re going to compare this one to its labelmate Doctor Goodwin and wonder if one, why the other. The vegetal aspect of Olipop works well here, as it does with Classic Grape. A lot of these flavors, particularly the fruity ones, start to verge into cough syrup territory for their intensity, so it’s a bit surprising to realize that actually works best with the member of the group that’s most similar in taste to Robitussin out of the gate. We say lean in and embrace the syrupy flavor.
If nothing else, Cherry Cola still represents a turning point, as this can would be great to pour over ice and drink slowly. A little dilution makes it more like a pleasant, fruity, fizzy drink that doesn’t come on so strong. You may even want to cut it with one part seltzer to two parts cola so it lightens up while also getting more sparkly. All in all, a neat drink.
7. Ginger Lemon
At first, Ginger Lemon tastes more like a lemon soda that’s got actual fresh ginger infusion, but then the lemon yields the stage, making way for an all-ginger show. Its strong gingery presence somehow manages to taste almost nothing like ginger ale or even ginger beer, perhaps by being milder than either. It’s also far less sweet while maintaining much of its ginger kick from the aroma. This flavor uses both ginger juice and ginger essence, perhaps explaining how it gets you both coming and going.
Of the entire line, Ginger Lemon is Olipop’s best drink to mix with whiskey, though it also seems like it would mix well with vodka. Add your favorite booze and stroll around with a perfect duo cocktail in hand. Lemon Ginger would be best with any Irish whiskey, the less-oaky Kentucky bourbons, or approximate Tennessee whiskeys named Jack. If you want an aromatic spin on Lynchburg Lemonade that isn’t mint, the Ginger Lemon Olipop might be your new best friend. Avoid peaty scotches or any tequila older than Blanco, but at long as you’re staying away from smoke and oak, this drink can party. You can even crank up the lemon flavor by adding some limoncello, and it’ll only benefit.
6. Cream Soda
There aren’t a lot of naturally flavored sodas out there, but it’s still notable that something about Olipop always tastes less like the soda flavor it’s representing and more like the hard candy version of that soda. So it is with Cream Soda, which has a very pleasant vanilla flavor, but between the stevia and the OLISMART prebiotic ingredient, there’s a lingering taste of slightly chemical sweetness. It’s a flavor ubiquitous to Olipop, and it’s not implicitly unpleasant. But it’s hard for it not to feel suspect when you’re drinking something that supposedly replaces all of the artificial enhancements of modern soda with natural, prebiotic ingredients. Again, it probably depends on your level of familiarity with stevia and its lingering aftertaste. We might just be conditioned as a society to associate its taste with zero-sugar products that have usually been highly processed.
Anyway, grab a Cream Soda. Considering how far afield Olipop’s root beer flavor landed, it’s interesting to see its closest cousin cream soda hit the outer ring of the bullseye here. From here on out on this ranking, fruit flavors will be the reigning nobility.
5. Cherry Vanilla
Unlike other vanilla tag-team flavors in this list, Cherry Vanilla is not dominated by the flower, but by the fruit. This drink comes on so strong it’s like you’ve never had anything cherry-flavored until now. Cherry Vanilla tastes like a can of cherries for pie filling in that red sauce so gloopy you could use it as a spare tire for a short enough trip home. That’s how strong this taste hits after a deceptively mild sniff test.
And you know something? It rules. It’s not going to be for everyone, but if you like Luden’s cough drops, get yourself a can of Olipop Cherry Vanilla. It’s overwhelmingly cherry, sure, but in a way that feels like two different kinds of comforting treats, and with way less sugar than either. If you like it, you’ll rate it higher than this, but if it’s not your thing, you’ll wonder how it could possibly land in the upper part of our rankings. Therefore, we’re splitting the difference.
4. Classic Grape
Much like Cream Soda, the can of Classic Grape really sticks the landing on its inspiration. If you tried adding seltzer to a splash of regular grape juice, you’d never achieve the taste intensity and sweetness at such low levels of sugar. Striking an impossible balance is one of Olipop’s biggest victories across its entire product line. Not many people cite grape as their favorite flavor of soda, but that might change at these levels of piquancy combined with such low caloric investment.
You could fool a lot of people into thinking this was a can of Welch’s, and those you couldn’t fool probably wouldn’t care. It’s no wonder, though, since concentrated Concord grape juice is one of the foremost ingredients, and possibly why the sugar count bumps up to four grams. But who cares about a gram or two of sugar? It’s worth eating two fewer M&Ms when you can get your grape soda fix perfectly from a sparkling tonic.
3. Orange Squeeze
By now it’s becoming clear Olipop’s most in its element when it’s in the fruit flavors. Orange Squeeze is the most natural-tasting label of the lot so far. Using mandarins, it has a pleasant citrus flavor that’s a lot closer to a tangerine or calamansi than those stock photo oranges the size of a softball.
Ecto-Cooler or Orangina fans will appreciate this more than Crush crushers, but in addition to being much lower in sugar than any of those, it’s also more like a nice orange juice than either of the former. It’s very low on the OLISMART aftertaste that haunts much of the Olipop line, and in fact, Orange Squeeze may even be complimented by the OLISMART concoction when it rears its head. Have we as a society been sleeping on orange and marshmallow as a flavor combination all this time? Someone get us some mallow root and mandarins, stat!
2. Strawberry Vanilla
Oh yes indeed. The strawberry hits nice, then the vanilla transforms it into something even better. It’s like watching a beautiful alley-oop at the buzzer. These two mingle beautifully into a decadent dessert dance, that’s just the right blend. Don’t you want a dish of strawberries and cream now? No? Do you mean to say you’re not a Victorian child? Okay, then drink this can of Olipop instead. You could use the fiber.
Strawberry Vanilla is further proof that Olipop is at its best when making its own flavors that aren’t riffs on familiar soda standards, particularly when it’s using fruits to do so. Maybe the company should pivot hard into an entire vanilla line. Its strongest contenders all either use it or taste like they do. But then again, we still have one higher ranking to go, and there’s not a trace of vanilla therein, so let’s not throw out these regular fruit flavors ideas just yet.
1. Tropical Punch
This might be our first flavor that’s better than the familiar edition. Olipop’s Tropical Punch hits all the Hawaiian Punch notes, and some of the Shasta Tiki Punch notes as well thanks to its mild fizziness. The differences are that it does so minus two candy bars’ worth of sugar, and with a richer body on the back end.
Truth is, this is the can that we’d reach for before accepting a pour of its sugary soda counterparts, as it delivers all of their satisfaction with almost none of their calories. Drink a 12-pack of these 35-calorie pineapple grenades all day while you go lazy-river tubing, and you might have consumed the caloric equivalent of two Shastas, but minus the whopping 72 grams of sugar. Throw in Olipop’s better taste and you’ve got a strong couple of selling points, even if we have to hazard a guess that a dozen Olipops might do strange and irrefutable things to your digestive tract. These are prebiotic, after all. Still, it’s nice to know the option’s there for the daring among you. All praise to our new fruity beverage overlord.