We now have results from four rounds of ice cream soda float taste tests, with the Cola Round, the Cream Soda Round, the “Pepper” Round, and now the Cherry Round complete. I’m pretty confident that I can speak for both scientists involved when I say this has been the most delicious round yet, a round that included: Cherry Coke, Boylan Black Cherry, Virgil’s Black Cherry Cream, Stewart’s Cherries ‘n Cream, and Cherrwine.
As with other rounds, one could easily include more sodas, such as Wild Cherry Pepsi, but we have to draw the line somewhere keep our internal systems from shutting down from all the sugar, and we feel this represents a wide and fair array of available cherry sodas.
Before I get to the results, let me give you a quick recap of how we’re doing this challenge.
We use one brand of ice cream for a control: Stewart’s Vanilla, a local favorite.
As for the sodas, we chose six categories: Cola, Cherry, Root Beer, Cream, Fruit, and Dr. Pepper flavors. Each round gets a night, spaced apart by a couple of weeks to give our bodies a break, and the winners of all six rounds move on to the semi-finals, and then the finals, where we’ll showcase the best three sodas, to be ranked in Olympic medal order of Gold, Silver, and Bronze.
We decided to rate each float based on the five metric categories below. We used a “1 through 5” rating system for each category, hoping that would keep our feelings from skewing the results too far out of proportion. This creates a max of 10 points per category when we each combine our scores. We then add up all categories for a max combined score of 50.
Flavor: A 5 might be that right balance of sweet, rich, creamy, and bubbly. A 1 would be when the flavor is muted or when either the soda or ice cream overpowers the other in a way that feels unsatisfying.
Sweetness: A 5 would be something noticeably and deliciously sweet. A 1 would be not sweet at all or OVERKILL sweetness.
Carbonation: A 5 would be when it retains some bubble and bite even after it melts the ice cream. A 1 would be when it falls totally flat.
Texture/Cohesion: This one is the most subjective, but we decided a 5 means it has a nice blend of creamy melting ice cream in the middle, a foamy head, and some soda holding out on the bottom. A 1 might be when it doesn’t mix much or the mix just seems…weird. See? Subjective. Science is hard, gang.
Visual Appeal: A 5 would be the visual equivalent of what we used in Texture/Cohesion, showing a nice balance and an appealing color. A 1 might be something that looks like we’re drinking sour milk or soda with a scoop of cottage cheese on top. No thanks.
Oh, and we’re also going to watch all the Harry Potter movies while we do this, one for each of the eight nights. Tonight we watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. While I liked it (it was my first time seeing it), we fell asleep for a few moments here and there in the middle. I chalk it up to the full day and the late hour rather than the film’s quality. And now we all know for real—VOLDY IS BACK! But anyway…bring on the next delicious horcrux!
Round Four: Cherry Sodas
At this point in the competition we decided to skip the blind taste test method we used for others because the coloration really gave each of these cherry sodas away. Instead, we made all the floats at once and moved from one to the other at the same time, but we still kept our detailed thoughts about each to ourselves until the end to avoid influencing the other too much. Our rankings and scores for each varied a bit, but here are the combined results, which I think we’re both satisfied with.
Boylan Black Cherry: Sipped on its own, this black cherry soda with a dark purple hue tasted just fine, but for some reason it didn’t work well for either of us once we added ice cream. The color was appealing, a deep purple. The overall flavor was very distinct too, very tart, but it quickly became too much, almost to the point of tasting acidic. It wasn’t as sweet as the others either, and grew a little sour over time. It just didn’t seem to blend well with the vanilla flavor, and it received one of the lowest scores yet.
Stewart’s Cherries ‘n Cream: I remember drinking this soda a TON in bygone summers, and it still has the strong red coloring and super sweet flavor. But when we mixed it with ice cream, that sweetness became almost too strong. It also tasted more artificial than the others, something we have noticed with all the Stewart Soda entries so far (Note: Stewart’s glass-bottled sodas aren’t related to the Stewart’s shops in the upstate NY region, as I thought they were. They’re a different entity with the same name.) The color was bright, the carbonation was fine, but it was just too sweet to the point where it felt “chemically” and “odd.”
Virgil’s Black Cherry Cream: This one tied for the best soda of the night in Amelia’s rankings, and I thought it was okay as well, but the flavor hit me differently. Like Boyland, I found the black cherry flavor a bit tart and overpowering, but after allowing it to blend with the vanilla ice cream, Amelia found the soda improved and gave it high marks for flavor, texture, and sweetness. The color was a brighter purple than Boyland and we both liked that a lot. If you’re leaning toward a black cherry soda, this is one we’d recommend.
Cherry Coke: We both agreed that if you’re going to have a Coke float, what’s the point of skipping the cherry? We enjoyed this much more than regular Coke, even if it still tasted “mass-produced” compared to the more authentic flavors you often find in the indie brands. Even so, we both enjoyed the cola/cherry/vanilla flavor combo, and it was much more balanced across the other categories than most of the other sodas too, staying fizzy, blending well with the ice cream, and looking exactly how you’d expect a Coke float to look. This is a rock solid choice for an ice cream float on a hot summer day, and much better than regular Coke.
Cherrwine: The moment we sipped this one, we knew we had a clear winner on our hands. We both gave it perfect marks for flavor and texture, and it was just a delicious compliment to the vanilla ice cream. Cheerwine has a cool bottle, a beautiful red color that doesn’t look like a bucket of Red 40 chemical additive (looking at you, Stewart’s), and it stayed fizzy, sweet, and never became too overwhelming. This was amazing, and it’s our current points leader over the whole competition so far.
Post-decision notes: It wasn’t even close. For those of you who can find this soda in your state, consider yourselves lucky and go make a float right away. For those of you looking for a bottle of Cheerwine, you can find it online, in specialty shops, and in Cracker Barrel restaurants. It’s damn good. Next round is…Fruit soda! This one is going to get weird and I can’t wait.