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Soda Cocktails

Now that the party season is upon us, dull and lifeless sodas are taking a hike, and healthier, tastier adult soft drinks are taking over.

Having frequently been the designated driver, I am often resigned to an evening of boring beverages and am excited to even get a slice of lime with my Coke.

But finally, a better choice is emerging: High-impact independent sodas, formerly available only at health-food stores or gourmet delis, are springing up at your local chain grocery stores, Whole Foods (WFMI) and Trader Joe's.

An indie soda is a great party alternative to a cocktail, especially for those times you need to drive or you're imbibing at the company party.

With dozens of flavors to choose from, the names of the sodas themselves seem to connote independence from the corporate world: Grown-up Soda (GuS), Maine Root Soda , Jones Soda (JSDA) and Hansen Natural (HANS)-owned Blue Sky Soda are just a few of the better-known companies.

Many of these, like Jones Soda , were originally only found in tattoo parlors and snowboarding shops but now have been adopted by the larger food retailers.

Bottled Benefits

Indie soda's calorie content often compares favorably with alcohol.

Most beer brands weigh in around 150 calories per 12 ounces, with lite beer about two-thirds of that. Hard cocktails and wine are also caloric, with whiskey at 75 calorie per ounce and red wine nearly 100 calories per 4 ounces.

Even a regular soda can have up to 160 calories for a 12-ounce can.

Compare that to GuS, at around 90 calories for 12 ounces.

Another plus of these adult sodas is that they are not as sweet as their big corporate counterparts. This more subtle sweetness -- without that heavy corn syrup overtone -- appeals to mature tastes. Also, many of these sodas are organic and use natural ingredients.

For example, GuS is 100% natural, made with real juice and real flavor extracts, pasteurized and kosher, with no caffeine.

Alternative Strategies

The Full GuS Line

Founded in early 2003, GuS is a product of Utmost Brands, based in New York City.

Founders Steve Hersh and Jeannette Luoh tried to create a soda that resembled what they and their friends thought a soda should taste like. And the flavors are definitely grown up: cranberry lime, Valencia orange and extra-dry ginger ale are three of the seven flavors GuS offers.

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