Connecticut was once and still is known for its locally made sodas. Although most of the soda companies, including the famous Pequot Water Company of Glastonbury which began in 1916, have closed up shop, three of the old-fashioned hand-crafted beverage companies remain. Each is a treasure in its own right, and each of these family-owned companies has been in business for nearly a century. Each also has a loyal following – and with good reason.
103 Foxon Blvd.
East Haven, CT 06513
Foxon Park is still owned and operated by the family that started the business in East Haven in 1922. The pride of its stable of 17 distinct flavors is the Gassosa, a classic lemon-flavored Italian soda first made at Foxon by the company’s founder, Matteo Naclerio, in honor of his native country. In addition to the signature Gassosa, the White Birch Beer is another long-time favorite and is unique for its subtle wintergreen flavor. Foxon Park’s rusty-colored Iron Brew can hold its own with the original soft drink of that name from across the pond, which in its native Scotland is known as the country’s other national drink.
A case of a dozen 12-ounce glass bottles goes for $18.60, and the case of 12 one-liter plastic bottles sells for $32. Although Foxon Park uses pure cane sugar for its regular flavors (which also include strawberry and cherry), it also offers diet versions of the Kola, White Birch, Orange and Gassosa. Foxon is beloved in East Haven and boasts of having fans and clients as far off as California and Florida – and can even be ordered by the case from Amazon. Die-hard fans can order mousepads, clocks, caps, glassware, mugs, t-shirts and other items, as the owners say, “to let you show your Foxon pride!”
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520 Corbin Ave.
New Britain, CT 06052
“Always ask for Avery’s” is still printed on the labels of this grand dame of Connecticut soda water companies. Founded in 1904 by Sherman F. Avery in his red barn on Corbin Avenue in New Britain, it is the oldest continually operating company of its type in the state. The company is still located in that red barn on Corbin Avenue and, just like its founder, uses only pure well water and real cane sugar, both of which help “preserve the wonderful old-fashioned flavor” of which Avery’s is very proud. The original Mr. Avery manufactured what he billed as “staple and fancy temperance drinks” including carbonated, seltzer and Vichy waters as well as root beer and ginger ale.
The company continues to make those as well as about 40 other flavors, including a whimsical line of “Totally Gross Sodas” which include a greenish-brown fruity “Swamp Juice;” the electric blue-colored “Toxic Slime” (don’t mind the “white floaty bits,” they are supposed to be there in this blue raspberry and citrus concoction) and “Dog Drool Soda” which despite its off-putting name and pink color, is a refreshing orange-lemon soda. There is also “Monster Mucus,” “Bug Barf” and “Kitty Piddle,” but the company has a serious side as well, offering pineapple, peach, kiwi, sarsaparilla, orange cream and watermelon, along with more basic flavors. Avery’s also offers “private label soda” for stores, restaurants, corporate or even family events, and boasts that it will make it in quantities from as little as one case to up to a thousand cases.
There is also a “Make Your Own Soda” party room where, for a fee, the staff guides groups of all ages through the process of, well, making its own sodas – and that includes letting people use the mixing room to create new flavors. Avery’s delivers to home or office from Avon to Wethersfield, and will ship anywhere. Look for its tasting table at the Plainville Hot Air Balloon Festival in August.
15 Spencer St.
Manchester, CT 06040
“Bottled in the land of swift-moving waters” is the script that appears on every label of Hosmer Mountain’s sodas now just as it did when the company started in 1912. Although the Potvins are the fourth family to own the company (buying it from the Meyer family in 1958), it is and always has been a small family business. Its “Mountain Quality Beverages,” as the company shield notes, are still made the old-fashioned way, and in addition to its famous black cherry, grape, cream soda and pale dry ginger ale, there is also lemon and lime, tangerine and other flavors, some of them now also available in diet. The Potvins are proud of their “small-production process,” and while that means that “some flavors may be unavailable at times,” there are always plenty of varieties to choose from for purchase, shipping or home delivery.
The company makes “Taste Alikes” such as Cola Red (meant to mimic Coca Cola) and Thirst Quencher (its version of Gatorade), Fruit Flavors and a Premium or “Antique” Line that includes sarsaparilla, root beer, birch beer and cream sodas. It also offers what it calls “Special Flavors” such as “Dangerous Ginger Beer” and “Red Lightning Energy Drink,” among others.
There is also a rotating list of “Flavors of the Month” which have been known to include the strawberries’ n cream and black raspberry, just to name a few. There are also diet sodas, seltzers, mixers, spring water and even micro-roasted coffees. The Potvins note that “all but four of our soft drinks are caffeine-free” and that the fruit sodas contain “real juice.”
Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.