Soda sommeliers, your dream is nigh.
No longer is a beverage but a beverage. It's a barbecue dressing, the morsels dipped, marinated or basted in soda-spiked sauce.
Pretty swell party trick, too, the conversation kindled by 7UP, Dr Pepper and A&W Root Beer.
Condiments of tomorrow?
Doubtful, but they're fun to try, and unexpectedly enjoyable to taste.
Vita Specialty Foods brought the brands to life in August. The company teamed with beverage-makers Cadbury Schweppes, the same fertile minds behind Hall's lozenges and Bubblicious gum, to create the sauces and marinades.
Here's what they whipped up:
--Dr Pepper Sweet & Kickin' BBQ Sauce.
-- A&W Rich 'N Hearty BBQ Sauce.
-- Dr Pepper More Than Mesquite Marinade.
-- 7UP Citrus Marinade.
It's not surprising to see a soda used in a recipe — try making a pistachio cake with 7UP or Sprite — only they're rarely manufactured as supplements.
Available in Food Lion and on the Vita Specialty Foods Web site (vitaspecialtyfoods.com), these hybrids come thicker and more pungent than their soda counterparts, and none are bubbly. They amount to brand extensions, capitalizing on an established audience.
"They're stronger in different regions," says Vita Specialty Foods spokesman Andrew Koperwas. "Dr Pepper is more of a Southern tradition, even though it has more of a national presence. A&W is more Midwest. 7UP has its pockets, too."
But taste outweighs gimmicky promotion. So we tried 'em all, seeing if they had the stuff (i.e., high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate, modified corn starch) to break from the pack.
The results, dear readers:
Dr Pepper Sweet & Kickin' BBQ Sauce
A stroke of culinary ingenuity or madness? In this instance, Dr. Pepper is no Dr. Frankenstein.
We grilled pork tenderloin and sirloin burgers to dip in the sauce, instantly identifiable with the soda. It has the same style flavoring — cherry, somewhat nutty.
"We wanted people to actually know it was Dr Pepper, yet still have it accessible to people who don't want the overpowering Dr Pepper taste." Koperwas says.
We also found the sauce more fun than, say, Cattlemen's. Bottom line: Is it Sweet? Is it Kickin'? More importantly, is it good? Yes, on all counts.
A&W Rich 'N Hearty BBQ Sauce
The smell catches first, hints of molasses and licorice, evocative of the drink, only without the foam.
Similar to the Dr Pepper sauce, it's caramel in color and true to its pedigree.
Again, we dipped pieces of pork tenderloin and sirloin burger into the sauce, finding a sweet, smoky finish.
Root beer can be fairly divisive, so if you love A&W, you'll dig the sauce. If not, you won't.
Dr Pepper More Than Mesquite Marinade
The marinade lacks the pizazz of its brother, the Dr Pepper BBQ Sauce. We used beef kebabs, chunks of onions and peppers, looking for that oomph offered by the drink's "authentic blend of 23 flavors."
Instead, we found it to be nondescript. It has a heavier, darker taste, a tad syrupy, the flavors not exclusive to the drink and nothing special. The marinade fared the worst among the group.
7UP Citrus Marinade
We've never been crazy about the fizzy, lemony-lime drink, so we doubted its viability as a marinade.
That was before the wings.
We dressed them in the marinade — much thicker and darker than actual 7UP — occasionally basting them over the grill. The sauce helped the wings caramelize quickly, leaving the skin darkened and crisp, the meat fall-from-the-bone tender.
They tasted clean, tinged by the citrus. Genius, really, and easily our favorite, though we've begun to imagine future possibilities.
Cadbury Schweppes also makes Snapple, Orange Crush, Hawaiian Punch, Clamato even, Yoo-hoo, RC Cola and Sundrop — those sodas ripe for experimentation, marketing and, perhaps, our palates.