Food Fight

Utah’s ‘Dirty Soda’ Wars Are Amazing

Some sodas are spiked with extra syrup and half-and-half.
Some sodas are spiked with extra syrup and half-and-half.

In Utah, a Mormon-heavy state where coffee and booze are largely taboo, a different breed of mixologist has emerged, giving teetotaling residents a fix at so-named “dirty soda” shops. These trending businesses, which first showed up on the scene about five years ago, treat sodas as a base, spiking them with flavored syrups, fruit purées, and cream, before serving them in oversize cups. Of course, it sounds like a recipe for a public-health disaster — or something out of Idiocracy — but these shops are very real and, apparently, all the rage in the state.

People aren’t exactly drinking these concoctions in moderation: The Salt Lake Tribune recently wrote about a regular customer of one purveyor, Swig, who as of September had ordered 2,000 beverages over an 18-month span. (The customer’s favorite order is a 32-ounce cup of “Dirty” Dr Pepper: soda with coconut syrup, half-and-half, and lime.) Now the Times writes of another patron who drinks a Dirty Dr Pepper for breakfast followed by a nightcap of Mountain Dew Fruit Loop — doctored with strawberry, peach, and watermelon syrups.

As with all novel business ideas, there is a battle, um, brewing between Swig and its main competitor Sodalicious. The main issue: Swig’s owners say Sodalicious, which opened three years later, stole their entire business concept, and they’re focusing on the use of the word dirty as evidence of wrongdoing. Per the Times:

Nicole and Todd Tanner, who started Swig in 2010, say they own the right to use the word to refer to flavor-infused drinks — they trademarked the idea in 2013 — and they are suing Sodalicious for taking their idea.

Sodalicious’s lawyers, meanwhile, point to things like dirty martinis in arguing that use of the word with regard to doctored drinks is fair game. But Swig’s owners allege that everything about Sodalicious is just too similar — from the logo to the way they serve semi-frozen cookies with room-temperature frosting (perfect for washing down syrup-spiked Mountain Dew).

However the legal battle ends up, the success of these shops is surprising given all the evidence that soda is terrible for your health, and the general move toward drinking less of the fizzy stuff. So, naturally, doctors — and likely anyone concerned with people’s health — aren’t exactly thrilled with these beverage programs. No matter among the chains’ fans, though, who have pledged their allegiance to their shop of choice and taken to social media to defend them.

[NYT, Salt Lake Tribune]

Utah’s ‘Dirty Soda’ Wars