Soda’s syrupy sweet pleasures earn it a place in the Snack Hall of Fame

Welcome to the Snack Hall of Fame, an ongoing project in which Dominic Corry celebrates cinema’s most iconic edible accompaniments.

So now we come to the third member of the holy trinity of movie snacks, a treat that young taste buds cotton on to pretty early in life: fountain soda.

Growing up, we called them fizzy drinks. I’m genuinely unsure how they’re mostly referred to these days. Soda? Soda pop? Lolly water? Individual brand names? Splooge? I use, and encounter, the word ‘soda’ mostly.

But you all know what I’m talking about: sugary carbonated beverages poured at the point of sale. And that last bit is key. Because as any regular consumer of soda knows, the soda hits different when it comes out of a fountain, as opposed to being consumed from a can or a bottle.

While canned or bottled sodas carry a more powerful carbonation, and are thus more likely to tickle your nose (a key part of the appeal for some people) the act of mixing a drink as it is poured—which is what happens in a soda fountain: flavoured syrup is mixed together with carbonated water—means a fountain soda usually tastes better.

This is how soda was originally available when it was first invented, and you could legitimately say this is its purest form. The bottling and canned varieties came later, and some would argue they still haven’t entirely perfected preserving that mixture.

I mean, I enjoy plenty of canned and bottled sodas. But then you have a fountain soda and you remember how great life can be.

This is why raspberry lemonade is such an iconic drink in pubs and bars. For, umm… children. They have still not yet worked how to properly preserve this particular flavour in a bottle or a can, so a freshly mixed raspberry lemonade remains an ephemeral pleasure only really available via a soda fountain.

As is the trend with packaged ice cream, you can get bottled soda at many movie theatres these days, but fountain-style is what we primarily associate with movie-going, and its syrupy sweet pleasures are very closely tied to the act of movie-going itself.

At the risk of sounding basic (a long-since sailed ship), I am a Coca-Cola man through and through. The added perkiness that comes with Coke can be a great friend in a darkened movie theatre. While I am an admirer of Coke Zero (ahh, the future, we didn’t get the promised jet packs, but we DID get sugar-free sodas that almost taste exactly like the real thing), but at the movies, I mostly go for a “Coke Heavy” (aka regular Coke), because I’m usually in a “treat myself” mood at the movies.

If I don’t feel like caffeine, I’ll usually get an L&P. As iconic as L&P (aka Lemon & Paeroa) is, I think New Zealanders could stand to be a little more proud of this amazing beverage. I’ve made a point of sampling lemon-lime-leaning sodas from all over the world (RIP Sierra Mist), and no other drink has ever come close to capturing the specific pleasure of L&P. We really knocked it out of the park with that one. Go us.

Also, I like Pepsi-Cola. Coke is great, but so is Pepsi and sometimes I feel like having one instead of a Coke. I wish there were more/any Pepsi soda fountains in New Zealand. It would also be nice to be able to get Dr. Pepper (or preferably, Mr Pibbs) and some kind of root beer in a New Zealand soda fountain.

I didn’t want the Snack Hall of Fame to just become a list of my snack gripes, but it sort of has become that, and I certainly won’t be passing up the opportunity to articulate one of my longest-standing, and undoubtedly pettiest, soda-related pet peeves:

The movie fountain soda seems to be the nexus of the inexplicably popular “life hack” of requesting no ice in the name of getting more soda. This has always seemed so short-sighted to me. The jiggling ice is an essential part of a complete fountain soda expierence, not just because of how it cools the drink, but by how it preserves moisture for later. I relish how, long after you think you’ve finished your drink, you can go back and the melted ice provides further hydration, likely when you most need it.

Fountain soda does come out of the machine somewhat cooled these days, so those without ice aren’t drinking warm fizzy, but it’s not cold enough on its own for me. I need the ice in there. It significantly enhances the effervescence of the overall enjoyment.

Those who bark “no ice!” with an indignant pride that suggests they think they’re getting one over on the Coca-Cola corporation, are in actuality only cheating themselves, and are truly absent from life’s feast.

Getting back to raspberry lemonade, I’ve noticed recently that some Event Cinemas are selling Raspberry Fanta from the fountain. It’s nice that there is a raspberry option, but still, this is not quite the raspberry lemonade that New Zealanders know and love. That particular drink’s previously described ephemeral nature means it seems to live outside an official corporate home, although it is usually made with Schweppes Raspberry Flavoured Cordial. This likely prevents it from finding real estate on a movie chain soda fountain, but I would still like to see it there, red tape be damned.

If you’ve been to a movie in the US in the last decade, you’ll have noticed that most soda options there have been taken over by the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, an undeniably exciting self-service contraption which allows the user to access an expansive range of sodas and flavour injections that they can combine in any way that they wish. And there’s usually a root beer option.

I’m surprised these machines aren’t more commonly seen in New Zealand by this point. Although as consumers, we may not be ready for that level of self-service power yet.

I have noticed that flavour injections (usually vanilla) are more commonly available now in New Zealand theatres, but they’re still administered by the jerks (correct terminology) behind the counter. The Coke Freestyle machines will get here eventually, so we should probably relish the human factor while we can. Just don’t ask for no ice.

N.B. Although it is super iconic, I do not consider Frozen Coke to be a soda, and it will be the subject of its own entry in this here Hall of Fame.

For today: Fountain soda, we welcome you to the Snack Hall of Fame.