Hotlips Soda All Natural Fruit Soda Tells a Story

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Hotlips, a Portland, Ore.-based pizza company, launches Hotlips Soda, all natural soda containing no concentrates, artificial flavors, colorings, preservatives, corn syrup, beet sugar or sweeteners. It is made from locally-sourced fruit, in fact, consumers are sometimes surprised to discover actual fruit pulp in the bottle thinking that there is something wrong with the soda because there is "stuff floating around in it."

Varieties include blackberry, pear, black raspberry, raspberry, boysenberry and apple, and the list of ingredients is short and (naturally) sweet: juice of the featured fruit plus cane sugar, organic lemon juice and water, and each bottle contains 28 percent fruit by volume. Depending on the ripeness and variety of the fruit, the heat and rain of the season, the day and time the fruit is picked, each batch tells a story of fruit, place, climate, dedicated growers, and a traditional crafting process.

"We live in a region of major abundance so we just had to figure out how to make our own soda and use the magnificent berries, pears and apples that grow here," says said David Yudkin, co-owner of Hotlips and the soda line's creator.

Hotlips Soda was introduced on tap in limited quantities in 2005. In 2008, the company invested in a bottling facility and re-learned the classic method of bottling soda pop to produce a greater volume of its fruit sodas. Six packs started appearing on shelves throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond including Ann Arbor, Michigan and Wichita, Kansas. Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Restaurant and Café in Berkeley started selling the sodas in May 2009, and now they are carried in more than 300 retail and restaurant locations in eight states.

The sodas are manufactured at Dundee Fruit Co. in McMinnville, Ore., and the glass bottles– composed mainly of recycled materials– are made in Vancouver, Wash. To make small, handcrafted batches that showcase the essence of the fruit, Hotlips had to revive an obsolete bottling technique and painstakingly refurbish a 1960's-era bottling line. "We are using the same fundamentally homemade process that was used in the late 1800's when Coca-Cola first began to make soda pop," says Greene Lawson, production manager. "We can manufacture about 60 bottles a minute. It's really at a human scale – you can see that it is indeed handcrafted."

Yudkin sums up his dream. "We are trying to bring back the idea that food is alive, and that comes back to seasonality. Hotlips Soda isn't cookie-cutter because fruit varies from tree to tree and from season to season. It's like wine: you should buy a case of this vintage and of the next vintage."

Suggested retail price is $2.25 per bottle or $10 for a mixed six-pack.

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