Quintessentially American, ice-cold soft drinks evoke happy childhood memories: hot summer days with your feet in the pool and a soda in your hand or late afternoons crammed in a vinyl booth sharing a float with family. These Missouri-based companies make it harder than ever to resist the delightful fizz and enticing flavors of their classic refreshments.
Fitz’s Bottling Co.
At Fitz’s in the Delmar Loop, the 1940s bottling line can churn out a bottle of the brand’s famous root beer – or any of its other flavors such as cream soda and orange pop – every second. Fitz’s Root Beer was developed in St. Louis in 1947; although it later disappeared for a number of years, it was revived in 1993. Today, Fitz’s Bottling Co. still makes its flagship soft drink according to the original recipe. Flavored with a variety of botanicals, including sassafras, cherry bark, star anise and vanilla, and sweetened with pure cane sugar, Fitz’s Root Beer has been recognized as one of the best root beers in the U.S. More modern flavors such as Key Lime Soda, Hip Hop Pop and Kaldi’s Coffee Cola are also known to tempt discerning taste buds. fitzsrootbeer.com
With love and commitment, Ken and Cindy McClain resurrected an iconic Independence, Missouri, soda brand. After restoring a 60-year-old bottling machine and working tirelessly to perfect their syrup flavors, the couple successfully ran their first bottling of Polly’s Pop root beer in 2016. The current product line boasts a greater variety of flavors, including strawberry, peach, black cherry, grape, cream, pineapple and orange. In collaboration with Kansas City-based Donutology, the company also makes a Glazed Donut flavor. Intrigued? Polly’s Pop is available in stores throughout western Missouri and eastern Kansas – snag a bottle today. pollyssodapop.com
Vess Soda has been a Midwest staple for more than 100 years. Sylvester Jones – nicknamed “Vess” – started the company in 1916, and the “Billion Bubble Beverage” has since been made, canned and sold in the St. Louis area. For many locals, cracking open a can of Whistle Orange – or any of the brand’s other flavors – is a matter of pride. Vess has earned the city’s trust and loyalty: Nostalgia is key, but it’s backed by great service, quality and authenticity. From cola to cream soda and fruit punch to lemon-lime, Vess products are available in area grocery and retail stores as well as select Kansas City spots. refresco-na.com
Calvin's 1836 Root Beer
Along with his wife, Caroll, and their children, Calvin Scheidegger owns and operates Calvin’s Distributing Co., which was founded by his father, Marvin, in Hermann, Missouri, in 1957. With the help of a local winemaker, in 2011 Scheidegger developed a recipe for a great-tasting barrel-style root beer. An American classic, Calvin’s 1836 Root Beer has a rich, sweet and creamy body with a spicy bite that’s strong and complex yet finishes smooth. The aftertaste is delicious – spiced vanilla with notes of wintergreen – making it difficult not to indulge. Bottled by Excel Bottling Co. in Breese, Illinois, since 2018, the old-fashioned root beer is available primarily in the counties of Franklin, Gasconade and Warren as well as select Hy-Vee stores in Columbia and Jefferson City. 1836rootbeer.com
Ozark Mountain Bottleworks
The mother-daughter duo of Debbie Walters and Tina King make down-home soda in flavors such as orange cream, grape pop, root beer and the seasonally available Butter Beer, a meld of butterscotch and caramel, and Smuggler’s Run, a summery combination of tropical flavors. Along with King’s husband, Chris, in 2009 they started Ozark Mountain Bottleworks, headquartered in Branson, Missouri, as a way to share their unique recipes – which begin, first and foremost, with the finest ingredients. However, their dedication to the area goes beyond making a great local product: Ozark Mountain Bottleworks regularly sponsors beautification efforts such as the annual shoreline cleanups of Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo. ozmb.com