In the soft drink world, colas are the indisputable rock stars. They’re the most popular, they have caffeine which gives them an adult edge, they have a more complex flavor profile, and they tend to be the headliner of their various parent companies—The Coca Cola Company, PepsiCo, and Keurig Dr Pepper Inc, respectively. But what about the lemon-lime sodas? We take them for granted but they’re a refreshing soft drink option that can really hit the spot. Let’s take a look at all these drinks have to offer by delving into the ultimate match: Sprite vs 7Up.
So, what is the difference between Sprite and 7Up? Let’s see these two beverages go head to head.
First, some background. 7Up is the older of the two, and in fact the original lemon-lime flavored soda. It was invented by a man named Charles Leiper Grigg in 1929. It was originally called “Bib Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda” (catchy) and contained the mood-stabilizing drug lithium citrate—back then was truly a wild time for sodas. Today, it’s owned by Keurig Dr Pepper but distributed by PepsiCo outside the U.S. By contrast, Sprite is a Coca-Cola product, originally invented in West Germany in 1959 under the name “Fanta Clear Lemon” and introduced to the U.S. in 1961 to compete against 7Up.
Ingredients-wise, Sprite contains “Carbonated Water, Sugar, Acids (Citric Acid, Tartaric Acid), Acidity Regulator (Sodium Citrates), Sweeteners (Acesulfame-K, Aspartame), Natural Lemon And Lime Flavourings.” According to the Sprite website, it’s “The OG, the flavor that started it all—classic, cool, crisp lemon-lime taste that’s caffeine free with 100% natural flavors.” As you now know, that’s not true. It’s not the OG lemon-lime taste. That honor goes to 7Up.
Speaking of 7Up, it is made up of “Filtered carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, potassium citrate, natural flavors, calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor),” and according to its website you can “Refresh yourself with an Original 7UP® with 100% natural flavors and its iconic lemon lime flavor!”
But of course, the real difference between 7Up and Sprite isn’t the history, ingredients, or shoddy copy, it’s in the taste. So what is the difference in taste? This is one of those challenging things to answer that really varies from person to person. Some people swear that there’s a strong distinction between the two beverages. 7Up is often classified as more syrup-y, though some people say it has fruitier overtones as well. Personally, I think of 7Up as being a little more effervescent and sweeter, though that may just be because the restaurant I usually ordered it from as a kid had good soda chemistry in their taps. The only real way to know if they taste different is to do a self-administered blind taste test, which sounds like maybe too much work but also might be a fun way to kill an afternoon.
Finally, lest I be accused of Sierra Mist erasure, I should briefly mention the ugly duckling of the lemon lime brands, which was introduced by PepsiCo in 1999. Its main claim to fame, apart from being far less popular than its competitors, was that it didn’t use high fructose corn syrup. The brand is now semi-discontinued (PepsiCo replaced it with the controversial Starry), with Wikipedia referring to it in the past tense, although its website says “it’s good to be back,” so perhaps there’s still hope for the small cadre of Sierra Mist fans out there.