Until I wrote a short, benign review of Starry, which recently (and controversially) replaced Sierra Mist in stores, I didn’t know how strongly people felt about lemon lime soda. I don’t drink a lot of it because, generally, if I’m drinking soda I want it to have a dose of caffeine along with all of calories and sugar. I took on this search for the best lemon lime soda because I wanted to understand the fuss. And I suppose that now I do.
When I sat down to taste a bunch of lemon lime sodas back to back, I discovered there’s a lot of variety in flavor profiles, sweetness levels, and carbonation. Some taste more like lime than lemon. Some are way sweeter than others. Some have small, sharp bubbles that tickle your tongue, while others have big fat bubbles that seem to dissipate as soon as they hit your glass.
I have a hunch not everyone will agree with my list of the best lemon lime sodas. Before you head to the comments to tell me to kill myself, please remember we’re all in this together (“this” being “drinking things we buy at the grocery store”). Enjoy!
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- Jarritos Lime
Even though this is a lime rather than a lemon lime soda, I think it deserves a shout out on this list of the best lemon lime sodas. Why? Because it tastes great and, hey, maybe some people don’t like lemon. This soda is incredibly refreshing and would be great as a mixer with tequila or mezcal. It’s a fun color and I love the shape of the two-liter bottle (we tried this out of the plastic bottle rather than the glass one). This is a citrus soda to drink with fish tacos by the beach in San Diego—and it’s made with cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup, which a lot of soda heads seem to be into.
Credit: Merc / Ralphs
- Bubble Up
If you like a sweet lemon lime soda, Bubble Up might be the best lemon lime soda for you. First of all, this soda is cute. It has a cute logo and comes in old-timey glass bottles (incidentally, it’s manufactured by the same company that makes Dad’s Root Beer—one of the best root beers, according to us). It’s made with real cane sugar, which gives it a candy sweetness that might be overpowering for some people, but it makes up for that by having really small bubbles that sort of sizzle on your tongue when you take a sip. It’s good stuff.
Credit: Merc / Albertsons
- Sprite Zero Sugar
In a perfect world, a diet soda should taste almost exactly like its non-diet counterpart. And I have to say, I wasn’t terribly impressed with any of the diet lemon lime sodas we tried. But if you avoid sugary, syrupy sodas, for health reasons or otherwise, I’m inclined to recommend Sprite Zero Sugar. This soda—which also made an appearance on our list of the best diet sodas—lacks some of the crispness that Sprite is known for, but it still tastes good overall. I tried this against Starry Zero and much preferred it. (I know it’s in a bottle in the photo, but we tried this out of the can.)
Credit: Merc / Walmart
- Simple 7UP
Simple 7UP, which we tasted from a can, is made with real sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. If you prefer sugar to HFCS, this is a great choice. It’s very sugar forward, but it’s still refreshing. “It feels thirst-quenching,” Sporked editor-in-chief Justine Sterling said, and, to me, that lines up with 7UP’s whole M.O. Spoiler alert, I prefer regular 7UP in terms of overall lemon lime flavor, but if you avoid corn syrup, this is a good option.
Credit: Merc / Walmart
Before you FREAK OUT about Starry making this list (in third place, no less), note that we did not taste Sierra Mist as part of this taste test. I am not saying that Starry is better than Sierra Mist. I actually tasted Sierra Mist with Rhett & Link recently, and preferred it to Starry. But Sierra Mist is dead and gone, and unless you can find some crusty ol’ six pack on eBay, you need to move on from it. Sorry! On its own merits, Starry, which we tried from a plastic bottle, is a good soda. It has a bold sweetness that helps amplify the lemon lime flavor, although lime is a much more prominent part of the flavor profile. My colleague Jordan Myrick decided Starry tastes like McDonald’s Sprite, aka the creme de la creme of fast-food sodas.
Credit: Merc / Vons
For me, it was a real toss-up between Sprite and Starry, so they are both getting the same Spork score. Justine and Jordan preferred Starry to Sprite, but I personally think Starry loses its carbonation too quickly when you pour it into a glass. Sprite, which we tried from a plastic bottle, doesn’t have as much flavor as Starry, but it does have that nice, refreshing bite. It’s crispy and I think that makes it good with food. I can’t imagine anything better to wash down a fatty fast food lunch.
Credit: Merc / Walmart
When it comes to the best lemon lime soda, I think 7UP can tend to be left out of the conversation. That is bad and wrong. If you’re coming to lemon lime soda because you want something that tastes lemon-limey and is highly refreshing, I just don’t think you can do better than 7UP (which we tasted from a plastic bottle). It’s extremely crisp and has a lot of citrusy flavor. If you’re drinking lemon lime soda by itself rather than with food, I think this is the way to go. I also think 7UP makes the best mixer because the flavor makes more of an impression and can stand up to even a super-flavorful liquor like whiskey. It has a pleasant lime flavor that lingers on your palate and a burst of sweetness on the back. And those are my thoughts on the best lemon lime sodas! Take them or leave them or call me an idiot in the comments!
Credit: Merc / Walmart
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Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!
It’s a sad statement that you have to ask people to not tell you “to kill yourself” over an opinion piece about pop. I don’t know what we’ve become, but the relative anonymity of the internet seems to be an accelerant to this fire. BTW, fun piece and really liked Bubble Up in the mix. I remember it as a kid and find it now here and there. Good stuff.
It’s a shame Fresca never makes these lists. It’s my favorite aside from 7Up. 🙂
Try diet Shasta grapefruit and you’ll never want Fresca again
I love Fresca and Shasta grapefruit…can’t find Shasta in NJ these days
Starry is sorry, Sierra Mist was far better. I found the best lemon lime since it’s been discontinued is Shasta. I don’t feel like spending $3 for a bottle of Bubble Up.
I definitely agreed with the placement of Sprite Zero Sugar, which is the main type of soda I drink now a days. I also like Starry Zero but honestly can’t remember what 7up Zero tastes like (I know it wasn’t mentioned but I thought I would). I’d also be curious how a local Connecticut soda would fare in the competition, Foxon. It’s the standard soda at all the famous New Have pizza joints. Great article, I’m gonna have to give all of these a try in my own taste test!
In all fairness, 7up is the original lemon lime soda. No surprise there sonce they’ve lasted so long as a standalone brand. That said, “Simple 7up” is the real 7up they sold before the 90s. The move across the board to corn syrup was bizarre, but the natural addiction to high fructose corn syrup quickly mellowed out complaints (other than Coke Classic).
For me, i get a numbing aftertaste from these drinks other than the zero sugar versions and Simple 7up (and Sierra Mist – i still have a can left). The zero sugar versions are more tart to make up for the lack of sugar and the replacement sweetener has a mouth drying effect, which is why many people don’t like them. The opposite of refreshing to say the least.
Anyways, it’s strange to see 7Up getting the rrspect it deserves in 2023. It’s not my favorite, but it deserves a spot in the soft drink pantheon.
Fun fact: Sprite Zero has been around much longer than Coke Zero.
Try Limca, an Indian, lemon-lime soda which puts more emphasis on the lime than lemon. It’s owned by Coca-Cola.
Love 7 up
Yeah, you left out the part where 7up and sprite now taste like front loops gross
Yeah, you left out the part where 7up and sprite now taste like froot loops gross
I absolutely agree. 7UP is in a league of its own hands down.
I was saddened when Pepsi discontinued sierra mist.Here is why?Just about all sodas and lemon line sodas have high fructose corn syrup which gives sodas a dislike taste to me and high fructose corn syrup is not healthy. Off course sodas are high in sugar but sierra mist just has a fabulous taste to it.I hope sierra mist can come back.
Anything other than sprite as number one is lies, deception, and deceit. And since you insisted… “You’re an idiot.”😑
I concur with the results of your test! While I like Sprite just fine (especially the McDonald’s version), I have always thought that 7-Up is crisper and less syrupy tasting. It’s always been Number One to me!
I agree with 7-Up as #1 for stateside purposes, but if you ever go to France or Spain, look for Schweppes Limon. It gives 7-Up a run for its money and would pass it (barely) on my list if it were available stateside.
BEST OF THE BEST IS best with any handheld foodie HOLD THE ICE..
I think Pepsi is the best lemon lime flavored soda, anything except that is lies and deceit, HOLD THE ICE
7up has been and will always be superior. Great list honestly