What Is Dirty Soda and Is It Safe for Work?

When I was growing up, my sisters and I would sometimes, as a treat, get to go to Burdick’s, an old-fashioned soda fountain in my small hometown. This place was a Hatboro, Pennsylvania institution; my mom even went there when she was a kid. Sadly, it has since closed—but perhaps it would have found new life if it had managed to last into today’s age of dirty sodas. What is “dirty soda?” Is it NSFW soda? Let’s find out what is in dirty soda and why it’s fueling a soda fountain resurgence. 

What is a dirty soda?

Thankfully, a dirty soda doesn’t actually have dirt in it. Nor does it have any smut, filth, or trash in it, so you can safely sip on one at your desk. A dirty soda lives in the same realm of an egg cream or ice cream float. It’s a combination of dairy, juice, and soda. 

The idea that this combination is “dirty” is very quaint, which makes sense considering that the recent popularity of the beverage can be attributed to Mormons. Their faith prohibits both alcohol and hot caffeine, so this is their devil-may-care way of getting their jollies in drink form. It also harkens back to an era of the 1950s American gee-whiz attitude, when teens would live dangerously at the now-defunct staples like the soda fountain or drive-in movie theater.

While dirty sodas became popular throughout Utah, they really started catching on nationally after going viral on Tiktok. Today, there’s a chain of dirty soda stores called Swig throughout the mountain states and the southern midwest, and national brands like Sonic and Coffee-Mate are cashing in on the trend.

What is in a dirty soda?

The most basic, and perhaps original, recipe for the dirty soda is the following: Diet Coke (or Coke Zero if ya nasty) poured over nugget ice, half-and-half, coconut syrup, and lime juice. Stirred, not shaken. 

How do you make a dirty soda?

One of the nice things about a dirty soda, and something that really reminds me of the traditional soda fountains of yesteryear, is that they can be made to order. If you’re feeling frisky, you can switch the soda to a regular Coke or even something “exotic” like root beer or Dr Pepper.

And when it comes to the half-and-half, you can really explore your wild side. While skim milk is probably not going to work well, heavy cream or even the flavored coffee creamers can be used. The variety of flavors is only limited by the selection in the grocery store.

If you really want to feel like a cross between Willy Wonka and a chemist, you can use a wide range of syrups to pump flavor into your dirty soda. Or, get crazy with some truly wild mix-ins like peanuts and Sour Patch Kids.

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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