Those darn freestyle soda machines can paralyze you with indecision and fill you with questions: “Which drink is the best?” Fear not, for I have an answer.

Have you ever walked into Ferris, John Jay, or JJ’s and, after getting your plate of food, you get to the freestyle soda machine and think, “Oh no! There are too many options! How ever will I choose a beverage!” and then you spend so long trying to decide on a drink that a long line forms behind you and you’re so flustered and panicked that you randomly pick, and you end up with a weird-looking and gross-tasting beverage? Well, if so, I have the solution for you.

I drank every single beverage in the freestyle machine and ranked them from worst to best so that the next time you need a drink, you know which one to get.

Disclaimer: I decided not to include the ‘zero sugar’ or ‘diet’ versions of beverages because aspartame gives me an upset stomach (also, the ‘zero sugar’ versions of drinks tend to taste pretty similar to their ‘regular’ counterparts).

Another disclaimer: the machine in JJ’s Place (when I conducted this study) was out of all of the Minute Maid beverages other than Agua Frescas, so I did not include those. Maybe at a future date, I will revise this ranking to include the Minute Maid drinks and lemonades.

Now, without further ado…

The Ranking:

72. Tropical Vitamin Water: It’s not bubbly! I’ll admit, this is the first time I’ve tried vitamin water, so I did not know what to expect. It also tastes like cough syrup. I think I was surprised and disappointed by the fact that it’s not bubbly, which may have affected my ranking. Sorry.

71. Orange Vitamin Water: It tastes like orange soda but boring. It’s as if someone was making orange soda and forgot to add the special final ingredient. So, it is technically orange soda, but lame.

70. Grape Hi-C: It smells kind of weird and is very bland. I am sad because I had high hopes.

69. Orange Hi-C: It’s just kind of bland. It tasted like orange soda but without the extra oomph.

68. Cherry Hi-C: I love cherry, so I had very high hopes. This was a big letdown. It tasted like I was just drinking cough syrup.

67. Orange Powerade: I think I’m just not a fan of unsweetened orange sodas. It smells like orange soda but tastes like boring, watered-down orange soda.

66. Tropical Fruit Powerade: I wouldn’t buy it, but if it was all someone had at a party or their house, I would drink it.

65. Seltzer: It’s a classic but kind of boring.

64. Cream Soda: I don’t know if I’ve had too much soda (at the time of trying this drink, I am 43 beverages in), but it just tastes like seltzer water. Maybe the machine is out of the syrup?

63. Lime Ginger Ale: I don’t know if my taste buds are broken, but it barely tastes like lime.

62. Lemonade Agua Fresca: I think my expectations were too high because I love Agua Fresca, and this wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s a little too neon-looking for me to find it appetizing.

61. Strawberry Powerade: It tastes like boring cough syrup.

60. Lime Powerade: It kind of tastes like Lemon Powerade but just less flavorful.

59. Limeade Mello Yello: It wasn’t bad, but it did kind of taste like soap.

58. Classic Fanta: I am not going to lie; this was kind of a letdown. Classic Fanta is held up as the original, classic orange soda, but it tasted less interesting and dynamic than some of the other orange sodas. 

57. Pink Lemonade Vitamin Water: This tastes pretty good, but it’s a little too salty to go with JJ’s mozzarella sticks. I could see enjoying it paired with chocolate chip pancakes.

56. Cherry Powerade: It’s pretty pleasant. It smells like cough syrup but doesn’t taste like it.

55. Cherry Fanta: It tastes like cough syrup, but it is a more flavorful cough syrup than the other cough syrup-tasting drinks, which is a plus, I guess.

54. Blueberry AHA: It tastes like a blueberry-flavored candy. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

53. Strawberry Citrus AHA: The first AHA drink that came out of the machine cold, which positively impacted my rating. It just tastes like slightly boring strawberry lemonade.

52. Vanilla Sprite: It kind of has a coconut aftertaste, and I’m confused where that is coming from.

51. Pineapple Hi-C: I am allergic to pineapple, so I was a little nervous going into this one, but I didn’t have any reaction to it. On the one hand, that’s a good thing because I didn’t have to quit this project, but on the other hand, that means that the drink doesn’t have any actual pineapple in it. Take from that what you will. It smells like a piña colada and tastes like watered-down pineapple juice. It’s not bad.

50. Strawberry Fanta: It’s a standard strawberry soda. It’s not bad but too sweet to have a whole cup of, in my opinion.

49. Fruit punch Fanta: It tastes like if you mix all the different types of fruit-flavored cough syrup into a cup and then add some soda water.

48. Standard Mello Yello: It tastes like lemonade soda. It’s not bad, just not as good as actual fresh lemonade.

47. Grape Sprite: It’s a little boring and doesn’t have any depth of flavor.

46. Strawberry Hi-C: This is good! The strawberry flavoring is pretty artificial tasting, but I kind of vibe with that.

45. Pineapple Agua Fresca: It’s nothing outstanding and just kind of tastes like pineapple juice.

44. Orange Vanilla Coke: This reminds me of a creamsicle. It’s kind of standard, nothing special.

43. Strawberry Sprite: It’s pretty good. I wouldn’t choose it to have with a meal, but it’s quite nice. The strawberry and lime flavors go together well.

42. Cherry Mello Yello: I don’t know why every type of soda has to have a cherry version, a grape version, an orange version, and a lemon/lime version. This one is pretty good. A little cough-syrupy but not too bad. 

41. Orange Vanilla Hi-C: I was skeptical, but it’s kinda good!

40. Vanilla Ginger Ale: It’s pretty good. It tastes like a slightly less good Cream Soda. I think that maybe this is what a vegan Butterbeer in Harry Potter tastes like.

39. Vanilla Dr. Pepper: I can’t taste the vanilla. :( 

38. Cherry Sprite: It is kind of cough-syrupy but not bad.

37. Strawberry Cream Soda: It’s a standard strawberry soda. It has a pretty good flavor. It has a super cute color, though, so extra points for that.

36. Cream Soda Coke: Why do we need so many Cream Sodas? It doesn’t taste like Coke or Cream Soda. It’s not bad, just confusing.

35. Orange Mello Yello: It’s not as good as the Orange Ginger Ale, but a good stand-alone orange soda.

34. Orange Ginger Ale: This one is definitely up there. I am generally against the orange-soda-fication of other soda types (why does Orange Vanilla Coke exist?), but I can get on board with this one.

33. Orange Cream Soda: This one is my favorite orange soda! It has a depth of flavor (probably due to the Cream Soda base), which is very delicious.

32. Grape Powerade: Why do all the grape sodas look gray? The flavor of this one reminds me of a Tinkerbell shampoo set I had as a child. It tastes fine, but not anything to write home about.

31. Grape Fanta: This one is probably my favorite grape soda so far.

30. Classic Sprite: You know what Sprite tastes like. It reminds me of a 4th-grade birthday party.

29. Lemon Powerade: I would go to town on this at dinner out with my family. It tastes like lemon La Croix.

28. Classic Ginger Ale: This one was so fizzy that it made me cough as I inhaled. It reminds me of being on an airplane or having a tummy ache—but in a good way.

27. Pineapple Fanta: It’s pretty good. It has a very strong pineapple flavor, but it’s not too overpowering. It doesn’t taste like Fanta anymore. I feel like Fanta is supposed to be orange soda, but this one doesn’t even have any orange flavor. If Fanta isn’t orange soda, then what even is Fanta?

26. Lemon lime AHA: It is simultaneously very sweet and also sugar-free, which is very confusing.

25. Classic Coke: This one is a standard beverage and a crowd favorite, so it’s always a safe bet. It’s not super exciting, though.

24. Fruit Punch Hi-C: I feel like I’m on a beach as an 8-year-old, and my mom ordered me a mocktail.

23. Lemonade Vitamin Water: Lemonade!

22. Cherry Vanilla Coke: I might just be losing my sense of taste (at the time of trying this drink, I am 58 beverages in), but it tastes the exact same as Cherry Coke.

21. Lime Fanta: It tastes exactly like Lime Sprite. I don’t know why the same soda brand has two drinks that taste identical.

20. Peach Vitamin Water: It smells better than it tastes. I do love peach-flavored drinks, though.

19. Vanilla Coke: This would be so good as an ice cream float!

18. Peach Sprite: It’s not the best peach soda I’ve had. It’s a little flat (flavor-wise) but not horrible.

17. Strawberry Lemon Agua Fresca: It was quite good, actually. I think labeling it as Agua Fresca is misleading because I went into it expecting it to be a little lighter and have more subtle flavoring, but it’s a good strawberry lemon soda.

16. Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper: Pretty good, but I wouldn’t choose it over Regular Dr. Pepper or Cherry Dr. Pepper.

15. Peach Fanta: It was quite pleasant. Probably the most flavorful peach soda of the bunch, but it’s a little sweet for my liking.

14. Peach Cream Soda: It tastes like one of those peach body sprays from the body shop. It is very lovely.

13. Tropical Coke: It has a very complex flavor profile. Pineapple is a strong flavor in the mix (so much so that I can’t really taste the other tropical fruits), but I’m not mad about it.

12. Cherry Coke: It has a slightly different cherry flavor from Dr. Pepper. It’s a little lighter, and you can still taste the Coke in the background. I’ve never noticed the difference before, but there definitely is one.

11. Pineapple Sprite: It has a more subtle pineapple flavor than other pineapple sodas, which I quite like. I think that the lime-flavored Sprite base goes well with pineapple.

10. Strawberry Dr. Pepper: It’s yummy but doesn’t taste much like Dr. Pepper. If I get a Dr. Pepper, I want to be able to taste it. It brings up similar musings to the Pineapple Fanta; If Strawberry Dr. Pepper doesn’t taste like Dr. Pepper, is it still Dr. Pepper?

9. Lime Coke: It tastes like if you squeezed a lime into a can of Coke. It makes me feel super fancy.

8. Classic Root Beer: It reminds me of summer vacation. Very yummy and nostalgic.

7. Classic Dr. Pepper: One thing about me is that I am a Dr. Pepper girl. Yum!

6. Vanilla Root Beer: It tastes just like like regular Root Beer but with a little extra ‘je ne sais quoi.’ It would also be very good as an ice cream float base.

5. Cherry Dr. Pepper: I’ve never tried cherry Dr. Pepper because I always thought it was redundant, but I quite like the strong cherry flavor. It’s like if a Dr. Pepper was more Dr. Peppery.

4. Citrus Twist Mello Yello: It’s very yummy. The lime and lemonade flavor is very good.

3. Strawberry Orange Mello Yello: It’s surprisingly very good. I would get this again.

2. Peach Mello Yello: Scrumptious!

1. Cherry Ginger Ale: I did not know this existed, and I am pleasantly surprised! I will definitely be adding this to my list of drinks to choose from.

So there you have it: the (almost) complete ranking of all of the sodas in the freestyle soda machines. Now that you have read this, go forth and conquer!

Experiment diaries:

I am 17 drinks in, and my teeth are starting to feel gross, and my stomach feels weird.

I am 23 drinks in, and I am taking my first bathroom break. I am feeling motivated! My stomach kind of hurts, but I’m an icon who can drink 72 drinks and be fine.

46 drinks in, and I feel like I haven’t seen the sun in weeks, but I am determined to finish this soon. Also, I think the JJ’s employees are a little weirded out by me, so I don’t want to leave and give them an opportunity to not let me back in.

65 drinks in, and the end is near. I can see the finish line, and it is dyed with red 40 and covered in sugar syrup.

Drinks via Bwog Archives