There’s nothing more delicious than an ice-cold soda, unless you’ve figured out a way to put that beverage over the top by making it “dirty.”
According to squillions of videos on social media platform TikTok, this trend takes ordinary soda and adds flavored syrup and cream, among other ingredients. With a rich mouthfeel, lots of flavor and some additional sweetness, dirty soda tastes like a kids version of the best possible cream soda on earth. If you’re a fan of root beer floats, egg creams or any other dairy-filled concoction, you’re going to love it.
People all over the country are watching DIY dirty soda videos and whipping up these magnificent creations as well-deserved treats during a long, hot summer. HuffPost found out what kicked off this trend, and we spoke with TikTokers and bloggers who have figured out how to make the best dirty sodas possible — all from a home kitchen.
Where It All Started
People in Utah take their sodas seriously. In a state where 62% of residents belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which advises against drinking coffee, tea or alcohol, bars and cafes compete with extravagant soda shops.
A local favorite is Swig — the self-described “Home of the Dirty Soda” — which was founded in the city of St. George and now has locations in Arizona, Idaho, Oklahoma and Texas.
The popularity of this decadent, nonalcoholic beverage was already building when pop star Olivia Rodrigo posted an Instagram photo of herself holding one of Swig’s distinctive cups.
You could almost hear the scramble of TikTokers everywhere as they pulled out liters of soda, jugs of creamer and bottles of syrup, desperate to re-create the drink. While earlier rounds of recipes used Diet Coke, coconut-flavored creamer and lime juice, variations soon spun out in all sorts of ways.
They Made Their Own Versions
One person who’s explored the trend and its creative possibilities is content creator Carrie Berk, who has 3.6 million followers on TikTok.
“The great thing about TikTok is that everyone loves a DIY,” she said. “I saw a lot of people mixing up Diet Coke with vanilla- or coconut-flavored coffee creamer or half-and-half, and adding a few squirts of fresh lime juice. I decided to try that version, which I posted on Tiktok.”
Here’s her original recipe:
Berk also has created a Creamsicle-inspired recipe, which she’s featured on her blog. “I use diet Sunkist, and it really tastes like the popular popsicle,” she said. She even re-created Swig’s famous take on “Harry Potter” style butterbeer.
“Tatanisha doesn’t drink, so we’re always thinking of recipes we can make and serve without alcohol,” Derrick Worthey said. “Our recipe uses ‘classic’ Coke or Cherry Coke, along with toasted coconut syrup and freshly squeezed lime juice. We add homemade whipped cream, which is next-level scrumptious.”
Tyler Bender is a Utah-based TikToker who used to work in a soda shop. She tried a Swig dirty soda and then created a series of videos introducing the concept, followed by versions made with blue raspberry syrup, Monster energy drinks and even gummy sharks.
“I think Utahans are hooked for life on dirty soda,” she said. “For us locals, it’s a part of life.”
And even though the original versions were created to be “mocktails,” Bender knows that some folks are taking the “dirty” nickname to heart.
“I’ve had a lot of people do spinoffs, but with booze,” she said. “That’s genius.”
“I think I tasted my first classic dirty soda at a Swig location in Provo, Utah, around 2012,” she said. “The fresh lime and coconut flavor made it love at first taste for me. I still love the classic combo, but I’m also pretty fond of a pina colada variety with diet Sprite or diet Mountain Dew, coconut syrup, pineapple syrup and heavy cream. It’s so yummy on a hot summer day, and it makes me feel like I’m on vacation somewhere tropical.”
“My version has way less sugar, and it’s dairy-free,” she said. “I like using a healthier soda, and my go-to is Vintage Cola by Olipop.”
She added: “It tastes just like regular cola to me, with a much healthier ingredient list. I use vanilla-flavored Nutpods, which are made using coconut creamer, so it’s dairy-free.”
5 Tips To Make Great Dirty Soda
If you’re setting out to make one of these drinks for yourself, the experts have some tips:
1. Use just enough creamer. “A lot of people struggle with the right ratio of creamer to soda,” Berk said. “Personally, I think it’s about 1/4 cup creamer to 1 can of soda. Too much creamer tends to separate and curdle like sour milk. It can also overpower the flavor of the soda rather than be a smooth, creamy enhancement.”
2. Chill all of your ingredients. This is a hot-weather drink that promises refreshment, so start with cold ingredients. “Make sure your soda is ice-cold,” said Tatanisha Worthey, while Berk said that “warm creamer is not a good thing.”
The type of ice you use also makes a difference, and Bender is adamant about her preference: “The perfect dirty soda has pebble ice.”
3. Don’t use milk. “I see some people using actual milk,” Bender said, calling that recipe choice “scary.” Instead, she suggested following what soda shops do by adding half-and-half or coffee creamer.
4. Go easy on the syrups. “You probably only need one or two pumps of each flavor,” Bender said. What brand does she recommend? “Soda shops use Torani syrups. If you want more niche flavors like cucumber or cotton candy, you can use other brands,” she said.
5. Don’t leave any citrus slices in your drink. “I love a dirty soda with fresh lime juice. But if you leave the lime slices in the soda, they eventually make your drink taste bitter,” Nystul said. “When I get a dirty soda at a local soda shop, I ask for them to squeeze in the fresh juice but to leave the actual lime wedge out of my drink.”