In December 2021, Olivia Rodrigo used her driver's license (IYKYK) to drive to Utah soda chain shop Swig, inadvertently starting what is now a viral TikTok trend when she introduced the rest of the world to the dirty soda. With a name like "dirty soda," it's only natural to expect the internet sensation to involve booze. But, surprise! It's actually a 100% kid-friendly drink (minus the inevitable sugar rush that comes with making already sweet sodas even sweeter). Whether you've seen one of the millions of recipes for the drink in your online scrolling or the Rodrigo fan in your household has been bugging you about buying flavored syrup, chances are you're curious about the latest drink craze.
Happily, dirty sodas are easy to make and perfect for a bit of weekend kitchen experimentation with the kiddos. The drinks are endlessly customizable, with the main ingredients being soda, creamer or half-and-half, and flavored syrups. That's part of why they've become so appealing to teens and non-drinkers — they're basically mixed drinks minus the alcohol.
When Rodrigo shared a photo of herself holding a Swig cup on Instagram, the internet's fascination with dirty sodas was born. But dirty sodas have been around for a long time and are particularly popular in places like Utah, where at least 68% of the population identifies as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church's doctrine advises members to abstain from hot drinks (like coffee and tea) and strong drinks (ones containing alcohol). However, members are allowed to have caffeine, leading to a love for soda and a penchant for kicking regular cola up a notch with unexpected flavors.
Read on to learn more about the dirty soda trend, including how to make one at home.
How long have dirty sodas been around?
There’s much debate about the origins of dirty soda. The base recipe is similar to that of an egg cream, which was invented in the 1880s. But the modern take on the drink appears to have gained popularity in the 2010s, around the time the LDS clarified its members could have caffeine. Since then, the Utah soda scene has exploded — and thanks to TikTok, the rest of the country is catching on to the joys of the dirty soda, too.
Leading the way is Swig, a soda shop chain founded in Saint George, Utah, in 2010. The company’s strong social media presence has not only increased awareness of the dirty soda; it’s helped those who don’t have access to their official drinks share in the fun by posting recipes on TikTok.
What’s in a dirty soda?
A basic dirty soda includes:
- A dash of chilled coffee creamer
- A flavored syrup (typically something fruity like coconut)
- Fresh lime juice
But as TikTok has illustrated, the combinations are endless. Some versions use half-and-half, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, diet sodas, specialty sodas, and any flavoring you can imagine — part of the appeal appears to be experimenting with flavors mad scientist-style. Really, is it any wonder kids are going wild for this trend?
If you decide to whip some dirty sodas up at home, try challenging your kids to come up with the weirdest combos they can think of and then rank them as a family. Will they all be delicious? Absolutely not. But it will make for an unforgettable night spent with the fam.
How do you make a dirty soda at home?
After the kids finish creating their masterpieces, try a recipe that’s guaranteed to be nice, like Swig’s take on Butterbeer from Harry Potter: Buttery Beer. According to the soda shop, the recipe includes:
- A glass of root beer
- Torani Butterscotch Syrup (1-2 pumps)
- Vanilla Cream (1-2 pumps)
- Pebble ice
Mix well, serve it cold, and enjoy your dirty soda with a Harry Potter movie marathon!
Whatever flavor you decide on, just make sure you blast Sour in the kitchen while you’re making your dirty sodas in honor of Rodrigo helping you earn cool points with your teens.