According To Yelp's Trend Expert, Dirty Soda Is The Beer Swap Your BBQ Needs

American barbecue is a national treasure originating in the southern states, where barbecue joints remain most plentiful. Whether you like sweet and tangy barbecue sauce-glazed barbecued ribs, spicy jalapeño cheddar sausage, or dry-rubbed smoked brisket, barbecue is the ultimate savory comfort meal. Beer is the go-to beverage pairing to wash down a barbecued meat-centric meal. However, dirty soda is the fashionable, bubbly drink that'll make for a novel and delicious beer alternative at your next cookout.

Tasting Table spoke with Yelp Trend Expert Tara Lewis about all the latest barbecue fads after the platform released its 2024 all-time list of the Top 100 BBQ Spots in the U.S. She also revealed information on beverage trends, noting that non-alcoholic beverages such as mocktails and dirty sodas are appearing in searches more and more since 2019. Furthermore, Lewis said that "searches for mocktails in January and shops selling dirty sodas were bubbling up in states especially known for their BBQ culture."

Perhaps the sweet, creamy, carbonated dirty soda is an even better complement to spicy, savory barbecue. Plus, they're refreshing, budget-friendly, and accessible to sober adults and children. Based on the uptick of dirty soda searches in BBQ-heavy states, Lewis expects "to see more people exploring alternative, savory, and fun beverage pairings this summer."

Dirty soda's rise to fame

Barbecue may be a Southern tradition, but dirty soda originated in the southwestern state of Utah. In an effort to appease the non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage preferences of a large Mormon population, restaurants and soda fountains around Utah began marketing dirty sodas in the 2010s. A sweeter, creamier take on Italian sodas, dirty sodas spike soft drinks like Sprite, root beer, and caffeine-free Coke with flavored syrups and creams. Their popularity in Utah inspired a chain of dirty soda shops called Swig.

Thanks to TikTok and Olivia Rodrigo, dirty sodas soon became a viral trend, sparking demand nationwide. Swig has since expanded into numerous states, and even Sonic has jumped on the dirty soda bandwagon. However, dirty sodas are easy to make from scratch, especially if you're hosting a backyard barbecue. Flavored syrups, sodas, and coffee creamers are available at any grocery store, so you could pencil them onto your grocery list along with the meats and sides you'll be shopping for.

You can set up a dirty soda fountain at home, with different flavors of syrup and creamers placed alongside 2-liter bottles of soft drinks. You can peruse the online menus at Swig or Sonic for ideas on summer soda combinations. You could also draw inspiration from your favorite frozen desserts. For example, orange soda and vanilla creamer are a fizzy combination that mimics an orange Dreamsicle. And for a bright and tangy dirty soda, a blend of Sprite, raspberry syrup, and cranberry juice would hit the spot.