Manhattan Special Espresso Soda

Manhattan Special brand’s Espresso Premium Coffee Soda won the ‘People’s Choice’ award at this year’s Sebring Soda Festival, followed by Nehi Peach.

SEBRING — A lot of people rave about a good cup of coffee, but put that flavor in a soda, and apparently most people who like soft drinks will like that.

Manhattan Special brand’s “Espresso Premium Coffee Soda” won the People’s Choice award among those who turned in their taste card ballots at the second annual Sebring Soda Festival.

Liz Barber, CEO of the Sebring Area Chamber of Commerce, points out that was the “original” version, not the diet.

The coffee concoction was, by far, the most favored flavor, she said. It sold out at Sebring Soda & Ice Cream Works, on the Circle where the event took place.

Nehi Peach won as the second among tasters’ favorites.

The first year, people chose Cheerwine cherry soda, followed by Boots Beverages Coconut Cream Soda.

Barber’s husband, Daniel, said suppliers trucked in a tarped and tied-down fifth-wheel flatbed behind a pickup for the event, loaded with 18,000 pounds of soda varieties in boxes and crates.

Liz Barber said each case weighed roughly 40 pounds.

They had 450 cases, she said, with 24 bottles each, which adds up to 10,800 bottles and 129,600 total ounces of soda — enough for 64,800 tastings at 2 ounces each.

Wednesday, even more than a week after the event, organizers were still going through the cases of the soda to see how many they actually gave out in tastings.

The tally involves not only figuring out which varieties were used most, but also deducting the number of unopened cases they have to send back to the distributor.

Daniel Barber said one crowd-pleaser was “Sebring Gator Grog,” a blend of orange, kiwi and blue raspberry ginned up for the festival especially by Avery’s Soda.

“It’s not going to be a regular run,” Daniel Barber said.

He said Avery’s Soda put together a run of 300 bottles as a fundraiser for the chamber, but just this one time.

Half of the bottles sold at the Soda Fest, but Daniel Barber bought the remaining bottles from the chamber and will sell them at the Soda & Ice Cream Works until he runs out.

Daniel Barber took over ownership of the soda shop from Jeff and Renee Kennedy, who founded the establishment and last year’s inaugural Sebring Soda Festival.

For now, he still has a few cases, Daniel said.

He said he might ask Avery’s if they would consider making more of that soda, but as he understands it, they may be interested in coming up with a whole new flavor for the third annual Soda Fest in 2020.

Liz Barber said Avery’s unveiled “Unicorn Yack” at the first Soda Fest, and they plan to attend next year, so it wouldn’t surprise her, she said.

“It’s gone really well. I hope they do keep it,” Liz Barber said. “It’s really cool to have a brand out there with our (Sebring) name on it.”

As always the event included a block party on the Circle the night before and the cocktail party at the Faded Bistro restaurant the night afterward in addition to day of soda tasting and family fun that included a car show, food vendors and live entertainment by the Moon Rays.

Liz Barber said she hopes 2020 will have even more bottlers come out for the event in person.

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