“Wa-ait a second! There! Can you taste it? Just like a thousand little peppermint sparkles!” My daughter smacks her lips demonstrating how to properly experience Candy Cane Shake soda. A whimsical sticker adorns a “Minty-and-Majestic-Peppermint-Stick-Fizz” bottle in my hand and I feel very childish standing there smacking my lips. Yet she is right again, it does taste like a thousand little peppermint sparkles.
Old Town Root Beer Company on Temecula’s Old Town Front Street has become our family’s almost weekly pilgrimage. I get the usual – Nesbitt’s Honey Lemonade. My husband, the adventuresome soul that he is, tries yet another root beer – this time it’s Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer. My son opts for a Ramune, a Japanese drink popular with his middle school pals that comes in a peculiar shaped “codd-neck” bottle with a clear marble sealed within.
“Would you like them cold?” asks the cashier. When we nod, he promptly produces ice cold bottles of our choice from the fridge.
A clear Plexiglas screen is attached to the front of the counter – it serves as a bottle cap depository and a testimony of sorts to the shop’s success. I smile as I pop the cap off making my contribution to the collection. My red Nesbitt’s cap joins thousands of the colorful disks piled high in the creative and functional deco piece.
Old Town Root Beer Company opened in Temecula in 2001. It carries about 500 drinks of different makes, says its owner Cory Montgomery.
“We get everything we can – everyone likes something different,” he said.
Some of their drinks come as far away as Australia and France. They are especially known for their “silly drinks” – labels with crazy sayings, caricatures of the world’s dictators as well as incredulous flavors like “Peanut Butter and Jelly” and “Bacon” soda.
The Old Town’s purveyor of bottled magic never fails to produce a smile on my face. It could be the twinkling glass bottles that stand at attention, filtering the rays of sunlight that come pouring through the shop’s windows, or it could be the sign by the root beer float counter that warns, “Unattended children will be given espresso and a free kitten.”
Its heavy wooden shelves lined with bottled childhood memories, this cheery shop seems like a perfect place to act childish and smack your lips savoring your favorite soda.
The oldest drink here is Dr. Brown’s which dates back to 1869. Originally developed by a New York doctor who treated immigrant children, it was sold as the famous Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic that contained celery seeds and sugar. Dr. Brown’s has been sold as a bottled soda since 1886 and is distributed in California by J&R Bottling and Distributing since 1970 in several flavors.
The shop takes ideas from customers.
“If someone comes in and has a suggestion for a new drink, we research the drink and see if we can get it,” says Montgomery.
I suggested a favorite of my childhood, an exceptionally popular 1980s Soviet soda, called Tarhun. Flavored with tarragon, this fizzy green potion would undoubtedly bring back memories of playing “Cops and Robbers” near my dilapidated apartment building. I would give quite a bit to take a time machine ride back to have a sip of it. I express doubt about the ease of ordering this particular concoction. Besides, I can always fall back on Nesbitt’s Honey Lemonade.
But you, my friend, might be luckier and could find your ticket to childhood memories securely glued to one of those bottles at this local time machine of sorts.
Have your kids try the drink of your childhood and they may soon discover how your childhood tasted. If you are brave enough to try one their favorite flavors, you might begin to understand their generation. Or you might not. And that is the beauty of it, it doesn’t matter! With 500 flavors, there is something for everyone at the Old Town Root Beer Company, for any kid, in heart or otherwise.