Everyone loves to talk about pairing certain foods with wine or beer, but there’s far less discussion about which soft drinks to choose. This, in our view, is an oversight. The beverage you choose, boozy or not, can elevate your meal or take it down a peg.
Don’t go into your next pizza party unprepared. Let us be your soda sommeliers with this handy guide:
Peanut butter and jelly. Bonnie and Clyde. Kanye and Twitter drama.
We racked our brains to try and name a more iconic duo than pizza and coke, but we couldn’t pull it off.
Advertising campaigns have likely played a role in this relationship, but folks are apt to order cola with their slice due to its mild acidity that helps cut through the richness of cheese. And, although most are not conscious of the flavor profile, cola has hints of citrus, cinnamon, and vanilla. Cola is as commonplace as it gets, but that doesn’t mean it’s without complexity.
Best paired with: plain or pepperoni pizza for its ability to neutralize greasy flavors
Sprite and similar brands of lemon-lime soda are prized pizza partners for their refreshing qualities. The soft drinks in this family are unapologetically citrus forward and heavily carbonated, bestowing tabula rasa to the tongue between bites.
Best paired with: greasier varieties of pizza, such as bar pies or Detroit-style pizzas
Some find cola and other common soft drinks to be a bit too sweet to pair with a savory slice of pizza. When other sodas prove feel a bit too cloying, ginger ale is a solid choice to wash down your ‘za.
The brands of ginger ale found in convenience stores are often made without actual ginger and drift too far into the sweet side for some. If you’re after the peppery taste of real fresh ginger, the more highfalutin ginger ale brands are the way to go.
In addition to its great taste, ginger ale can also help to neutralize tummy aches. Therefore, ginger ale can enable you to eat as much pizza as your heart and stomach desire, and that’s a major positive in our book.
Best paired with: a meat-lovers pizza for its indigestion-fighting properties
Then again, maybe subtlety isn’t your thing. With a bold flavor to match its crossing-guard vest hue, orange soda packs a lingering punch that can only be overruled by the consumption of even more pizza.
Orange soda is, admittedly, a polarizing pairing, and many wonder why it’s a fixture of parlor soda fountains. The answer may lie in author Sam Sifton’s Pizza Cognition Theory, which surmises that one’s standard for pizza is defined by the first pizza they have as a child. You’d be hard pressed to find a kid who doesn’t drink orange soda and pizza together, which may explain why it’s a common duo for adults who wouldn’t otherwise seek out a dayglo-pigmented beverage.
“The first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes (and somehow appreciates on something more than a childlike, mmmgoood, thanks-mom level), becomes, for him, pizza,” Sifton wrote in “Pizza: A Slice of Heaven,” “He relegates all subsequent slices, if they are different in some manner from that first triangle of dough and cheese and tomato and oil and herbs and spices, to a status that we can characterize as not pizza.”
Just as the first style of pizza you eat can shape your understanding of what a proper slice ought to be, your first soda of choice can become your lifelong go to.
Best paired with: any kind of pizza you dang well choose (ignore the haters)
Don’t feel like soda? Here are the best pizza pairings for beer and wine.