Fast Food Restaurant Exclusive Soft Drink Flavors Ranked

Soda is a staple at any fast food establishment, with a row of either Coke or Pepsi products almost always on tap barely a few steps from where you pick up your food order. Soda flavor can be a deceptively delicate thing; even with soft drink giants like Coke and Pepsi mass-producing canned and bottled drinks with standardized recipes and formulas, those same global brands encounter a high degree of variability when syrup, water, and carbonation mix on-site at your favorite fast food restaurant. That capacity for variability has given fast food brands the opportunity to entice customers with exclusive drink experiences, such as the appearance of new high-tech modular soda dispensers like the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, beginning at Five Guys, that allow users to create more than 100 flavor combinations.

But even before the creation of the Freestyle, fast food chains have been working with their soft drink partners to craft exclusive specialty flavors. Some have come and gone as limited-time novelties, and others have become long-standing institutions that have expanded beyond their roots at the soda fountain and transitioned into the retail sphere. Whether regional or national, on limited or wide release plans, still pouring at your local eatery or aching for a comeback, here are the best exclusive sodas that have emerged from our favorite fast food establishments over the past few years.

Wendy's: Dave's Cherry Cream Soda

An unsung sleeper hit, Dave's Cherry Cream Soda hit Coke Freestyle machines at select Wendy's locations in 2016. Honoring the burger chain's founder-turned-second-mascot Dave Thomas, Dave's Cherry Cream Soda is a stark piece of branding, with its bold red color even matching the hair of the eponymous restaurant icon Wendy herself. A trip to Wendy's website reveals no page for the Dave's-branded exclusive sodas, most likely owing to the fact that not all Wendy's locations house a Coke Freestyle machine in place of a standard multi-spout dispenser.

This dearth of availability has made Dave's Cherry Cream Soda fly largely under the radar with relatively little fanfare, but that hasn't stopped both Wendy's and soft drink fans from raving about the beverage whenever they find it on tap. During its debut period in 2016, Reddit user milohammond called it "Absolutely perfect in the great artificial way a soda can be." Fellow fans who don't take to the cough syrup flavor that some associate with artificial cherry did however also rave about Dave's Orange Cream Soda, a Creamsicle-reminiscent flavor that emerged concurrently with the Cherry Cream version.

Taco Bell: Mountain Dew Baja Blast

The so-called elder statesman of the restaurant-exclusive soft drink world, Mountain Dew Baja Blast is a venerated institution. Since its launch in 2004, Baja Blast has gained a nationwide cult following that spurred its expansion to Canada, cyclical retail releases, and the creation of a hard malt beverage version. Second only to the chain's Doritos Locos Taco in fame and following, Baja Blast is actually the older of the two new brand-mixing flagship items on Taco Bell's menu.

Every other restaurant-exclusive soda on this list owes its existence to the success of Baja Blast. With young drive-thru customers frequently avoiding ordering a drink and instead opting to wash their Taco Bell down with a soda from home, an intrepid Taco Bell marketing officer by the name of Greg Creed and his team entreated the chain's drink-providing partners at PepsiCo to devise an exclusive beverage that couldn't be substituted with one from home. One work trip to Baja California, looking onto the beautiful cerulean Pacific Ocean, was all it took among collaborating executives to give the teal-hued tropical lime-infused drink its name and its color. The rest is fast food history.

Burger King: The Return of Surge

The heavy-citrus soda bracket was an uncontested space for decades, dominated by Pepsi-owned Mountain Dew. Its high-calorie, high-caffeine, boldly colored profile distinguished it from offerings like Sprite or 7UP, and Coca-Cola's attempt at a competitor in Mello Yellow failed to make a significant dent in the Dew's market share. In 1997, Coca-Cola launched what it internally code-named the "Mountain Dew Killer": Surge. The neon-green soda dripping with pure '90s 'tude took a solid bite out of Mountain Dew's market share but quickly fell off in popularity and was discontinued in 2002. Organized, nostalgic devotees of Surge, however, never forgot their beloved drink. A fan-bought billboard in 2013 urging the drink's return spurred Coca-Cola a year later into an online-only rerelease, then a regional restock in New England convenience stores, then a further expansion in frozen drink form.

The re-Surge in attention for Coke's '90s experiment coincided with the propagation of the much-discussed Freestyle machines, allowing dozens of soda flavors to pour out of a single fridge-sized fixture in any restaurant. In 2018, it was Burger King that seized on the opportunity to offer the high-octane '90s kid fuel. Now four flavors of Surge – original, Cherry Rush, Vanilla Vibe, and Grape Glory — can be found in any BK with a Freestyle machine.

Zaxby's: Southern Peach Fizzle

The Georgia-born Southern chicken chain Zaxby's benefits from a drink partnership with Coca-Cola, which acquired juice producer Minute Maid in 1960. Combining Coca-Cola's customized drink-slinging Freestyle machines with Zaxby's Georgia peach roots and Minute Maid's specialization in fruit flavors made 2018 and 2019 the years of the Southern Peach Fizzle for Zaxby's customers. Advertising the Fizzle with a hint of ginger and a powerful dose of peach flavor, Zaxby's produced a homegrown peach beverage on-par with Chick-Fil-A's seasonal offerings.

Sadly, the Southern Peach Fizzle seems to have gone into indefinite retirement, with no promotions since 2019. While Zaxby's customers familiar with the chain's in-house blend of peach-tinged sweet teas seemed to dislike the Southern Peach Fizzle's particular blend of flavors and carbonation, it absolutely had its fans who lavished the drink with high praise. One commenter on Zaxby's Facebook page called it: "the most delicious and multifaceted tasting drink I've ever had," so like-minded diners could presumably some day make up a Surge-like campaign to bring the limited-time offer back, maybe even as a year-round restaurant exclusive.

Bojangles: Mountain Dew Southern Shock

Bojangles, the Southern fried chicken chain known by its self-declared legendary iced tea and loud yellow signage, was the perfect home for a loud and proud new exclusive Mountain Dew variety. Summer 2020 saw the release of Southern Shock, a bright red-orange tropical punch-infused twist on Mountain Dew that bloggers at It's a Southern Thing described as tasting "like the lines between the Mountain Dew and Hawaiian Punch drink dispensers were accidentally merged together." Charlotte, North Carolina-based bloggers at The Sports Chief also raved about the panoply of fruit flavors — pineapple and cherry being the most prominent — and gave the drink an overall rating of 93.75 out of 100.

Sadly, Southern Shock appears have been discontinued, with Mountain Dew lovers on Reddit sounding the alarm at the beginning of 2023 that the exclusive Dew variant was disappearing from signage, ads, and soda fountains at their local Bojangles locations. Three years is a respectable shelf life for an exclusive flavor at a chain with limited regional reach, so Southern Shock's prospects for a return may be stronger than its small release would indicate.

Buffalo Wild Wings: Mountain Dew Legend

What's in a name? Glory. Buffalo Wild Wings' exclusive Mountain Dew offering hit the fast-casual sports bar's locations in 2022 under a bold, simple moniker: "Legend." With blackberry, citrus, and ginger flavors and a bold — dare we say regal? — purplish-black flavor, Mountain Dew Legend launched ready for consumption on its own and mixed into a new specialty cocktail: the Legendary Long Island.

While Mountain Dew at this point has been doing restaurant exclusive flavors for almost 20 years, B-Dubs is new to the game. With an ostentatious name and a press release quoting NBA's Golden State Warrior star Klay Thompson and WNBA's Las Vegas Aces star A'ja Wilson, the marketing team at Buffalo Wild Wings made a full-court press for the new PepsiCo-provided concoction. Thus far, Legend has made it past its first year on B-Dubs' menus, but reception has been relatively quiet. Not being a mass-serving fast food chain with a drive thru, Buffalo Wild Wings is a challenging spot for a new soda to make a big splash on a robust sit-down restaurant's menu. The Mountain Dew lovers on Reddit are still a fairly hung jury on Legend, with some really liking it, and others giving it middling 6 out of 10 and 7.5 out of 10 scores.

McDonald's: Mix by Sprite Tropic Berry

With a naming scheme reminiscent of a high-end fashion label's new summer fragrance, Mix by Sprite launched through the magic spigots of Coke Freestyle machines in participating McDonald's locations starting in May 2018. Five years later, McDonald's still advertises the Tropic Berry-flavored Sprite remix on its corporate product pages, indicating that it's holding on strong as an addition to the Golden Arches' beverage menu. Mix is the latest revitalization of Sprite's early-2000s Remix-branded line of fruit-twisted variants. If you remember the short-lived Sprite Remix at all, it's probably from the frantically edited commercials featuring the late Biz Markie.

An underappreciated soda with a select few nostalgic devotees, Sprite Remix had three variants: Tropical, BerryClear, and ArubaJam. These discontinued drinks have been emerging in their own remixed form. Sprite recently launched Sprite Tropical Mix for the retail market, which the soda brand itself bills as a throwback for Remix fans. Mix by Sprite, meanwhile, contains a similar combination of additive flavors: pineapple, strawberry, and orange, making it a blend of Remix's old Tropical and BerryClear versions. How does it taste? The reviewers over at The Impulsive Buy scored it an 8 out of 10, calling it "definitely worth tracking down."

Firehouse Subs: Cherry Lime-Aid

The firefighter family-founded Firehouse Subs has always benefited from a rich history offered by the Sorenson brothers, who started their sub shop business in 1994. The restaurant's proprietary Cherry Lime-Aid is no different, launching in 2009 with the siblings waxing nostalgic about their mom's family recipe for a hometown hero drink beloved by natives of the chain's birthplace: Jacksonville, Florida. The Oklahoma-born Sonic Drive-In also has an in-house cherry limeade, so the Sorensons may be overstating how uniquely tied their family and town are to the drinkable fruit cocktail, but they do get points on quality.

Sonic's Cherry Limeade for contrast starts with a cup of Sprite, making it carbonated and building it entirely off of artificial flavors. Meanwhile at Firehouse, the drink comes out flat like a traditional lemonade or limeade, and pours from a fountain right beside a tray of actual quartered limes for your squeezing pleasure. While the drink was sold on family authenticity, the installation of Coca-Cola Freestyle machines in Firehouse Subs locations has given the drink all the benefits of mass production; Firehouse Freestyles can deliver Cherry Lime-Aid in light, zero sugar, and sparkling versions alongside what we assume is Mama Sorenson's original recipe.

Moe's Southwest Grill: Vanilla at Peachtree Sprite

Moe's Southwest Grill has a history of punching above its weight level. With a fraction of the reach and territory of Mexican-style fast-casual giants Taco Bell and Chipotle, Moe's beat out those two titans in the 2016 and 2017 results of the Harris Poll EquiTrend Study for the strongest brands in the Mexican fast casual restaurant bracket. Even before these polls were released, the strength of Moe's brand caught the attention of its beverage partner, Coca-Cola. Together they introduced a Freestyle-dispensed exclusive in 2014: the Vanilla at Peachtree.

The Vanilla at Peachtree keeps in line with Moe's funky, idiosyncratic presentation. Rather than having any connection to Mexican cuisine, the Vanilla at Peachtree is a Sprite-based homage to Moe's Atlanta roots, naming itself after Peachtree Street, the longest thoroughfare in the city of Atlanta, which is where the chain got its start. The drink also includes the flavor of Georgia's flagship fruit for which the street is named. One drinker's verdict? Upstate New York broadcaster Eric Meier sampled the soda for the Utica-based Lite 98.7 and said, "It's like I'm in Georgia, baby."

Jack in the Box: Jumpin' Jack Splash

This souped-up Minute Maid lemonade available from Coca-Cola Freestyle machines at Jack in the Box adds a host of fruit flavors to the lemon base, namely, cherry, raspberry, and lime. The non-carbonated drink features a bold red color to match the Jack in the Box logo and a name that's both a clever pun on a Rolling Stones song title and a nod to the fast food joint's eponymous clown-headed mascot character.

Jumpin' Jack Splash launched in 2017 alongside a diet version at over 2,200 Freestyle-hosting Jack in the Box locations, but it has since been replaced by other exclusives like the cherry-vanilla-flavored drink being cross-promoted with the Los Angeles Dodgers that's known as Coca-Cola Ravine Rush. No doubt the fans who raved about Jumpin' Jack Splash on its debut are mourning its loss. Commenters on The Impulsive Buy responded to the blog's initial announcement of the drink with their own glowing testimonials, unapologetically using the word "love" to describe their feelings in multiple posts.

Villa Italian Kitchen: Mountain Dew Electric Apple

Compared to the other fast food and fast casual titans offering drinks on this list, Villa Italian Kitchen is tiny. With a smattering of stores in seven states and a scant one or two in 14 others, Villa probably deserves some props for being able to secure a deal with its drink partner PepsiCo to offer an exclusive at all. Villa's Electric Apple has never had the pride of place of other Dew exclusives. It doesn't come straight from a fountain, with diners on Reddit reporting that it has to be essentially ordered off-menu by requesting a shot of apple-flavored Monin syrup into a standard Dew. This is befitting a drink that's always been in a rocky position, with its initial launch being a storied piece of dark Internet ephemera.

In 2012, in anticipation of the launch of the Villa-exclusive flavor, Mountain Dew opened a "Dub the Dew" contest, where fans could nominate and vote for an original name for the new flavor. When the contest was linked to the notoriously unmoderated message boards of 4chan, the top contenders for names were ballot-stuffed offensive vulgarities we can't list here. The company intervened, and Apple Mountain Dew became the name when the new Dew hit Villa's soda fountain in 2013. By 2014, the more buzzy name Electric Apple was applied.

Little Caesar's: Pepsi Pineapple

We're not here to tell you whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza. We even acknowledge that pineapple is a fine addition to any number of tiki-themed cocktails or virgin beverages. However, we would be derelict in our duty if we didn't inform you that this pizza-adjacent pineapple-infused Pepsi has a spotty track record. Pineapple-infused Pepsi reportedly made a splash in Japan before it came to the states, where it was introduced in 2020 as a Wal-Mart exclusive replacing Pepsi with a lime twist.

The Wal-Mart exclusive reportedly had some spotty distribution, but when it was available, this tropically spiked cola had decidedly mixed reviews, with at least one Redditor calling it "kind of gross." Now Pepsi Pineapple is poised to be rereleased in July 2023 as an exclusive offering at the home of the famous Hot-N-Ready, the Little Caesars pizza chain. It's anyone's guess whether or not the three-year absence has resulted in any retooling of the recipe. The new design on the can with the Little Caesar's-branded iconography is a cute revamp, so we can only hope the flavor's been reliably improved upon.