I Wonder if There’s an Actual Hosmer Mountain Around Here?
Hosmer Mountain Soda, Manchester/Windham
My title question was answered by a Hosmer employee in the comments. Yes, there is. See below.
No disrespect to Manchester and Willimantic, but Hosmer Mountain Soda may be the best thing about those two towns. While both have a bunch of very good museums and some fun places to eat and drink, the fact that Hosmer Mountain is made in Willimantic and sold in outlet stores in both towns is the main reason I find myself there from time to time.
In fact, when I used to live in Manchester – I did two stints in the town after college – the only soda I ever drank was from Hosmer Mountain. Especially their orange dry flavor – perhaps my favorite soda in the world. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s get the company’s history from Roadfood.com:
Since 1912, Hosmer Mountain has been bottling the finest sodas in a state that still boasts a handful of independent soda bottlers. Low carbonation and lip-smacking flavors attract fans from all over New England, but residents of Connecticut’s Quiet Corner have a special advantage: home delivery. Just like milkmen of yesteryear, Hosmer route men will pick up a case of empty bottles once a month and refill it with your choice of over thirty flavors of soda, seltzer, and spring water. For those who like to marvel at the selections, Hosmer’s main branch in Willimantic is a soda-only grocery store. (A second store is located at 15 Spencer Street in Manchester.) Grab a flatbed cart and an empty case, and fill it at your leisure.
The writer hits on the two key points that make Hosmer Soda great: low carbonation and not too sweet. Also, when I lived at The Mills in Manchester, we used to have them deliver the soda to us. I think we did it for the kitsch factor more than anything, as the Manchester shop was only a couple miles away, if that. Note: I’ve only been to the Manchester store, but they are pretty much the same. Continuing…
Hosmer’s premium Antique line features cane and brown sugars and includes their award-winning root beer, clear birch beer, and a dark crimson sarsaparilla. Fabulous fruit flavors count peach, orange, pineapple, strawberry cream, raspberry, grape, and the occasional Lime Rickey among its ranks, but the clincher comes with Hosmer’s taste-alikes. Cola-Blue and Cola-Red (their versions of Pepsi and Coke, respectively) are utterly phenomenal and, in our estimation, make their mega-label cousins lose their fizz. The delicious Orange Dry resembles Orangina, Lemon-Clear tastes like 7-Up, and they even carry an equivalent of Moxie, Maine’s bitter cola, called Buddie.
Again, the writer nails several highlights. Though I found some of their fruit flavors a bit too fruity, the Orange Dry – I’ll say it again – is ridiculously good. By the way, I just had the new Peach Fresca… Which is actually awesome too. And another thing: Moxie (and therefore, I’m sure, Buddie, is disgusting. If you’ve never had either, consider yourself lucky… But people in Maine love the stuff and I don’t know why. It’s hands down one of the worst regional favorite foods I can think of off the top of my head. Go on…
Hosmer always uses recyclable glass bottles, both in twelve- and twenty-four-ounce sizes. There is a certain gratification in purchasing locally made products, and at about thirty-five cents per bottle (per case), Hosmer makes it easy to think globally while drinking delicious soda. Hosmer sodas are also available in area restaurants and businesses.
That price still stands today (in 2009). A case is $8.44 (plus a $4 deposit for the case and bottles) and you can mix-n-match to your heart’s content. Although those “Antique” flavors do cost a little more.
My 2009 case review:
Orange Dry (2 bottles): tart yet sweet; orangey and simply delicious.
Cream Soda: I hate cream soda, but Hoang deemed it “excellent.”
Lemon-Lime: Spritey, but again, less sweet and fizzy.
Orange: Eh. Good, but gimme the “dry” version (Bonus for old school “Pop Shoppe” bottle though.)
Jamaican Ginger Beer: Labeled “Dangerous” and “HOT,” it’s not for me, but Hoang loves it.
Black Cherry: Their best fruit flavor
Cola Red and Blue: Their Coke/Pepsi knock-offs, just as good.
Lemon-Up: Very subtle flavoring, I liked it.
Peach: Too sweet for me
Diet Cola: Hoang drank it, and she’s a Diet Coke fiend. That’s a ringing endorsement.
Grape: Almost perfect amount of tart/sweet ratio.
Lemon Clear: Lemony seltzer water. My kind of soda.
Strawberry: Clearly the worst of the case. Scary bright red coloring too.
Tangerine Sparkling Water: Refreshing. Like the Stop and Shop Zazz I buy.
Pale Dry Ginger Ale: Ah, now we’re talking. Perfect soda.
Grapefruit/Half&Half: I almost forgot how much I loved this one too.
Red Lightning: Hosmer’s “energy Drink” Red Bull knock-off. Not my thing.
Kolashampan: Say what? I asked the lady today when I returned the case about this and she said it was their most popular flavor in 1926. Some call it “burnt cola” and a pre-cursor to cherry cola. It has a very unique flavor profile that I couldn’t quite sort out, but it’s pretty good.
The Antique Line
Root Beer, Sarsaparilla, Cream Soda, White Birch Beer, Ginger Beer: All excellent and natural tasting. I even drank some of the cream soda flavor and didn’t hate it.
I once had their Chocolate Cream Soda which sounds horrifying – but it’s not. I ended up really liking it.
If you’re ever near Manchester or Willimantic, you really should stop in and pick up some locally made soda. The people that work there are always willing and eager to talk history as well, which is always a bonus.
Now seven years after originally writing this page, I’m happy to say Hosmer is still in business and I see their sodas all over the place. I was just in Mystic yesterday and saw it down there. I still love Hosmer, still stop in whenever we trek up 384, and miss the gruff old guy who doesn’t seem to be around anymore.
Hosmer Mountain Soda
Olde Timey Soda Makers & Bottlers
Brandon saysAugust 7, 2009 at 3:23 pm
Where is this in Willimantic? I haven’t seen it yet. Since I work there 3 days a week, I’ll try to stop by one time and grab a case.
Dave saysAugust 8, 2009 at 1:49 am
Thanks for reminding me of this local treasure. I need to get there this weekend to stock up, especially on some of the more unusual flavors.
Kacee saysSeptember 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm
Hi there! My name is Kacee and I’m a Hosmer Mountain store clerk (In Willimantic). Thank you for your great review, a few corrections though:
-Although the Manchester store is great the original Hosmer outlet
store is the Mountain st Store in Willimantic Ct.
– Strawberry and Peach are two of our most popular flavors… maybe
they just don’t suit your tastes?
– Red Lightning (not Red Nightlight as you called it) is our new energy
drink and is also a top seller. It offers a healthy, low caffeine
alternative to gas station energy drinks. It is nothing really like
Gatorade. our “Gatorade knock-off” is called Thirst Quencher and is a
completely separate style of drink.
anyway, thank you for all of the information that you have listed here!
Rj saysSeptember 24, 2009 at 7:39 am
I just had my first Hosmer Mountain soda today. The lemon-lime was pretty good. It reminded me of a company named Xtra-Soda out of Wolcott. They even had home delivery till they went out of business in 1979. Here is a link about it from the Wolcott Historical Society:
Chad saysDecember 23, 2009 at 4:00 pm
I think the place known as “Hosmer Mountain” is on Mountain St. where the store is (Rte. 32 going towards Lebanon). Its the giant hill behind the store.
Joe saysJuly 6, 2010 at 12:30 pm
There used to be a cream soda called Red Lightning.
Zack saysJuly 17, 2010 at 10:54 am
Have you ever tried Avery Mountain soda? I think it’s a local company,too. I saw it at the Meriden Hostess Bakery store on East Main Street right past Colony Ford and Lowe’s.
Jim henderson saysJuly 28, 2010 at 1:30 pm
do they still make red lightning cream soda, if there anyway of finding this, was a favorite of mine growing up
Phil saysAugust 29, 2010 at 7:12 pm
I remember getting Red Lightning from walmart, And it wasnt an energy drink, Am i thinking of the wrong thing?
hosmer saysSeptember 1, 2010 at 1:17 pm
why is it call hosmer? who named it?
Judy Cecrle saysNovember 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm
Sure wish this was something that could be order for delivery in other places in the country, like Indiana
Joan Russak saysDecember 31, 2010 at 1:21 pm
Why do you still use HFCS ?
Please be the leader and use Stevia instead of Splenda or aspartame in your Diet drinks.
Kacee saysJanuary 3, 2011 at 10:39 am
Hello again, In response to few questions-
– Hosmer Mountain is the source of the spring from which we get our great, pure water, it was named for the people who once farmed it (late 1800’s).
– We offer a HFCS free line of sodas- our “antique line” made with cane sugar and brown sugar, there are five flavors- Root Beer, Cream Soda, Birch Beer, Sarsaparilla and Ginger Beer. We are committed to making our entire line of sodas HFCS free by 2012, and we’re working on reformulating our diet line with Stevia also. Keep in mind we’re a small, family run company and these transformations take time.
– we do ship our soda, however it is fairly expensive, please contact us at 800-SODA-445 (toll free) or email@example.com for more info.
Andy Chabot saysFebruary 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm
Just returned from the soda shack in manchester. I purchase about 1 case a week in the winter, and 2 to 3 cases every 2 weeks for my home during the warmer months. Three weeks ago when i was in, i was informed that peach would be out in little bottles by a man with glasses at the soda shack. The lady who is usually there thought I made the whole story up. She made it seem as though I was on crack. I did NOT make it up. That is what I was told, and I do not know why I was told that if it was not true. I know that Foxxon Park is quite a drive. But if i’m gonna get the shaft like this, I’ll do the drive. Oh, I live in Enfield.
J saysMay 16, 2012 at 2:46 am
The surly guy who’s often working the register at the Manchester Hosmer is, no joke, one of the best things about the experience. He’s so gruff and crotchety and I love him for it.
Rich saysMay 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm
Avery’s in New Britski across from Martha Hart Park…love it
Eric saysNovember 13, 2012 at 6:48 pm
Another hidden gem of an article on this site. This place is all but right around the corner from my house in East Hartford…and not too far from where I grew up. I used to go here all the time when we would walk home from school at East Catholic on half days. Every time I see the little shack on the side of the road, I wonder if they are still in business. I’ll have to stop in and grab a soda soon!
Candy saysSeptember 25, 2019 at 4:51 pm
How much is a case I have empty bottles from a client
Miss B J saysJune 21, 2020 at 7:33 pm
Any chance you carry Cell-ray?
Mike saysApril 27, 2021 at 4:04 pm
I remember when all of their bottles were pop top and they had plastic caps that you could buy to reseal the bottles. Well, take a bottle of rootbeer with the plastic cap and shake it a bit……no need for Mentos!
The above article mentions Buddy which is slightly more pepto bismo tasting than Moxie, you have to try it.
My favorite regular is their Sarsaparilla, and their ever so rare ‘Strawberry Cream’. You never used to know what exciting flavors they would have. Their iced-tea is a great try too.
(Eric from above posting) We straight up used to skip at East and go grab a couple of bottles, sometimes we went back to school with them sometimes we went fishing.
Eugene Fenrow saysApril 8, 2022 at 2:56 pm
How many grams of sugar is in the Pale Dry Ginger Ale?