Skip navigation
IMG_0033-2 copy.jpg
Swig helped spur the dirty soda trend with offerings of drinks spiked with coconut syrup and coconut cream.

Dirty sodas appeal to young experimental restaurant consumers

The trend started in Utah, went viral, and is now going national as interest in nonalcoholic beverages surges.

One of the hottest beverage trends at the moment originated in Utah and spread with the help of social media.

“Dirty soda” is a sparkling beverage with something creamy added to it — often milk or half-and-half, but also non-dairy options such as coconut cream.

In its current form, the menu platform gained traction with the help of Swig, a 63-unit beverage concept based in Lehi, Utah, and now larger chains are getting in on the action — particularly as interest in nonalcoholic beverages takes off.

Swig founder Nicole Tanner said she originally conceived of Swig as a beverage and shaved-ice concept, and so she had a variety of syrups, creams, fruits, and sauces on hand to be added to the ice.

When customers from an orthodontist’s office near Swig’s first location in St. George, Utah, came in and ordered a Dr. Pepper with coconut cream, she was able to comply, and it was those customers who coined the term.

“We had people within the first month who called a coconut Dr. Pepper a ‘dirty Dr. Pepper,’” she said. She trademarked the term in 2014 to mean any flavor added to soda, tea or water.

Shortly thereafter, the shaved ice machines proved to be too much of a hassle and she got rid of them, but the ingredient additions had long been incorporated into the other drinks. Now she says 95%-97% of all Swig orders are dirty because they have something added to them.

Tanner is a big fan of dirty sodas herself, and in fact her go-to drink is on Swig’s menu under the name “The Founder.” It’s Diet Coke with sugar-free coconut syrup, lime juice, and coconut cream.

“For the longest time I got a Diet Coke with coconut flavoring and fresh lime, and several years ago I added coconut cream and I was like, ‘this is a game changer,’” she said. “It makes it smooth. It’s just delicious.”

Swig now operates in Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas, with additional franchised locations near Bentonville, Ark., and Boise, Idaho. Tanner said that although dirty sodas might have originated in Utah, they’re gaining in popularity everywhere.

Dairy added to soda isn’t a new concept. Ice cream sodas and root beer floats have been around for decades, as has the egg cream — an oddly named drink since it has neither egg nor cream — that was once popular in New York City and is made of seltzer with whipped chocolate syrup and milk.


Jack in the Box is rolling out “Twisted Sodas,” including the Dr. Jack pictured, this summer.

Milkis is a Korean carbonated drink made with milk by beverage company Lotte Chilsung, and doodh soda, popular in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, is soda (usually lemon-lime but sometimes cola) mixed with milk and ice.

Milk and Pepsi was the drink of choice of Laverne DeFazio, the character played by Penny Marshall in “Laverne & Shirley,” a spin-off of the hit sitcom “Happy Days” that debuted in 1976. Though it was considered very odd at the time, milk and Pepsi was actually something Marshall had reportedly actually enjoyed as a child, developed because she wasn’t allowed to drink Pepsi until she finished her milk.

The combination got new life as Pilk, which entertainer Lindsay Lohan drank in a Pepsi commercial in late 2022, and dirty soda in general became something of a viral sensation after entertainer Olivia Rodrigo posted about her experience at Swig in December of 2021.

Other soda shops in Utah have been following Tanner’s lead for a while, although they do risk getting a cease-and-desist letter if they call it “dirty soda,” she said.

Sonic Drive-In skirted that legal issue by giving customers at its more than 3,500 locations the option to take any drink and “make it dirty” by adding coconut cream and lime for an additional $1.30.

Sonic_PR-Image_DirtyDrinks.jpegPhoto: Sonic Drive-In gave guests the option to “make it dirty” by adding coconut cream and lime to any drink.

The chain, a subsidiary of Inspire Brands, introduced that option at the beginning of February in response, in part, to what it saw consumers doing on social media.

“We keep a close eye on trends from coast to coast and have a strong pulse on what our customers want and love,” a spokesperson from the chain’s innovation team said via email, adding that the response from guests has been “great,” with the “overwhelming favorite drink option” being a dirty Dr. Pepper.

“Coconut cream is a very craveable flavor and it perfectly complements beverages like Dr. Pepper, Coke, and even Fanta Orange,” the spokesperson said. “It makes a typical soft drink flavor and turns it into a sweet dessert-like treat.”

Topgolf, a Dallas-based concept with driving ranges as well as food and beverages, added two dirty sodas to its 88 domestic locations in September: Dr. Pepper with coconut syrup and cream, and Sprite with coconut syrup, cream, and strawberry purée, the latter being the more popular of the two, maybe because it’s pink, said Topgolf’s senior director of food and beverage, Mary Machul.

Utah was the inspiration for the drinks, she added. “We opened our second venue in Utah and found that … our guests were asking for dirty sodas consistently,” she said.

She added that as more guests are seeking non-alcoholic beverages, they want more sophisticated options. “That space is getting more creative,” so regular soda and energy drinks aren’t enough anymore, she said.

Sales for Topgolf’s dirty sodas are strongest on the West Coast, “but less in the Northeast.”

Top-Golf-071223_AL_TOPGOLF_19_Shot_Dirty_Soda_6853.pngPhoto: Topgolf offers two dirty sodas, one made with Sprite and the other with Dr. Pepper.

Tanner of Swig said Texas has really warmed to dirty sodas, adding that one reason she decided to open in that state was its high per-capita soda consumption, much higher than in Utah.

Jack in the Box is testing its versions of dirty sodas, called “Jack’s Twisted Sodas,” with plans to roll them out to its more than 2,100 locations in July.  

The Orange Swirl is Fanta Orange over ice with sweetened cream and vanilla. The Strawberry Twist is Sprite, strawberry flavor, sweetened cream, and vanilla, and the Dr. Jack has Dr. Pepper with sweetened cream and vanilla. They’re all topped with whipped cream and a cherry and priced starting at around $3.49

“Within the last year we have seen a ton of social chatter surrounding the innovative drink and decided to create our own version,” a Jack in the Box spokesperson said via email. “Utah has made this drink popular, so it only made sense to start our testing process in the [Salt Lake City] market.” The spokesperson added that the orange option is scoring the best.

“The demand for ‘dirty sodas’ originated from fans looking for an exciting alternative to coffee, traditional sodas, and even alcohol,” the spokesperson said. “These types of drinks are quick, incredibly customizable and require only a handful of ingredients.”

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 


Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.