I am the champion of the underrated.

Attack of the Clones. The Wallflowers. Ties and dress shirts paired with ripped jeans. Ben Affleck. The world has passed these things by, but I stand up and state the facts that no one wants to admit: Hey, these things have some life left in them! These things have some value! That they may not be seen as hip or likable as a Ryan Gosling or a Timbaland, but when you look at these things with fresh eyes, you start to really see that there's a lot of depth there you had no idea existed. And today I have a new dark horse to champion.

Ginger ale.

You might know I'm a bit of a soda junkie, but there's more to it than that. I'm a seasoned critic, a connoisseur, a man with a knowledgeable palette. I can tell you twenty different brands of root beer and rank them all according to taste, kick, sweetness, richness, and ice cream float potential. I spent a brief period of my life calibrating soda, and can tell you instantly if a soda fountain's syrup-to-carbonation is too high or too low. I know my stuff.

And I know that ginger ale is some of the good stuff - a clean, sophisticated soda, the sort of soda you can classily order in any restaurant, even a really ritzy one. Because ginger ale has that sort of clout. It feels like the drink of a man who's tried every drink known to man, but still falls back on his old workhorse. It's suitable for every occasion. It summons up images of summer evenings on the back porch, and dancing at fancy weddings, and digging in to big steak dinners, all at the same time. This is not a drink to be trifled with.

Yet ginger ale has disappeared from our lives. You can't order it in any restaurant anymore, classy or classless. Even giant soda dispensing displays at Burger King or Taco Bell don't offer it anymore, and those are machines that have been known to offer three different varieties of Mountain Dew, which isn't a drink that needs any expansion.

Even in supermarkets, ginger ale is lucky if it gets any play. Usually it's hidden between the sodas and the sparkling water, as if it was some sort of disgusting corporate invention that combined the two. The best it gets is that it's one of two dozen different varieties of generic brand soda, hidden behind Diet Cherry Vanilla Mr. Pibb, or that one that announces "Taste just like an Ice Cream Float!" Why yes, thank you, I've always wanted to.*

I bought a 12-pack of ginger ale the other day and cracked open a can on the couch as the day wound down. I savored that slightly bitter yet somehow sweet golden elixer - it's not a chugger, it's something you hang on to - and let the worries of my day slide away, enjoying the moment, and trying to figure out just what that beverage reminded me of. And then I remembered. I tell you the truth, it tasted like freedom.

* Personal note: do not ever try this soda. Even if you're incredibly curious. Even if you have in fact always wanted to taste like an ice cream float. Even if you lost a bet and will lose a testicle if you don't drink the soda. It's not worth it.

I once bought a case on a dare, and brought it back to the apartment. I opened one, tried to drink it and utterly failed in that spewing-soda-everywhere-trying-to-wash-out-the-taste-
by-sticking-one's-head-under-the-kitchen-sink-even-though-the-sink's-full-of-dishes sort of way. We passed the can around for everyone to try, and two of my apartment mates ended up puking in the bathroom an hour later after just a few sips. And it wasn't just that we got a bad can. It's just really that bad a soda.

We tried for weeks to get people to try a can when they came over to visit, but there isn't a person on this earth who sees a can that says "Taste just like an Ice Cream Float!" and says "yeah, I think I'll try that." Or at least, nobody who sees our expressions after they pick up a can.