Yes way, O.J.
I drank a glass of Tropicana orange juice—with some pulp—nearly every single morning, from elementary school through high school. On weekend mornings, my parents would occasionally break out the juicer and extract a pitcher of what honestly seemed like liquid sunshine. Starting in college, my breakfast beverage of choice became brown and caffeinated, but I loved—and love—those diners that bring you a doll-sized glass of OJ-from-concentrate, perfect to cut through a heavy, salty meal of eggs and bacon, along with the coffee. I still keep a bottle of orange juice in my fridge for smoothies, sick days, and those days when the craving strikes. One day, though, I pulled out my go-to brand and had to ponder: Is this actually the best orange juice I could be buying?
So I decided to find out. I got six different bottles of orange juice, all with "some" or "medium" pulp to keep it consistent. Here's what I discovered, from worst option to best.
Here's the big thing I learned: There aren't truly bad orange juices. There are ones that I'd choose over others, but in general, you're not going to be mad about tangy, sunshine-y beverages. That said, Florida's Natural was unfortunately very clearly at the bottom of the pile. Described as "airplane OJ" by one of the tasters, this was a bit too saccharine and concentrate-like. The pulp ratio was great, but it tasted a bit too far away from the real thing to be truly enjoyable.
Simply Orange tasted quite a bit like the stuff you get at the mess hall at camp, but again, it's not bad. While not particularly robust, with a bit of a chemical tang in the aftertaste. Still, it wasn't too sweet and had that bitter, almost rind-y quality that makes it seem closer to the fruit itself. This isn't one for pulp fans, however—there's not a whole lot of texture here.
Indian River Select
Indian River Select, on the other hand, was definitely robust. It was nearly creamy—one taster described it as a "melted Creamsicle." It was sweet, but not too sweet, and its thicker texture and assertive flavor would lend it the strength to stand up for itself in a strong cocktail. Use this one for your mixing needs.
To me, this tastes like school mornings. It was what my family kept in the fridge, and drinking it now, I was relieved to find it was as well-balanced as I remember. With a good amount of pulp, a nice sweet-bitter balance, and a pleasant rind-esque bitterness, this was a good juice! The only downfall was a whisper of that stale concentrate-like chemical tang in the aftertaste. Still, this is a solid choice.
Natalie's Orchid Island
It was a close call between these two last entrants, and Natalie's Orchid Island is extremely delicious. Full-bodied, sweet, and with a bitterness that makes it taste straight from the fruit, I'm not sure anyone would guess it was bottled and not just squeezed. The only deterrent? It had slighly less pulp than I'd want from a fresh OJ.
Kennesaw, on the other hand, was perfect. On my notes, I wrote "Real. Deal." And that sums it up: It has the perfect amount of citrusy sweetness and rindy bitterness, and the pulp levels are on point. The color nearly glows, and I wish I could burn a candle with its scent. Serve this one proudly. No one will know you didn't squeeze the oranges yourself.