Fans of Sonic can look forward to more hard seltzer and tots

The popularity of snacks and beverages on Sonic’s menu is driving innovation in these categories.
BBQ Potato Chip Seasoned Tots will launch at Sonic in January. / Photo courtesy of Sonic Drive-In.

Last week, Sonic Drive-In added Broccoli Cheddar Tots and Fried Cookie Dough Bites to the menu, expanding its popular lineup of craveable, bite-size snacks and sides. On Wednesday, Sonic’s Oklahoma City-based culinary team came to New York City to cook up these menu additions and others in the pipeline for members of the media to taste.

On the sipping side were samples of Sonic-branded hard seltzers, hard sweet tea and hard slushes, only available at retail—for now.

When asked if Sonic customers would ever be able to purchase these hard drinks at the chain’s more than 3,500 drive-in restaurant locations, the team didn’t say yes—but they didn't flat-out say no, either. The current logistics and legalities make it difficult, but the idea has come up, they said.

Sonic partnered with COOP Beverage Works to license the hard seltzers, launched in select markets in 2021 and rolled out to 38 states earlier this year. The 6% ABV drinks come in ready-to-drink cans in eight flavors inspired by the chain’s iconic soft drinks, such as Cherry Limeade, Lemon Berry and Classic Lemonade and are available at Walmart, Target, Costco and smaller outlets, including c-stores.

Hard seltzers etc.

Sonic's selection of "adult" drinks includes boozy hard seltzer, hard sweet tea and frozen slushes, sold at retail only. /Photo courtesy of Sonic.

Just this month, two more boozy beverages joined the retail collection: Sonic Hard Southern Sweet Tea and Hard Slush. The iced tea is 5% ABV and has a hint of lemon, while the 6% ABV slushes come in three flavors: Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry and Watermelon. They’re sold in ready-to-drink frozen pouches.

Tots continue to be a platform for innovation, and a new variation is launching in January 2023: BBQ Potato Chip Seasoned Tots. These crispy bites have a savory-sweet coating that’s similar in taste to their namesake barbecue potato chips.

The culinary team is also exploring other tot variations, and the media was treated to a preview of three: Dill Pickle Ranch Seasoned Tots, Sweet Heat Seasoned Tots and Garlic Parmesan Seasoned Tots. It was hard to choose a favorite; all boasted unique flavor profiles, crunchy coatings and creamy insides. Perhaps one will make it to the menu in the future.

Definitely coming out of Sonic’s R&D pipeline sooner is the Steak Butter Bacon Cheeseburger, debuting next month. It features a grilled beef patty topped with bacon, American cheese, mayo, steak-seasoned butter and grilled onions on a toasted bakery bun.

And playing off that is the Steak & Bacon Grilled Cheese, launching in December. It’s a combo of grilled steak, bacon, grilled onions, mayo, American cheese and honey barbecue sauce on grilled Texas toast.

The Fried Cookie Dough Bites are Sonic’s way of offering a warm baked treat when units are not equipped with ovens.

Mackenzie Gibson, VP of culinary for the chain, said that cookie dough was a crowd favorite when pieces were added to Sonic’s soft-serve and other dessert items. Forming the chocolate chip dough into small discs and tossing them into the deep fryer ups their craveability and portability—especially when the cookie bites are served with vanilla ice cream for dipping.

“They’re the perfect way to enjoy cookies a la mode on the go,” she said.

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