A soft drink (see § Terminology for other names) is a drink that usually contains water (often carbonated), a sweetener, and a natural and/or artificial flavoring. The sweetener may be a sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, a sugar substitute (in the case of diet drinks), or some combination of these. Soft drinks may also contain caffeine, colorings, preservatives, and/or other ingredients.
Soft drinks are called "soft" in contrast with "hard" alcoholic drinks. Small amounts of alcohol may be present in a soft drink, but the alcohol content must be less than 0.5% of the total volume of the drink in many countries and localities if the drink is to be considered non-alcoholic. Fruit punch, tea (even kombucha), and other such non-alcoholic drinks are technically soft drinks by this definition, but are not generally referred to as such.
Soft drinks may be served cold, over ice cubes, or at room temperature. They are available in many container formats, including cans, glass bottles, and plastic bottles. Containers come in a variety of sizes, ranging from small bottles to large multi-liter containers. Soft drinks are widely available at fast food restaurants, movie theaters, convenience stores, casual-dining restaurants, dedicated soda stores, vending machines, and bars from soda fountain machines. Soft drinks are usually served in paper or plastic disposable cups in the first three venues. In casual dining restaurants and bars, soft drinks are often served in glasses made from glass or plastic. Soft drinks may be drunk with straws or sipped directly from the cups.
Soft drinks are mixed with other ingredients in several contexts. In Western countries, in bars and other places where alcohol is served (e.g. airplanes, restaurants and nightclubs), many mixed drinks are made by blending a soft drink with hard liquor and serving the drink over ice. One well-known example is the rum and coke, which may also contain lime juice. Some homemade fruit punch recipes, which may or may not contain alcohol, contain a mixture of various fruit juices and a soft drink (e.g. ginger ale). At ice cream parlors and 1950s-themed diners, ice cream floats consisting of a soft drink poured over ice cream, such as root beer floats, are often sold. Some types of soft drinks are lemon-lime drinks, orange soda, cola, grape soda, and root beer. Examples of brands include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, Sierra Mist, Fanta, Sunkist, Mountain Dew, Dr Pepper, Crush and 7 UP.