Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray

There’s this Spanish billboard for Sierra Mist that’s near my work, and I see it every day, and I think about it every day.

Against a blank white background is a giant bottle of S. Mist surrounded by small people. One small guy is chainsawing the bottle vertically, chopping off the front half. This half is falling over onto three other small people, who are recoiling in terror, about to be crushed. The back half of the bottle stays put, revealing what is contained within Sierra Mist: blue skies and white fluffy clouds. There is a Spanish tagline but I can’t remember what it says.

The whole thing looks like it was assembled from royalty-free stock photos in some program that you use when you can’t afford Photoshop. I find it fascinating.

Advertising Expert A: What’s inside a bottle of Sierra Mist? A nice summer day is what.

Advertising Expert B: You mean metaphorically.

A: Keep up with me now. How do we communicate that visually.

B: The viewer dives into a giant bottle and swims around some kind of magical summertime dreamworld.

A: OK but we only have this one picture of the bottle. And only about $200 left in the budget. And this is a billboard.

B: We have someone slice open the bottle and it’s like hell-o!

A: Like with a fucking katana?

B: Yeah like a ninja of some sort.

A: The bottle needs to be the hero, though. Needs to be really big.

B: So he’s the littlest ninja.

A: What if instead it was like a lumberjack, chopping down a tree. That way the sizing thing makes more sense.

B: He’s got a chainsaw.

A: Yeah but except he can’t cut it like a tree, like horizontally, because we need to see the nice summer day inside, so he’s got to cut it from top to bottom.

B: No argument over here. What if he chops that thing and it falls on some people?

A: What the hell are you saying to me right now.

B: Billboards are wide. We need something to fill up the right side.

A: How about a nice tagline like a normal person!

B: Picture it, they’re all: Aiieeeeeee!

A: Because … because the flavor is so big and overpowering and delicious? It could actually crush you?

B: Yeah man. Doy.

A: Dang man you’ve done it again. Let’s put our clothes back on and type this up before we forget!


There’s another one where the little people are trying to climb into the bottle via giant straw, but at least with that one you sort of understand the message.

Anyway I’ve been trying to write a review of Cel-Ray for about a month now and I can’t get beyond: “Hi dudes yeah it tastes exactly like you’d imagine celery soda would taste!!” Fuckin’ Cel-Ray. I suppose if you like ginger ale but want something more in the celery department, you should basically look no further.

You’d think it’d be a gross novelty drink like those turkey-and-gravy ones, but it’s really just kind of inoffensive, like the vegetable from which it is spawned. I figure you’re either picking it up in a Jewish deli without really thinking about it because you’re 78 years old, or you’re making a special trip to find it and then flaunting it in the break room, being all: “Eww look what I’m drinking, here taste this, ewww.”

Frankly my favorite part about this drink is the name. I’m pretty sure Cel-Ray’s new joint drops on August 7. Supposedly taking his sound in a whole new direction, really changing the game up.


OK. No more lies. No more sassafras. No more jingo-jango. If you sat me down, right here right now, lay an avuncular hand on my shoulder, leaned in and quietly asked, “If you could only drink one beverage for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

I mean, this is the question. This is what we’re here for. And although my thumbs tremble as I punch these words into my jerry-rigged Merlin, I feel that – right here right now – I have a very real answer: SmartWater.

But first I feel I must approach this with the cold, clinical logic that we apply to all of our beviews. I can’t let raw emotion affect this decision. I’ll be using our standard SAD/RAD binary schema.


  1. It’s called SmartWater. Awful. Throw in the interCaps and you’ve got a real bad case of 1998. And if you put “smart” in the name, you better be delivering Smatthew-level results.
  2. It’s bottled water. Dude they just take your local tap and mark it up like infinity percent. You are an A-1 chump if you shell out your hard-earned for that.
  3. What are you, some kind of bicyclist? Do you wear four-way seamless stretch microsensor moisture-wicking 3D chamois shorts that leave nothing to the imagination? Do you try to intentionally get your heart-rate up? No. No.
  4. Plus I guess you hate the environment!
  5. Yet another Glaceau product, which already had the whiff of smug exploitation about them even before Coke swooped in and bought the company. Now Jennifer Aniston’s doing TV spots. Is this where your allegiances lie.


  1. Holy fuck this is good.
  3. Dearest Jesus in deep space this is the purest, cleanest, most perfect water in the history of water.
  4. Fuck you they make this in a lab. You think natural water tastes good? Pulled out of some dirty spring, choked with fish poo and chemical runoff? These Glaceau punks built a little chamber where they manufacture beautiful white clouds, unsullied by real-world pollutants, and then they make these clouds rain ever so gently right into SmartWater bottles for you to enjoy.
  5. It was really hot over the weekend and I seriously, hand raised, had a like five-minute reverie where I envisioned a walk-in refrigerator filled stem-to-stern with liter bottles of SmartWater, perfectly chilled, gleaming, and lit from within. There was a mist.
  6. It hydrates the shit out of anything it touches.
  7. gotta stockpile man coke’s going to change the formula i just know it
  8. so clean, so so clean
  9. oh god unnnhh

7UP with Cane Sugar

When I first tore open your box of rad sodas from Homer, I have to admit my “thirst boner” took a small dive when I saw the bottle of 7UP. I was all: Why did that dude send me this pedestrian swill. I guess having it in a glass bottle is pretty novel, but whatev. In the junk drawer my brain has become, I file 7UP alongside The Eagles’ Greatest Hits – not really doing any actual harm, but not anything anyone really needs to experience again in their lifetime.

But then I took a closer look at the ingredients and my heart skipped a beat and my left arm got a little numb. This baby had straight-up sugar in it. Not a drop of high-fructose corn syrup. Is this from Mexico? Do I have to go to jail y/n.

(This was the formula 7UP should’ve rocked when they tried to pull the 100% Natural shenanigans [now sheepishly rescinded]. Keep me on speed-dial, Cadbury-Schweppes. I bring the big ideas.)

Anyway, you know how I roll, I did not hesitate to pop the cap and get up close and personal, really dig in and start a relationship.
I was surprised at how different it tasted from regular 7UP. And then I was surprised by how much I wanted to immediately stop drinking it and just have regular old 7UP. It was kind of yuck-mouth. Maybe the HFCS has been covering up the bleccchy flavor all these years and doing us a favor? Perhaps gently masking the Lemon Pledge-esque aftertaste? Maybe a lemon-lime soda was never that good an idea to begin with? I dunno, chum. The world today is not what it was yesterday.

Dang! Root Beer

Fanning, I know you apologized via email for all the terrible things you did to me, and I definitely printed them all out (preserving your distinctive formatting, incl. the center-aligned text and purple Comic Sans) and put them in my “Precious Sentiments” file folder, but I don’t think I really believed you were sorry until I got all those rare and awsum sodas you scored from the Homer Soda Company.

(Frankly I thought you’d made that place up. It seemed like kind of a cheesy fantasy. Remember when you’d talk about getting out of your little podunk town and moving to a place where vegan cookies were readily available and Kylie played an all-ages show every Saturday night for half-price and Veronica Mars wasn’t canceled and people did not constantly judge you? Like that.)

Anyway on Memorial Day I was enjoying an all-filler all-killer non-vegan hot dog fresh off the grill, and I hit the fridge and saw all the gleaming chilled Homer contraband sitting there. I wanted to savor each one, give each its proper due, but whatever dude I was parched and needed something posthaste. I grabbed a little something called Dang! Root Beer (full name: Dang! That’s Good Root Beer), popped the cap, and downed half the bottle in one swallow.

It tasted like rusty grease. I was all: Way to memorialize our valiant soldiers, Dang. Nice work.

Then I took a paper towel and wiped off the rim and saw I’d removed a good amount of rusty grease. Then I took another, more tentative, sip and I was like: Dang! A nice sweet taste that’s in the ballpark of the undefeatable Weinhard’s, but not nearly as thick and rich so it’s a better companion to an elegant repast of grilled wieners. (Henry’s is really a meal in itself, and does not play well w/others.)

Now, what did I learn from this experience? I learned that if we’re serious about getting a piece of that Web 2.0 money, we need to not drop the ball on our reviewing methodology. Google frowns on that shit. We need to get the beverage at the proper temperature and pour it into a neutral container that will not affect the flavor or composition of the beverage (maybe Sharper Image has something affordable??). And the Tasting Session must take place in a controlled environment with minimal distractions — don’t you seal off your kids’ room with tinfoil to keep it pitch-black all day long? That might work.

And finally we need to develop a standards-based analysis system so we can be consistent in our reviews. Readers need to know what to expect when we describe something as “piquant” or “hella yum” or “ball-ticklingly effervescent.” I’m sorry to suck the fun out of this whole project but we’re providing a valuable service to a lucrative demographic here, and we can’t have johnny-come-latelies like “Drinkr [Beta]” or “I Like Soda LOL” eating our lunch.

Things I Have Not Been Doing

I was going to detail my six-month bender, which I thought I’d pretty accurately documented in my “Moleskine” (a sheaf of liquor store receipts held together by a dirty purple scrunchie), but as I look over my notes here I’m starting to realize that a) they don’t correspond to reality, and b) they don’t even correspond to what I thought was reality, which also turns out to be incorrect.

See, I was under the impression that I spent the last six months as an apprentice to a master electrician, learning his trade and blossoming under his hard-earned wisdom. We rewired the expansive homes of young, fragile widows, sometimes taking a lemonade break and talking of things simple and hearty. I learned respect for what my master called the “White Snake” — electricity.

And each evening I would carefully document the day’s thoughts and events in my Moleskine. Or so I thought. Now that I read through it again I find it to be a kind of sloppily plotted adventure story, with me stealing a Norfolk wherry and taking it to Belize (although I guess I got confused later on and started calling it “Belmar”) and getting in throwing-star fights. In the end I’m betrayed by the very underage prostitute I paid to teach me how to love. It’s all pretty bleccch, but the good news is I’m all covered for NaNoWriMo.

But after a series of interviews with Gonzalo and yourself, and some fairly intense Googling, I’ve been able to determine that not only did I not learn to respect electricity, but I was basically nonverbal and incontinent with drunkenness, and hardly even left my house for those six months. Much of that time was spent either in quiet repose or using After Effects to splice my goddamn maid Thalia into some regrettable home movies I’d made of myself back in my spirited college days. I’m going to not talk about that any more and I have sent YouTube a cease-and-desist.

Point is that now and then I’d head over to the K4T offices for some real heart-to-hearts with Gonzalo. On one momentous afternoon, he got all fed up with my condition and said that I required the immediate intervention of a professional colon hydrotherapist, a job I didn’t even know existed.

But thanks to the delicate touch of Dr. Gretchen Ainsley, my understanding of liquids was taken to staggering new heights. I do not mean to brag about my highly developed senses, and I do not mean to say that they are keener than yours. But I think people who believe that beverages should only go in the mouth-hole are being sort of naive and close-minded.

So even though my beverage-exploration took a pretty severe nosedive in recent months, I have come through this dark time stronger and wiser and with a touch of jaundice and cholestasis. And along the way I found a beverage that got me through my wide-awake nightmare, a beverage that lit up something deep within me, a beverage that will be receiving an extremely highly starred review in this space.

Dry Soda

Dearest Kevin,

You are a delightful young man. I know I don’t tell you this often enough. You are such a treat! Your bon mots, your waggish charm, your irresisitable little-girl eyes. Most of all, your rapacious lust for life, with appetites as wide-ranging as the great plains of Middle America itself — God’s country.

I have a few guests over this evening and we’re listening to some smooth beats from Cologne, Germany. The weather has turned so I am sporting my wool Brioni, but I decided to mix things up a little by swapping my usual paisley four-in-hand for a gently jocular silk cravat — the wife was scandalized!

But all the horsefeathers w/r/t tonight’s look greatly impinged on my cooking time, so I had to trim the planned menu to just slow-roasted heirloom beets, a grilled and shaved fennel bulb, melted cipollini onion rings, a soft-boiled Jidori hen egg, cumin-scented eggplant, herb-roasted saddle of Elysian Fields Farm lamb, and some feuillantine au caramel to send Samuel and Mindy home happy.

And to drink? You already know the answer, silly — nothing but Dry Soda will suffice. Its delicate, sophisticated taste complements any fine meal, although tonight I’m serving Lavender because its floral tones and low acidity work especially well with the evening’s repast. But I recommend Lemongrass for your next sushi get-together (kanpai!), Rhubarb as our palates become more wintry and we begin to crave heartier fare, and Kumquat for those lazy afternoons when you just want to kick off your Topsiders and nosh on some scalloped oysters.

Later tonight, however, when the cravats are loosened, when Mindy and the wife are flushed from a rowdy game of euchre, when the bowl of car keys is prepared — then it shall be time for my secret concoction called the Desperate Hours. This is where Dry Soda truly shines. I’ll share the recipe with you only because you are so very dear to me:

1 part Dry Soda (any flavor)
1 part Liquid Banjo thrice run through a Brita
1 part 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine
Serve quickly.

Trade Whiskey

Last night I went to this place called The Fort and drank something known as Trade Whiskey, which is flavored with red pepper, tobacco, and gunpowder. It was pretty good, and this morning I woke up with long, luxurious chest hair.


I may have gone on record saying the ultimate drink is probably just plain old water, preferably really really cold and maybe even right out of the tap, depending on your plumbing sitch. And last night I was super-thirsty but too busy sleeping to get something to drink, Q.E.D. I was super-thirsty in my dream and my dream-self had to stop putting the moves on Murphy Brown long enough to go get something to drink. And then I find something and start feverishly chugging but of course it does nothing to quench my thirst because dream-drinking does zero in terms of real-world physical hydration. I hate these dreams. OK never mind we know all this.

The point is, guess what beverage I chose in my dream? Plain old water. And I was drinking it out of what looked to be a 70s-era Coors can. Maybe because I recently moved to Golden? I know you enjoy interpreting my dreams! Anyway the thing is water was literally the drink of my dreams, and that is significant.

And I feel like there’s a glut of beverages in the market right now that are all about giving you options vis-a-vis water. Yeah sometimes I use phrases that I don’t know the meaning of, get over it, that happens. So there’s water and juice, there’s water and Kool-Aid like Vitamin Water, water and bubbles and juice like Fizzy Lizzy, water and globules of lychee or whatever it is you go for.

Normally, I’m all: Dude just ease up on the shenanigans and give me straight-up water. I’m so desperately tired of the dicking around. Right? And something like Hint — which is very aptly named because it’s plain old water with an almost ridiculously subtle dash of flavor buried in there somewhere — something like Hint would typically be filed right into the “Oh Jesus Just Stop It” category along with your Bluetooth earpiece.

But I’ve gone through a half-dozen bottles of this stuff and I’m starting to think they’ve got the percentages down tight. You have all the enjoyment of knocking back plain old water but then a little bit of flavor that doesn’t interfere but instead enhances the experience. It’s like ambient flavor. So even stuff like Cucumber or Pear or Pomegranate-Tangerine, which you know would be Grade-A Stank in large doses, are perfectly acceptable here.

And isn’t that what we all want out of a beverage? Something perfectly acceptable? OK fine, I guess your standards are all lofty. How is that working out for you.