Jones Soda Blue Bubble Gum

I don’t think we’ve talked about Jones Soda. Have we? I don’t pay real close attention. Frankly I never really considered it a full-fledged beverage, but just some kind of hipster novelty that you find in used record stores along with Buck Rogers lunchboxes and Pee-Wee Herman dolls and whatever.

What I’m saying is they try too hard. The fine print on the bottle here talks about how they keep it real, with “no billion dollar ad campaigns” and “no hidden meanings.” They’re “the little guy” who’s “gotta make a living somehow.” Also: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. So much cred right now. And the label photos are submitted by consumers. Mine features what looks like a nice self-photo of three cute indie chicks out on the town, laden with eyeshadow and filled with the inner glow of insouciant youth. The kind of girls you and I look at and resent, and then hate ourselves for resenting. Right? Can you picture it?

I picked up the flavor that looked the least inside my comfort zone, and the most in yours: Blue Bubble Gum. I know how you get all hot-to-trot with the blue flavors but blue has never failed to let me down. So maybe this is like John Dean reviewing the Deep Throat autobio, but it’s a tough world we live in so w/e. Let’s take a sip of this Windex-colored concoction and see what exactly is what.
Wow. It tastes just like bubble gum, no joke. Like Bazooka, basically. Or Dubble Bubble. Your classic low-rent generic gum that loses its flavor before it’s even fully out of its wrapper. And it’s not that bad. Despite what you’d think. It’s subtle enough that you could chug it and not puke, which as you know is my personal yardstick for a tolerable beverage. I am very surprised.

I wonder if Jones’ novelty turkey- and gravy- and mashed potato–flavored beverages are as drinkable. I doubt it, but still, there’s a small part of me that wants to explore this. Will I ever drink this again? I hope not, but I can proudly shrug when someone points at it and is all “ew,” and I can proudly say: “Meh. I tried it. It’s not as bad as you’d think.” Finally I can take pride in something.

Virgil’s Root Beer

My wife introduced me to Virgil’s Root Beer pretty early on in our relationship. I was mouthing off about how the best root beer ever is Henry Weinhard’s and she was all like “it must be your dimwitted naiveté that I find so attractive” or whatnot and told me about Virgil’s, which I’d never heard of and figured it was just one of those east coast things that people get all excited about for no good reason, like Tastykake or New York City.

But she made me drink some and I was like: Goodness, this is an extremely fine root beer. My my, this is quite the heady brew. O I am lost within its creamy embrace, &c. And it quickly rocketed to the top of my root beer charts, kicking Henry Weinhard in his Oregon jingle-jangles and sending him to runner-up status. I say this jauntily but man, you know it was a tough, fretful call. We’ve been over this before but declaring a favorite root beer is a venture fraught with peril.

Thing is, though, Virgil’s is not the easiest beverage to come by, and until I saw it in the store this weekend I hadn’t realized several years had gone by since my last Encounter with it. I delighted at once again seeing the distinctive label featuring a painting of a stern, bearded, apron’d brewmeister bringing a tray full of root beer to two children sitting at a table formed from a tree trunk (its roots meandering down into the letters that spell out ROOT BEER), the boy looking eager and the girl clutching a dollie, concerned. It’s practically a Jethro Tull album cover.

So I brought it home and Alexis’ face lit up with glee and she quickly downed a bottle and shouted out vile east coast expletives to punctuate her glee. I, too, knocked back a bottle and fond memories flowed through my head even as this fanciful elixir flowed through my body. But then. Then I was like: Hm, this seems a little heavy on the licorice. It’s not quite the uber-creamy sexxtravaganza that I remember it being. Delicious and refreshing? Yes, of course. But better than Henry Weinhard’s? Jesus Christ I’m not sure anymore.

I remember Henry’s (which I also haven’t had in a depressingly long time) as being very sweet, very rich, heavy on the vanilla. And Virgil’s is a little lighter, cleaner, and with this damnable anise being the dominant flavor note. A very great root beer, to be sure, but number one? I don’t mean to cliffhang you, Kev, but I need to procure some Henry’s posthaste and do a taste-test. The most luxuriously decadent taste test of all time.

Barritts Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer

I guess I have it my head that ginger ale is a pretty wussy beverage. I mean who opts for ginger ale. When there are other choices about. The only time I hear people requesting ginger ale is when they’re about to hurl dramatically and hope to fend off the inevitable with a little Canada Dry and some Saltines.

But when I had Gonzalo do some research on the topic (and by the way he does have feelings, OK, and I’m the one who has to be up till 2AM listening to him boo-hoo-hoo about your little comments about how he “no longer has the figure” to “pull off” that crotchless unitard you make him prance around in) he came up with something called Red Hot Ginger Ale. And that’s when my brain, made dull and sluggish by years of HFCS, realized something: Oh yeah, ginger. Ginger is spicy. Ginger destroys. Remember those nasty ginger Altoids I sent you? This is not a flavor for wusses. Maybe ginger ale’s been dumbed down over the years but it’s got a rich history of basically not fucking around.

So that led me to ginger beer, which I figured would be even more hardcore. I opted for Barritts which makes a big deal about being an authentic Bermuda kind of drink, enjoyed for generations by authentic British imperialists, and I gotta say: I’m sold. All it took was a single sip to transport me to a humid Caribbean island, wearing a white suit and discussing “the darkie situation.”

It doesn’t have the expected spice kick, but that’s fine with me — it’s sweet and smooth and that’s more my scene, anyway. But it’s still got a pretty potent taste, and in fact I couldn’t really enjoy it with my lunch because it overpowered the other flavors. Barritts is meant to be savored all by its lonesome, on a veranda, while languidly fanning oneself. Or, in my case, guzzled down quick and then smashed against a chainlink fence, the bottle now ready to cut up any bitches who need to get cut.

NOTE: Whoever affixes the Barritts labels does not seem to care about accuracy, straightness, smoothness, or really any sort of attention to detail.

Upshot Mocha

OK you’ve been all bragging about how every time you go to the store you’re mesmerized by all the exciting new options, overwhelmed by the magical rainbow cornucopia of blah blah at that point I stop listening. But at my store you get 2-liter torpedoes of generic pineapple soda and then the monolithic Wall of Snapple. The only new beverages that appear on a regular basis are energy drinks, and energy drinks make me feel all tense and unwashed like I’m trapped in Sid & Nancy.

But I found nothing else interesting this week so I picked up the smallest energy drink I could: Upshot. And in fact its smallness is the gimmick: “More Power. Less Liquid.” It comes in a little airplane-booze-sized bottle and is meant to be knocked back in a single manly shot. It’s basically saying: Do not drink this for the flavor unless you heart disappointment. Drink it for the RUSH.

I opted for mocha flavor since I had such a good experience with the Bolthouse Mocha last week. OK let’s get to it, Kylie. It smells like a White Russian. I am hopeful! And it kind of tastes like a White Russian, too! Except I guess the jagged little aftertaste is not vodka but PhytoXan™ (a proprietary blend of plant-based methylxanthines, theobromine, theophyline, guarana seed extract, etc.). I feel good, broseph. I can see into the souls of my co-workers. I am understanding the interconnectedness of all things. My pores are opening. I am casting aside the ancient, crumbling mores that have been imposed upon me and embracing a new worldview based on hugs. I love you, man. I love your pretty little face.

Bleh, the flavor is worsening. I should’ve just chugged it as instructed. I feel like one leg is shorter than the other. I feel like a yucky caterpillar crawled into my mouth while I was asleep in a dank basement and it defecated shortly before passing on from this world to the next.

100% Natural 7UP

So I picked me up a six of the All Natural 7UP just to see what the fuss was about. The bev community is being torn asunder by this hurly-burly. It just makes me sad more than anything else. Friends who once shared shitty white tea in the spirit of brotherhood are now calling into question each other’s sexuality or family lineage. And all because some people think high fructose corn syrup is unnatural.

But you know my deal, DJ Fanny. It’s all about the flavor. 100% natural or no, maybe tinkering with the formula resulted in something awesome and new for 7UP, that old workhorse of adequatulence. Certainly a mainstay of my own personal childhood, when I was forbidden from enjoying caffeinated drinks. And I’m ashamed to admit that the new label stirred … feelings within me. I was affected by marketing. The bright yellow band talking about how it’s “more crisp, refreshing” and the big bold limes and lemons — I actually thought: This is going to be a very special drinking experience. This is going to be fruity. This is going to be like suckling at the very ripeness of life itself. This is going to be the next evolution of sodie pop.

I’ll tell you in the name of accurate reporting that my hands were shaking a little as I raised the bottle to my lips. My mind was a delicious blank as the liquid cascaded across my tongue. My eyes were mostly closed. And upon my first swallow, I shouted to the heavens: “This tastes basically like regular 7UP!!!!!!!!!!!”

Seriously no noticeable difference. And I was really looking, too. But no, it’s your garden-variety 7UP. And frankly I think I prefer Sprite. It’s a little sweeter, right? 7UP seems over-carbonated for my tastes. Maybe I’ve just been softened up by the smooveness of Mountain Dew and its kin but I don’t needs these bubbles all up ins.

Bossa Nova Açai Juice

God I am so sick of antioxidants. I mean I’m as opposed to free radicals and premature aging and heart disease and certain cancers as the next guy, but when did pricey bottled beverages get so stodgy. My grocery store is cluttered with these antioxidant drinks and I guess maybe it’s because of the demo where I live in SW Connecticut (Botox County, USA), but I’m washing my hands of the whole thing, like OCD-stylee.

The last straw was Bossa Nova Açai Juice. Açai is “nature’s healthiest, highest antioxidant fruit” is says here, and in [yet another] chart on the back of the bottle, we learn that the humble açai crushes even the pomegranate when it comes to antioxidants.

I’ll be honest with you, for once. There was a small part of me that was hoping that I’d be experiencing a flavor I’ve never experienced before. That I’d knock back the juice of this fruit I’d never heard of and be just flat-out gobsmacked, and stymied as to how to describe it to you. There would be no reference point. I’d have to talk about it with bad album-review descriptions like “imagine if kiwi juice had sex with fresh salmon and their offspring went to Mexico for a three-day peyote journey into its own soul.”

Luckily I can spare you all that because this tastes basically like blueberries. And it’s another one of these drinks that is almost all aftertaste? It’s almost like water at first and then the flavor comes rolling through a second later? Like a quiet storm..? Anyway it’s smooth and pleasant enough, a nice level of sweetness, and it’s far superior to pomegranate in the flavor department, but whatever. Next time I’m spending my hard-earned $18.00 on three dozen cans of Sunkist. Just kidding it was not $18.00 but I am not kidding about the Sunkist.


So my manliness is already being called into question in the comments thanks to all the twee lukewarm candy-tea I’ve been consuming these days, and I mean whatever, that stuff just bounces off me because I know who I am, I know I once beat a barrista to death with a chair because he didn’t believe that I have to shave every single morning. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody in particular.

But even I have to admit that picking up soy2o at the grocery store was a pretty emasculating experience. Dude it’s got soy right there in the name. And did I mention it’s called soy2o? And I went for the peach mango flavor so it was a nice shade of, what, mauve, maybe? It’s like, where is the Firewire port on this bottle so I can plug in my iPod Mini and listen to my smart playlist of Decemberists bootlegs. I had to balance things out in my basket by throwing in some beef jerky and jock itch medication and a couple fish with the heads still on.

I poured the soy2o into a mostly empty can of Bud Light and brought it into work today. Maybe that troubling little aftertaste is the remnant of cheap hops, but I’m thinking it’s the goddamn soy. The tagline says “Clearly refreshing without the soy taste” but it’s basically an ugly liar. And as with the pomegranate stuff, I believe that if your product boasts about not tasting like some ingredient that’s in the product name, you should just rethink your whole business plan, but what do I know.

Anyway this stuff starts off too cloying and ends up too meaty, kind of like my prom night. I shall continue to get my soy the way men get it, which is through the “beef” at Taco Bell.

AriZona Sweet Tea

I’ve never been 100% on what differentiates sweet tea from like regular tea with sugar in it, aside from it being made in the South. Maybe it’s that you add sugar while it’s still brewing, or maybe you whip up sugar syrup of some kind? Or maybe it’s just that little touch of down-home Southiness that makes it special, like Dollywood or Plessy v. Ferguson.

Point being I don’t know if I’ve ever had authentic old-school sweet tea, so I won’t be able to compare the real thing to this AriZona bastardized version, all tricked out with the High Fructose and made in … Lake Success, New York! But I can experience this thing on its own terms, just me and it, one on one. No more lies.

Well right off the bat, I forgot to shake it up before trying it (I got it at the gas station in one of those cumbersome 99¢ super-tall cans and it never occurs to me to shake up a can) so who knows what kind of flavor-silt® is lurking at the bottom. (Or fannings!) But anyway, this tastes more or less like AriZona Green Tea w/Honey (a drink I enjoy), except instead of the more subtle honey taste you get this kind of thick, blunt sweetness that pretty much piledrives down on the tea flavor from a great height, crushing its pelvis and making it cry and pound the mat in agony. Kind of sickly sweet. It also leaves behind a slick coating in my mouth, so if that’s your thing then have at it.

Anyway it’s not bad, but if I’m going to take an AriZona trip I’ll just stick with Green Tea, which is a little more subtle and sophisticated, much like yrs truly, or so the ladies tell me.

Honest Tea Green Dragon

I’m pretty sure I tried Honest Tea when I went on my bottled tea binge a couple years ago, buying up every Snapple competitor I could find and playing the field. But I was reminded to give it another shot by this feller who pointed out it was relatively lo-cal and eschews HFCS and keeps it more or less real with cane sugar.

After a couple weeks of checking the grocery store bev aisle I finally found one single solitary bottle of the Green Dragon Tea flavor sitting there, looking a little beat-up, its label not entirely straight. So either they can’t keep Honest Tea on the shelf or somebody — maybe on the Honest Tea marketing team — stashed the bottle there under cover of darkness.

In contrast to yesterday’s lunchtime experience with Vault, it was all I could do to stop from inhaling the entire bottle in one single feverish chug. Not because it was so amazingly delicious, but because it’s super-mild and super-quenchy. (Honest Tea marketing team: Stop sneaking bottles into grocery stores and start hiring me to do your copywriting: “It’s fucking quenchy, man. No seriously.”) Also, I was desperately parched, but when am I not. Anyway, very subtle, nice clean tea flavor with a little fruitiness, just the way you like it.

Honest Tea’s big bone to pick, though, is sweetness. They even have a little graph on the label that explains how adding just a little sugar makes tea awesome, but any more than that and you end up with “liquid candy,” and then, even worse, “What they call tea.” That last point on the graph actually appears below the x-axis to indicate that Snapple and its ilk are totally off-the-charts in terms of awfulness.

And I gotta say, the “A Tad Sweet” (again, their wording) approach is working for me, and it does sort of make me realize how little sweetener I really need. That being said, I would be up for something with a little more punch in the flavor department, as the Green Dragon Tea is essentially nice quenchy purified water that’s been farted upon by a delicately scented Tea Fairy. Perfect for when you’re thirsty, but maybe a little blah if you’re looking for a bat mitzah or gala celebration of some sort in your mouth.

(Also, I should mention I noticed this curious terminology on their site: “Most of the tea purchased for bottling by American companies was the lower quality dust and fannings left after quality tea had been produced.” Emphasis totally mine.)


I think it was you who clued me into the vibrant Surge community? Right? I think? And how they were sad that Surge is gone from all our lives? How their day-to-day just wasn’t quite as xtreme as it used to be? And that now they’re looking to Vault, the new greenish Coke product, as Surge’s second coming? And then we both tried some Vault and immediately forgot about it, so much so that we couldn’t even do a little writeup here?

Point being I got another bottle to refresh my memory and the reviews are in: Basically Foul. I was all set to enjoy it with my lunch today and it kind of put a damper on the whole affair. I had to really gird myself each time I took a sip. The real problem is we already have Mountain Dew, and Mountain Dew got its hooks in me at an early age, before I knew any better. (See also: Bosom Buddies, the Leppard.) So even though its flavor could also be fairly described as ureteric, I’m used to it and enjoy its hi-caff, lo-carb[onation], smooth-drinkin ways.

I mean I understand that Coke wants to get a piece of the fertile Dew market, but this knockoff just makes me want to go back to the original. Vault is a little more bitter than Mountain Dew, a little more orange-y, and it makes my heart palpitate alarmingly. Seriously, I’ve got chest discomfort with lightheadedness, sweating, nausea, and/or shortness of breath. Pain is spreading to the shoulders, neck, or arms. The pain is mild to intense.