Odwalla PomaGrand

Mis-tah F! Where do you stand on pomegranates. I’m wondering. I remember some children-of-hippies getting one in their lunchboxes back at my hippie elementary school. They’d pick out the little seeds and eat them and to someone like me, who was a straight-shooting, missionary-style Capri Sun–drinker, it all seemed pretty exotic. And creepy. And a little unamerican. Not to mention the whole thing about Hades getting Persephone to eat a handful of pomegranate seeds and QED that’s why we have winter every year. So thanks tons for that. There’s just this wretched aura of menace around this so-called fruit.

Of course then I learn the terrible truth about grenadine, and then Pom Wonderful comes out, and now everyone’s got to get on this pomegranate drink bandwagon because of the polyphenols and the antioxidants and the jibba jabba. And I’m all: Let’s talk flavor. You know me. You know how I live. And I tried that Pom drink a while back and it tasted like being molested.

So I’m going to give this Odwalla version a spin. Odwalla and I go way back to the dotcom boom days where we all got as much of it as we could store in our taut, tawny bellies. They’re late to the pomegranate game but now have a few versions out. I thought I picked up the pure, straight-up, no-bull just-pomegranate variety but even this one is “enhanced with wild berry extract” in order to cut the flavor. And the starburst on the label says “GREAT TASTE!” because they know that we know that pomegranate juice has serious Issues.

Anyway let’s knock back some of this “PomaGrand.” Hm. It took like three sips before it even registered. It’s almost like it’s all aftertaste. I’m all: Did I just drink something? And then I notice this sort of bitter, grape juice-y kind of vibe floating around in my sinuses. And I’m even thirstier than when I started. I feel like something’s been smuggled into my system without my say-so. Where are — where the hell are my oxidants going? MY OXIDANTS. WHAT IS YOUR DEAL PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE I NEED YOU–

I don’t want to finish this. I guess if you bought into the whole pomegranate brainwashing thing this is a good way to get it into your body but I’m done. F U HADES.

Sunkist Why

Sunkist seriously why you gotta be that way. Why you gotta be there in the office vending machine (the button tantalizing mislabeled as “Fanta”) offering up your wanton sweetness to any man with fitty cents. Why must you ramble, Sunkist. Why do you do that when you know the thing we have right here, just me and you, is real. I need your chemical orange delight, Sunkist. It is mine alone. Why exactly must you play me like this, Sunkist.

Top Secret Marketing Data

I shall soon be fired for sharing this hot and confidential psychographic information which I just noticed on a document here at work, but it’s worth it to finally educate you on the difference between all the “single-serve juice and tea drinks.”

SoBe: Fun, crazy, in-your-face, extreme. New age, hard-core drink for people who don’t play around.

Snapple: Quirky, down-to-earth, kitschy. Fun drink that everyone can relate to and enjoy.

Mistic: Bold, urban, street corner. Hip, psychedelic drink for today’s youth.

Arizona: Southwest American, desert. Healthy, earthy juice for everyone.

Nantucket Nectars: Easy-going, casual, “Ben & Jerry’s” approach. For regular people who enjoy natural goodness.

Snapple What-a-Melon

So just now I was in the office kitchen, about to buy another g-d damned Sunkist from the vending machine when I see an unfamiliar label amongst the two rows that are devoted to Snapple. The bottle is turned away so I can’t quite make out all the details and I’m leaning in close trying to see what was what. Some wage ape comes in to wash marketing blood off his hands and says “Hi Josh!!” and I say: “Shut up! SHUT UP!!! MY BRAIN CANNOT HANDLE BOTH A NEW SNAPPLE FLAVOR AND YOUR CEASELESS CHIT-CHAT!!!!!” Finally I make out the name: What-a-Melon. What-a-Melon. I am not lying. It’s Watermelon Snapple. It is mentioned nowhere on the Snapple site. A cursory search turns up only a handful of results, all on teenagers’ weblogs. What is the deal.

So I gave a shot in the name of science. And while I would never consciously choose to drink Snapple What-a-Melon again, and in fact I probably won’t even finish this bottle, and in fact feel a little sick, I have to admit it’s much more subtle and refreshing than expected. I’d assumed it would taste like liquid Watermelon Bubblicious, that keystone of my youth, all super-sugary and thick, but in fact it tastes more like actual watermelon juice, i.e., mostly water. And, of course, that sweet elixir known as high fructose corn syrup. Like Lou Reed said: “It’s my wife and it’s my life.”

On Grenadine

Maybe you already knew this — though I still maintain that your “Professor of Mixology” diploma was made in PrintShop — but I just learned that grenadine is pomegranate syrup. Here’s me, last night, unable to sleep, staring at the glow-in-the-dark naked ladies taped to the ceiling: “…” Because I was speechless in wonder. All those Shirley Temples that got me through third grade? Powered by pomegranate. I feel like my whole life has been a lie up to and including right now.

Lorina Sparkling Lemonade

A few weeks ago I’m in a co-worker’s office and see this sexy-looking bottle on her desk and I’m totally eyeballing it lewdly and she says, “Oh yeah, Lorina Sparkling Lemonade! This is my favorite drink!” And I admired the tasteful label design and mentioned, you know, off the cuff, that I happened to “work” for the “preeminent beverage-related website” and “really knew my shit” and she said: “Here, take it! Try it! I have another bottle right here to enjoy. But you must tell me when your review is online so I can read it!” So I chugged it down and was all: Eh. Kind of like Orangina (you ever pronounce “Orangina” like “vagina”? Just to pass the time?) except with the carbonation cranked up too many notches. I left one last swallow in the bottle here on my desk so, when the time came for me to write about it, I could refresh my memory (and myself!), but it’s been weeks and I’m sure it’s very warm and flat and backwashed, but OK I will go ahead because that is my commitment to you: Hm! Not bad! Subtle lemon flavor! So my recommendation is crack it open and let it sit for like a month. Lorina needs to age.

AriZona Herbal Tonic

Somebody wrote us a while ago and said something like “hey turkeys howsabout shuffling some props toward the unimpeachable flavor of AriZona green tea w/ginseng and honey” and at first I thought: What the hell is up with the interCapping? I’m assuming that capital Z is in there to help differentiate between the beverage company and the great U.S. state, sort of like The Charlatans UK, some sort of out-of-court arrangement, maybe. Then I thought: What the hell is up with AriZona’s website? Is that thing spewed from the darkest bowels of Frontpage or what. And then I thought: I do like that green tea with the honey. Very smooth and subtle, and a kind of classy wraparound label as opposed to the garishness of your beloved cactus drink.

So yesterday I picked up one of the AriZona Herbal Tonics, since I’d never given those a shot. Those are the ones that supposedly improve your Energy, Health, Memory, or Stress (maybe soothe rather than improve on that last one) and are made up to look like those olde tyme cure-all tonics sold to rubes in backwater towns and consisting mostly of ethyl alcohol? And that works for me, because a) you know I like the olde tyme look, and b) I think it’s nice that they analyzed the whole energy drink boom, the whole concept of a beverage being somehow nourishing to the spirit or intellect or mood, and said: “Hey, that sounds like snake oil. Let’s run with that.”

And in fact, the Memory Health Tonic makes no claims at all to help with your memory or anything else. It just says “Memory Health Tonic” and then has a picture of an Einsteinesque scientist working out a complicated math formula next to his crowded table of chemistry equipment — the key attribute of any successful scientist being of course his/her ability to remember things. To sum up, I appreciate this drink’s packaging approach from soup to nuts.

And the flavor? It’s sort of like if they mixed the green-tea-with-honey with the orange-mango from Nantucket Nectars. Which is probably what they did. So kind of diluted, but not diluted with water. I shrank back in terror at its milky color when I first cracked open the lid — its stylish blue bottle disguising its true color till then — but the terror semi-subsided when I started knocking back this sweet elixir.

I noticed no improvement to my memory, exactly as AriZona didn’t promise. Which is probably for the best, since you and I well know there are great swathes of my life that I’d just as soon forget and yes I’m talking about the EPCOT years.

Clearly Canadian Cherry

You probably won’t believe this, but back in high school I was a seltzer sort of guy. I know, I know, it’s hard to imagine me — me! of all people! — being one of those walking stereotypes, swilling seltzer, wearing a mink stole, sporting a Prince Albert, growing out my pinkie nail, listening to Kraftwerk and Sheena Easton, driving a Dodge truck … I mean, it’s embarrassing to think back on, but you know, everyone was into that “look” at the time. But even I couldn’t stomach straight seltzer water and had to fake it with flavored waters, which worked out because I had a Price Club card at the time and could pick up entire cases of New York Seltzer and Clearly Canadian.

Unfortunately, these cases were variety packs, so even though I could drink Black Cherry New York Seltzer exclusively, all day all night, there came a time when I had to suffer through Orange or Blueberry. Luckily, these were teeny tiny glass bottles, so at least anything unpleasant was over with quickly.

Clearly Canadian was always my second-choice seltzer, probably because it was closer to soda water than soda pop, Q.E.D. kind of bitter when you get right down to it. But CC has survived into contemporary times while NYS has not, so I picked up a bottle of good old Cherry Clearly Canadian this weekend, letting the sparkling waves of nostalgia wash over me.

Because even though the new bottle design is all fancy-pants, with each flavor sporting a different retro pattern (The Halftone! The Lava Lamp! The Wacky Grid!), the taste is exactly the same: that vague, bitter cherry, distantly medicinal.

So yeah I wasn’t all “there is an early 1960s-style orgy in my mouth and basically everyone is invited” but I still judge it as a Positive Drinking Experience because I felt smooth, sophisticated, and mature while drinking it. This was not an Extreme soda, it was not an unnaturally bright fluorescent color, it did not taste like there was a chemical spill down at Old Man Johnson’s Pop Shoppe. CCC was mild, subtle, elegant — just like the great nation of Canadia itself. And as I sipped it calmly and quietly — not my usual chug-and-gargle, burbling and spewing and shrieking — I found myself laughing, gently, affectionately, at the old selzter-drinking Josh of yore, injecting heroin into his eyes, playing croquet, and befouling himself in the way that only the young, and young at heart, truly can.

The Energy Drink Hoedown

ubjected myself to a grueling energy-drink marathon last week and am still only at 60% of my usual typing accuracy thanks to my shaking hands and this evidently-not-going-away-anytime-soon throb within the vitreous of my eyes — I mean just look at an excerpt of an entry I wrote while in the midst of the taste-tests: “99999999999999 33333 9999999999 33 99999 393” — then here come the hallucinated insects, the tunnel-vision, the blood trickling from every orifice including ones you might not even think of at first, like pores, and — sorry but I’ll just come right out and say it — pee-holes.

I’m tempted to blame the horrific taste of Red Bull on the fact that it’d been sitting in my refrigerator for almost two years because ’round about Labor Day Weekend ’01 I bought two cans to mix with some aqua vitae since that’s what all the rock stars were doing back then but if memory serves, which I bet it totally can’t in this instance, I made it through maybe half a can — these are petite cans, you know, which is a psychological marketing effect to trick you into thinking that you’re bigger and burlier than usual, i.e., the energy drink is already working its magic before you even crack it open — maybe half a can before saying: Look, I don’t care how energetic and drunk this makes me because drinking this filth is like sucking on dirty sweatsocks that’ve been soaked in hate and dead squirrel.

But following it up with Mountain Dew-branded Amp is what really jumpstarted my own private gotterdammerung with its flavor that at first made me think, distantly, of the Shirley Temples I enjoyed as a lad (a maybe ironic aside is that I was not allowed to have Roy Rogerses, which was the Coca-Cola-laced alternative to the Temple, because it would make me too hyper), said nostalgia being the last fleeting moment of happiness before Amp went to work on my guts and my brain, not energizing at all but enervating the shit out me, sucking my soul dry and spitting out the dry husk of my wracked and thrashed body, making me totally unable to be a team-player and on-message in a spectacularly mediocre meeting at work, my consciousness ghostly and effete until a co-worker handed me some kind of bacon-cheese-egg breakfast thing that made my heart seize up but at least brought me back from the abyss of madness and psycho-social paralysis.

SoBe’s Adrenaline Rush tasted sort of like Orangina and had no discernible effect aside from maybe making me even thirstier than I was before I drank it.

Fuze Mixed Berry Refresh

OK, Mister Fuze Shill, I picked up two bottles of this alleged fairy-nectar, allowing a tiny ray of hope to penetrate my blackened heart. I popped open the Agave Cactus Replenish (and after weeks of Snapple, it was sort of disconcerting to open a bottle without a plastic seal around the lid — I felt that Fuze did not have my safety as its top priority) early in the day, before life’s various and complex flavors tumbled into my soul, cluttering the purity of the experience.

My reaction was: slow nodding at the subtle, refreshing, unique flavor. Then: stroking my chin as I idly wonder if I’m maybe drinking some kind of all-natural hair gel. Finally: wishing I had some fresh spring water to wash away the subtle, unique aftertaste. In sum: serviceable, but isn’t life too short for “serviceable”? That is not a rhetorical question; my whole life has been spent consuming merely serviceable products — it’s part of my God-given right as an American — but maybe there’s more out there?

Or maybe the problem, as reader TC has repeatedly pointed out, is my alarming dependence on High Fructose Corn Syrup, which the Agave Cactus does not contain, instead opting for the dubious “Crystalline Fructose,” which I think is a) responsible for the aftertaste, and b) probably not even FDA-approved.

As for the second bottle, the Mixed Berry Refresh, I couldn’t get past the first sip. This was a “milk-based smoothie” which came as an unpleasant surprise since I was expecting something light and translucent, like the cactus. But Fuze’s dramatic, show-offy wrap-around label prevented me from seeing the cloudiness of the liquid within. I’ve got no problem with milk-based smoothies, certainly, but I reserve the term “smoothie” for something with at least a little ice involved somewhere. This stuff tasted exactly like Mixed Berry Yoplait, so the experience was like knocking back big healthy chugs of runny yogurt. I may or may not have been near tears by that point.

Still, I’m not writing off Fuze just yet. I’m intrigued by the Peach Mango “smoothie,” now that I’m ready for it, and maybe one of the teas, or that Orange-Carrot (which promises to improve my “focus”). I’ve yet to come across an Orange-Carrot that’s failed to deliver. Something.