Kombucha Wonder Drink

I’m sorry that I suck so much. You think I like being this way? Come on, my brotha. You think I like being the guy who totally gushes over a soda born in an air-conditioned conference room and sold exclusively at Taco Bell? It officially does not get any lamer. I want to be the guy who champions those few beverages that set out on their own, daring to forge new marketplaces, whose very roots are steeped in cultures whose traditions go back thousands of years.

Kombucha Wonder Drink is such a beverage. It’s a combination of organic tea and kombucha culture, which imparts a fizzy, carbonated texture. Kombucha is actually a mushroom, but they don’t tell you that anywhere on the bottle. They do say that kombucha is said to have mystical healing qualities, but they’re vague on the specifics there, too.

I tried all three flavors: Himalayan blend, Oriental Blend, and Asian Pear Ginger Blend. I liked Oriental the best. The flavor is based on oolong tea, which was a great deal smoother than the green tea of the Himalayan. As far as the pear/ginger blend goes, the pear was so subtle that it got lost in the mix, and the ginger added a slight peppery aftertaste that was only interesting the way that science is interesting, which is to say: one paragraph’s worth of interesting, but nothing more.

One aside I need to make is that the smell of the tea and the throat-tickling tingliness of the kombucha culture together brought back long-buried memories of a strange ritual from my youth. In high school my friend Steve and I had this thing we did to pass the lazy afternoons. We would take a tub of dry Lipton ice tea mix, make sure it was sealed tightly, shake it up really good so that it got all smoky, then lift up the edge of the lid and inhaled deeply. This left us coughing and sputtering with a dirt cloud of tea pasted into our mouths. It was totally fun. Look, our parents locked their liquor cabinets and it sucks being a teenager in suburbia, so I make no excuses.

Kombucha is not like any other drink I’ve had, so there’s that. It’s a very interesting combination of tea and carbonation, and I think it’s original enough that everyone should check it out at least once. But do I love it, and will I ever drink it again? Will I champion it? No, probably not, and no way, and that touches on some really deep stuff about why I’m so obsessed with beverages, and why it’s so important to me to always be trying out new products. I think I’m looking for that One True Beverage. I’m looking for what I call “returnability.” That one beverage that I can define my life around. The drink that I always have in the fridge and never get bored of. If someone ever asks me what my favorite beverage is, I want to be able to answer definitively, without hesitation: “Sit down and I will fucking tell you some serious shit about my favorite beverage.”

But I can’t do that right now; I don’t have an answer. I like a handful of drinks pretty good, a plethora just OK, and a bunch not so much. Until that day when my journey comes to its delicious end, I will continue to suckle on the teat of hope.

Mountain Dew Baja Blast

Mountain Dew is some crazy motherfuckers. Why would you create a ridiculously good soda and then basically hide it from the general public? They are really making a concerted effort towards market saturation these days, to mixed results. Mountain LiveWire is pretty terrible, I feel. Code Red is just OK. But Mountain Dew Baja Blast is freaking amazing and has shot to the top of my favorite sodas list. So why is their best flavor only available at Taco Bell? That is some wacked-out shit that I cannot wrap my brain around at the moment. I would be buying this stuff by the gallon if it was available at the local 5 and 10. But who’s going to trip over themselves in a mad dash to Taco Bell just to try it? The whole thing just don’t make no sense.

The party line, flavor-wise, is that this is Mountain Dew with a bit of a tropical lime twist. Which I guess I get, aside from my uncertainty about what makes a lime tropical. But the beverage itself is a lovely fluorescent blue, and it totally fills the Pepsi Blue-shaped hole in my heart. I wish I could try them side by side to compare, but since all you punks failed to get my back on the Pepsi Blue tip, it’s no longer available. Thanks for that. But whatever, it’s fine, since Baja Blast is here now. Although wait, Mountain Dew is owned by Pepsi, so what are the chances that this is all just a rebranding strategy? Oh my goodness I am totally smart. That’s why it reminds me so much of Pepsi Blue, that‘s exactly what it is. Do you feel the magic of the moment we are sharing right now or what. I knew that Pepsi Blue and I were destined to be together and even 100 million idiots voting with their wallets for Diet Cherry Pepsi Vanilla with Lemon (*rolls eyes*) could not keep us apart.

Except the problem is that I’m still left feeling totally skeevy driving through the Taco Bell a few times a week, just to get a large soda. That’s some junkie-level shit right there. You can’t spend that much time at Taco Bell each week and still manage to meet your own stare in the mirror. You can’t. I am telling you I been there, and you can’t. I’m willing to admit that the just-out-of-reach-ness of Baja Blast informs the appeal and increases what we in the industry call “cravitude,” but I can’t believe for a second that that was anything but an unforeseen by-product of the marketing plan. Come on. Have you ever known marketing executives to be anything but lazy? Not if you’re honest, and I want you to be honest. I mean they were too lazy to invent a new flavor, as we established above.

Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper

A good day for me is one where I write two paragraphs and am in bed before 10 PM. My idea of a good meal is one that doesn’t cause too much gastrointestinal distress. So how come Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper failed to meet even my sub-humanly low expectations?

Maybe I thought the Dr Pepper people were a cut above, since Red Fusion is still for me one of the most delightful new brands in recent years. I thought for sure they would parlay and capitalize, but no.

Excitement was high when I saw this new brand at the supermarket. I scored two and put them in the fridge for like a week, because I was waiting for The Perfect Time When I Was In The Perfect Mood To Appreciate Them. And then at some point the planets did their aligning thing and I was like “Now is the time” and went at it.
The smell was nice, it was like…hmmm what are the words… a combination of Dr Pepper and cherry and vanilla. And I am a dude who likes truth in advertising so that was AOK. But taste-wise, not so much. Really it tastes almost exactly like regular Dr Pepper. There’s maybe a hint of cherry in there. I’m not convinced I’d be able to tell the difference blindfolded. Why must I pin all my hopes and dreams on products which never do anything but disappoint me. I didn’t even feel like finishing the first bottle. I know, me!!!

Maybe my taste buds have just become deadened, and the unextreme, non-blastin’ flavor of Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper is unable to find burstability purchase within in my mouth hole. But really I blame the corporate marketeers, who yet again appeal to no one in their attempt to appeal to everyone.

My hope is that some good will come of my disappointment, in the form of my negative review causing severe layoffs in the New Flavor Dreamers department at The Dr Pepper Corporation of America.

Pepsi Holiday Spice

I don’t know. It sounded really good to me when I read about it on the internet. Was that my first clue? I do not know. It doesn’t matter. But maybe the impression it left on my mind is the lesson to consider. The inviting wholesomeness of cola, paired with the soul-warming festiveness of holiday spices. A soda that feels like home, really. How could it be anything less?

I see now that I was imagining the acidic bark of a carbonated hot mulled cider. As if. Why do I keep thinking things are going to be as I hope or plan? Why did God curse me with such a fetid imagination? Is fetid the word I’m looking for, who even knows. That’s how lost I am tonight.

Still and all, I am a person whose hopes easily rise, and so when we stopped at the Kum ‘n Go in Havana Illinois and I espied a row of Holiday Spice Pepsis in the cooler, it was like waking up one morning to find that Santa had stopped by a month early. Back in the car I did that thing where you sniff the heady aroma of the beverage before you sip it. I see people do it on TV all the time. I took a few moments trying to pick apart the complicated bouquet. Cinnamon? Clove?

Unfortunately that was all the holiday spices I could name off the top of my head, so I asked Rosalie for her input. She busted out nutmeg, and something called allspice, which seems like a cop-out. She added: “Please God let it not be nutmeg in a cola.” Anyways it probably was; the taste was not as good as the smell. It was like a Pepsi that someone dumped pepper into, maybe. Not really, but I don’t feel like trying any harder than that to describe it. It wasn’t good, OK?
But check it, I guess therein lies the genius, if you peep the timeline:

  • High initial enthusiasm about a particular item.
  • Anticipation skyrockets upon receipt of said item.
  • Total anticlimax and letdown after having opened and experienced said item.

Just like Christmas.

Later that night my brother had open heart surgery and I took this picture of the label before recycling the bottle. He’s still in critical condition. Happy holidays.

Smirnoff Triple Black Ice

Josh, have I told you what my new favorite soda is? Oh man. It’s totally Smirnoff Triple Black Ice. Shit is for real.

It’s starring in a movie called What If Sprite Wasn’t So Boring That You Wanted To Die. All the kids are going to be drinking this stuff, is my prediction. So sweet. So zesty. So everything you never knew was lacking in a clear soda.

Seriously it’s so good.

Apparently it has alcohol in it.

Best soda ever.

Berryclear Sprite Remix

Man, I am on the fence about this whole Sprite Remix thing, and I need you to pull me one way or t’other. Because my short attention span is like whoa, so on the one hand, if Sprite wants to come out with a new “FLAVOR REMIX” [emphasis added] every summer, then like, I will be standing by the display case, dollars in hand.
But on the other hand, the downside, if you will, the UNSEEN EVIL BY-PRODUCT OF SAID ACTIVITIES [emphasis not added] is that they won’t invest a lot of money to ensure that the product actually tastes good. Because who cares if it sucks, the kids will have forgotten about it by next summer. WON’T YOU, YOU FUCKING STUPID ASS KIDS?

And that right there is some jive-ass logic that I simply cannot get behind. Because then I’m all, well why even care about anything? And you know how my meds have been weird lately and I’m having a really hard time even getting out of bed each afternoon, and if Corporate America Incorporated is throwing in the towel and being like “Fuck it dude,” then what hope is there for an un-eager young not-go-getter like myself?

So what I’m saying is that Sprite Remix (DJ MegaBerry mix) is certainly not going to rouse me from my depression. Sure, it’s the natural goodness you’ve come to expect from Sprite, mixed with the dazzling tartness of nature’s berries, but it’s like they used the berries from the bottom of the bush, the ones that get pissed and trod on by every low-lying ground mammal that comes down the pike.

Clearly Canadian was killing it with the clear berry soda flava over 14 years ago, man. That shit is still so good. How hard is it for the Sprite people to even try? I mean they had the roadmap, they just chose not to follow it. Where they got the idea that Sprite Berry Remix is even remotely good is beyond me. Who are the tongueless fucks taste-testing this beverage? I need to get on that payroll. I wouldn’t even have to get out of bed for that job, just keep a fridge nearby stocked with all the test samples? Man that would be sweet. Free soda and handjobs all day long. Or whatever. I’m just thinking out loud here.

Bebida de Mango

Hey dude. I was out sick yesterday, which is why you didn’t get the normal 10 emails from me. Not that you noticed. I was pretty much drinking o.j. and ginger ale all the live-long day. Now I’m back at the office, and there’s no o.j. or ginger ale in the machine here. But we did happen to have this weird little bottle of mexican mango juice in the fridge, so I brought that in today. Check it out, I haven’t even tasted it yet: I’m live blogging this shit up in here!

Okay, so, this bottle of mango juice. I’m sure I’d never find a pic of it on the interweb, so I’ll paint a word picture. The first thing you notice about it is that this is a very tiny bottle. 8.45 fl. Oz / 250 ml). I’m guessing there are maybe 3 actual sips of juice in this thing? Who is the target demo? Whom could this possible sate? I ask.

On the other hand, the juice looks like it might be fairly viscous. Or very non-viscous? Which is thick and syrupy? That one. Now, as in 10th grade, I suck at chemistry. Okay here goes.

Hold on, screw cap back on and shake up for good measure. Okay.

Hold on, this is definitely viscous. You should see the bubbles struggling to rise to the top. What if this drink is actually that alien sea monster from The Abyss? Okay here goes.

Holy sucky.

Now I see that the ingrediments are “treated water, mango pulp” then a bunch of chemicals. But here goes with one more teensy sip. I retract what I said earlier about the portion size. If anything, a Monopoly thimble would have sufficed.
This, I don’t get it. I love mango, why does this suck so bad? I sense the presense of a dirt additive or something. Okay one more sip.

I would definitely throw up if I continued to drink this. I’m throwing it out. I estimate that I drank about 1 fl. Oz. On the nutrition information it says this is 1 serving, but I estimate there are about 300.

Also I said this was mexican because it was in the mexican section at the supermercado and the title is in spanish. But the label clearly states “Product of the United Arab Emirates.” What the fudge.

I am certain that if you ever need to make yourself throw up, Bebida de Mango from the United Arab Emirates is hot-swappable with Syrup of Ipecac.

Ack! I almost spilled it all over my desk. Hereby banished to the waste basket. The end.

Steak & Shake Hot Fudge Shake

If you ever read my emails you would know that lately I’ve been all hopped up to sample this new hot fudge shake at Steak & Shake.

(Since you don’t have Steak & Shake out your way, the background is that they make pretty decent shakes (chocolate/vanilla/strawberry/mocha/choc mint/banana/probably others I’m forgetting) and now for an extra 39 cents they will pour hot fudge on top.)

Oh man. Even just thinking about it sets my soul a-quiver. This is totally marketed towards people like me, who love hot fudge sundaes, but hate the attendant mess. If it can’t be sipped or ingested through a straw, I’m not super-interested.

So anyways I finally got around to sampling a hot fudge shake today. I went for mocha. It was just okay. They used maybe 1/4 the amount of hot fudge I personally would have used, had I been creating this in my own kitchen. But maybe that’s just a personal preference thing. And the hot fudge was kind of thin, not at all ridiculously thick and gooey and Dairy Queenish like I was picturing in my mind.

In summation, the Hot Fudge Shake is one of those things, like Vanilla Eggnog Coke, that will probably always taste best in the drawing board of my mind. It is a place where oulandish beverage concoctions frolic gaily in the fields of the Lord, and you respond to my emails in a timely fashion.

Pepsi Vanilla

Oh man. I had to go get some blood drawn this morning, so they could check on my cholesterol. This is the big one. When they checked it a year ago, the numbers were bad, and when then rechecked it six months ago, they numbers were WORSE, so this morning was put up or shut up time. Today was the day where they test my commitment to life on this planet. Sure, I lost some weight like my doctor ordered, but have I been exercising more? Besides the one hand? Not so much. So we’ll see.

But when you get bloodwork done you have to fast from like midnight the night before, so I was fairly ravenous when I got out of there, and did what pretty much anyone who was starving and woozy from loss of blood would do at 8 AM: I stumbled next door to the Mobil station and bought a Pepsi Vanilla.

DO NOT TELL MY DOCTOR, SHE WILL KILL ME. Soda and juices—yea, my very lifeblood—are forbidden for people trying to lower their cholesterol. But hello? I need to give the people what they want? I mean I am literally not doing this for my health. That’s the dedication. That’s the extra mile, right there.

So, Pepsi Vanilla. It’s good. It’s even slightly better than Vanilla Coke. The vanilla additive that Coke uses is too obviously fake and chemical-ish, and to me it always tastes like Coke + Fakeout Vanilla Material, rather than a cohesive, homogenous beverage. Pepsi Vanilla tastes more blended to me. The flavors don’t pick apart as easily.

So this round goes to Pepsi, although I am totally with you on the “Coke has more cred than Pepsi” tip, but between this and Pepsi Blue, I have to say that Pepsi is really putting it down fairly consistently lately. They are in there. They are scrappy. They are both bobbing and weaving. What has Coke done for me lately? Not much. They need to watch they back, that’s all I’m saying.

Them there’s the positives, but unfortunately (Pepsi. Sad little Pepsi. When will you ever learn?) we have some heavy negatives as well, namely a little something known as package design.

Good lord, is this bottle ugly. All it’s missing is a tag. I was actually embarrassed to be seen in public with it. How do they expect this beverage to succeed if men live in fear that a hot chick will see them drinking it? I was like hiding it under my jacket, sipping it out of a paper bag. Better they think I’m an alcoholic, I thought.

Actually what it really reminded me of was elementary school. Every morning at breakfast I’d have my Count Chocula or my Fruity Pebbles, and my mom would always want me to drink all the milk in the bowl, as though the nutritional value of the now-pink milk counterbalanced the transparent evil of the sugar-saturated cereal I demanded. But of course the milk is no fun once the cereal’s gone, so I never drank it. And then when I wasn’t looking, my mom would pour the disregarded cereal milk into my thermos and pack it into my lunch box to take to school. So at lunch time, I’d be sitting there eating my little sandwich, kids all around me screaming about cooties and anti-cootie spray and who likes who and who used to like who but doesn’t anymore, and I’d go to take a sip of my juice and realize that my mom had again foisted my cereal water on me. And by this time the milk was lukewarm from sitting in my locker all morning, plus there were a few very soggy bits of cereal remnants to contend with, all of which made for one heck of a disgusting beverage. And I’d sit there, panicked, thinking: “Oh my god. What if the other kids realize that my mom is making me drink my leftover cereal milk. Everyone else has really cool juice boxes with bendy straws. If they find out they will make me sit at the other end of the table, with Malcolm.” And at that point I would fake an illness, throw my lunch in the trash, and spend the rest of the day in the nurse’s office. Because you do not want to sit with Malcolm. That kid always smelled like he’d never once wiped his ass.

These are the memories that came cascading down around me as I drank my Pepsi Vanilla at 8 AM this morning in the parking lot of the Mobil station. Wonderful, another beverage that sends me sobbing to my therapist. Maybe I should just do what my doctor tells me and get off the sauce.

SoBe Cranberry-Grapefruit

I pretty much never ever drink SoBe juices. This bias is mainly the result of their lame-ass package design. The bottles are clunky, inelegant behemoths which are no fun to look at or hold. The lizard logo looks like a picture you’d see on the wall of the world’s dorkiest tattoo artist. The brushed metal bottle cap is a nod to Rosie the Riveter? I guess? And besides all of which, if I could get past the package design, which I cannot, most of the juices come in really disgusting colors based on the vomit rainbow of tan, pink, white, yellow, and brownish-green.

But my brother was in town the other day and he swore up and down that the Cranberry-Grapefruit beverage was all that and then some, so fine, whatever, I plunked down the buck-fifty and wheeled the huge-ass bottle out on a dolly.

One sip.

I figured this would be the puckeriest juice ever, what with cranberries plus grapefruits. But it wasn’t. I tasted a fair share of grapefruit, but nothing in the way of cranberry. So I turned the bottle over to read the ingredients. Sure enough, way down on the list, there was cranberry juice, right next to….cochineal extract!

Down, down the drain it goes! Swim away, little SoBe juice lizards! I send you back to the hellmouth from which you spawned.

In conclusion: if you can tell from the package design that the people running the company are a bunch of fucking idiots, then keep in mind that those same idiots are the ones mixing the ingredients.