Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cranberry Sprite! Mountain Dew Game Fuel! Shaq Soda!

A quick round-up of a few recent cola purchases…

I talk about soda a lot, but at the same time, I don’t think I talk about soda enough. As a teetotaler, I don’t have much of an interest an all that beer-stuff you yanks and wanks are always raving on and on about, and since all forms of coffee more or less resemble tar-black sludge, the aesthetic opportunities in the journalistic medium there, obviously, are a bit lacking.

With soda, however, you’ve got variety. Even if most colas are the same color as tobacco juice, at least the packaging is usually vibrant and distinct, and every now and then, the soda Gods toss us a penny from heaven in the form of some oddly flavored, oddly hued beverage that may or may not have some abstruse seasonal theme.

Well, this Thanksgiving season, we've got quite a few new(ish) items on store shelves, that in some way shape or form, kinda' tie-in to the autumnal season. Well, actually, there's only one soda of the like I can think of that fits that precise descriptor, but whatever. Now take a gander at these here pictures of cola cans and bottles, folks, and my feeble attempt to write more than 300 words about each individual item...


First up, we have Soda Shaq, a line of four cream sodas hawked by…Hakeem Olajuwon. The beverages are produced by the fine folks at Arizona, whose popularity in certain youth demographics most certainly CANNOT be attributed to the fact that scores and scores of people are mixing their teas and fruit drinks with potent pharmaceuticals and getting high Three Six Mafia-style. Not. At. All.

As stated up front, there are four flavors out there, but I could only find two in my neck of the woods: a strawberry cream version, and a vanilla cream version. Both sodas (I’m assuming all four, actually) cost just 99 cents, and weigh approximately nine and a half pounds. Well, maybe 23.5 fluid ounces doesn’t necessarily even out to nine and a half pounds, but like there’s really THAT much of a difference here.

Some folks think these beverages are just a wee bit hypocritical, since Shaq is doing all those ads for Michelle Obama about not being a fatass, and here’s that same spokes-Center turning around and plastering his mug all over these carbohydrate-laden colas, replete with on-the-aluminum messages like “a big can for a big man.” So yes, the products do in fact seem to insinuate that using them will make you obese…which, for honesty alone, probably makes the items automatically worth a purchase or two.

Iteration one is called Strawberry Cream, and I will be damned if I didn’t enjoy it. It had a light Cherry-Vanilla Coke taste, but it felt a little bit smoother and less acidic than Coca Cola’s take on the flavoring combo.

Aesthetically, there’s not much to see here, but it does seem to have a nice, cool ale-like hue. It certainly appears more tonic-looking than soda-looking, which, if absolutely nothing else, is a nice change of pace from the norm. As before, it has a very robust flavor that resides somewhere between hyper-caffeinated juice drink and your standard vanilla cola; it may not be something you would think you had a hankering for, but one sip of this stuff will have you ready to pump “Steel” or “Blue Chips” into your DVD player in no time flat.

The vanilla cream iteration has a good, old-fashioned root-beer aesthetic, both in terms of exterior aesthetics and actual liquid content. Thankfully, however, it doesn't taste anything at all like actual root beer, which I believe we can all agree tastes like prairie dog piss mixed with whitening tooth paste.

It was a solid soda, for the most part, but I think I preferred the strawberry vanilla cream soda more overall. That's not to say this thing is bad by any stretch, it's just that it's taste and texture was a little predictable, whereas the other Soda Shaq flavor I tried had a bit more substance to it. It's probably not as good as Vanilla Coke, but it's all right...even if the squinting Shaq head on the can is the kind of image that may make you want to forego sweets for awhile.

Mountain Dew Game Fuel!

Technically, these sodas aren't new per se -- the red one has actually been an on-again, off-again item since 2007, I believe -- but the packaging certainly is. And oh yeah, the purple one is definitely brand new, so it counts, gosh darn it.

As you ca no doubt see for yourselves, the colas are heralding the arrival of the Xbox One, with each bottle representing a different Day One launch title on the system. Rumor has it on the Intraweb that several different games are featured on the soda offerings, but I haven't really done that much sleuthing myself. All I know is that red one wants you to play "Forza," while the other one wants you to play some shitty Kinect sports game. If I had to have one as a next door neighbor, yeah, I'd probably give the nod to Mr. Red here, obviously.

Let's start with the grape drank, first and foremost because it looks very, very similar to Mountain Dew Pitch Black, which we all know by now, is one of the greatest things ever crafted by the hands of Homo Sapiens. 

Unfortunately, despite it's uncanny resemblance to one of the finest colas of all-time, this one and done offering -- given the uninspired moniker "Electrifying Berry" -- is actually fairly ho-hum, a watered-down grape cola that tastes less like an awesome Mountain Dew variation than it does a bottle of PowerAde you've had sitting in your icebox for a couple of weeks. Granted, it's not an undrinkable concoction by any means, but compared to retired heavy hitters like Mountain Dew Supernova? Yeah, this thing is a rare disappointment from the house Code Red built... 

Comparatively, I can't think of anything bad at all to say about the "Citrus Cherry" Game Fuel permutation, which from what my partially decimated taste buds recollect, is more or less the same product that rocked our proverbial worlds around the release of "Halo 3." 

Yeah, I know it's basically nothing more than a mildly souped up Mountain Dew Code Red, but I don't give a shit. Mountain Dew Code Red is one of the ten best things that's ever happened to me, and giving me that exact same thing -- only amped up with more sugar and caffeine content -- is like asking a dope addict if he's OK if you give him two spoonfuls of the cocaine instead of just one. Citrus Cherry Game Fuel Mountain Dew is goddamn great, and I'm more than willing to fight the Chinese over it if it comes down to it.  

Sprite Cranberry!

And so we come to Sprite Cranberry, really the only soda discussed today that even remotely ties into Thanksgiving in the slightest. I'm actually a really huge fan of Sierra Mist's seasonal cranberry cola, which is odd, because I generally don't care that much for either Sierra Mist or cranberries. And since Sierra Mist is basically just a poor man's version of Sprite, than it stands to reason that Sprite's own version of a cranberry cola HAS to be better than the substandard competitor's...right?

Well, I've never been a huge fan of Sprite, and I don't think I have ever tried Sprite Zero before at all. Since this iteration -- logically, anyway -- would appear to be the less intense of the two beverages, I decided to try it first. And folks, let me tell you -- I was sorely, SORELY disappointed.

First off, the thing doesn't taste like cranberries one smidge. Like, I can barely detect a glaze of artificial cranberry something in there, but its so faint as to be hardly recognizable. Odds are, if you offered this up to a pal and didn't tell them it was supposed to be cranberry-tinged, I highly doubt they would even suspect the beverage itself of having a cranberry theme. That, clearly, is bad. But the unforgivable sin here is that not only does Sprite Cranberry Zero NOT taste like cranberries, it doesn't even really taste like Sprite -- instead, it feels like a watered-down, cheap ass imitation brand Sprite knockoff, and I'm talking one of the REALLY low tiered kinds, like whatever dafug Food Lion calls their Sprite ripoff. I don't say this often, but if you're a soda fan? This is a product you need to steer clear of. Like, totally and shit. 

That said, Sprite Cranberry is a vastly superior product, in every conceivable way. For one, the packaging is cooler -- the fact that it's plumb-colored actually makes you think about cranberries, which is a sharp contrast to the Sprite Cranberry Zero packaging, which at first glance, looks almost indistinguishable from the regular Sprite Zeroes out there.

In terms of flavor and texture, it's not a bad little beverage. The overall soda probably tastes more like Sprite than a full cranberry-flavored beverage, but that's not necessarily a negative. Overall, the texture is crisp, and the cranberry flavor is strong without being too overpowering. If polled on the matter, I'd probably say that the Sierra Mist alternative is still a much better cola, but this remains a respectable first at-bat for Team Sprite nonetheless.

And need SOMETHING seasonal to wash down all of that Tofurkey, don't you?


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