Monday, August 13, 2012

Pepsi Next Cherry Vanilla and Paradise Mango…REVIEWED!

Pepsi rolls out two new variations for its hybrid cola/diet cola brand - but are they worth going out of your way to try out?

You know, I’m wrong about a lot of things. Earlier this year, I said the Locos Doritos Tacos were a novelty with no chance of becoming a long-term success…and then the items go on to become the fastest-selling menu offerings in Taco Bell history. I also made a claim a few weeks back that Tito Ortiz would easily win his retirement fight against Forrest Griffin…which, um, kinda’ didn’t happen. And believe you me, I’ve made FAR, FAR worse prognostications in the past. I mean, some downright horrific ones.

Long story short, I’m quite fallible, guys, and my predictions are about as worthwhile as commentary from Chris Berman. In that, I guess everything I say should be taken with a gargantuan handful of salt - perhaps even a full wheelbarrow.

So, earlier in 2012, I reviewed Pepsi Next, a soda that I said was soon to be forgotten. And here I am, today, doing a review about two all-new flavor variations under that same banner. Raise your hand if you didn’t see this one coming, kids!

To begin, these things literally snuck up on me, as I had no idea there were Pepsi Next variations out there until I bumped into a display at the local supermarket. I hadn’t seen a single commercial, billboard or web ad for the new flavors, and if news about the products spread via word of mouth…most of the people in my social networks don’t have mouths, apparently. Hell, these new Pepsi Next drinks might just be the most furtive market launches since that time Sega decided to release the Saturn without telling retailers.

As you can see, there are TWO new Pepsi Next variations on the shelves. Surprisingly, these two were quite hard to come by in my neck of the woods, as I’d be able to find ONE of the varieties in two liter bottle form but not the other…and when I found ONE of the flavors in multi-can box form, the local chains wouldn’t have the other stocked. My sojourns to find these beverages in the same packaging had all the makings of a half-hearted Mr. Bean skit, I tell you what.

Eventually, I just gave up on my dream of having Pepsi Next offspring in the same form of containers, and picked up one of each in disparate packages. As a guy that really, really likes symmetry, I have to say that this was a task I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of.

First up, we have the Cherry Vanilla variety. Obviously, cherry and vanilla sodas aren’t that unusual - in fact, several big name manufacturers have already released cherry-vanilla hybrid colas. What makes Pepsi Next Cherry Vanilla different, I suppose, is…um, it’s Pepsi Next flavored, too? Yeah, that’s about it.

In case you were wondering, the soda, to me anyway, tasted more “Vanilla Coke” than it did “Red Fusion Dr. Pepper.” There’s definitely a cherry taste to it, but the vanilla flavor clearly has a bit more pull in the overall taste of the beverage. As often the case, the temperature of the cola alters the flavoring a bit, so if you take this stuff down room temperature, it’s probably going to have a bit more “cherry” to it. It also had a darker texture to it than the other variation, which my oh my, do I have quite a bit to say about.

While Pepsi Next Cherry Vanilla is a decent - albeit, rather typical - soda, it’s sibling is something altogether different. We’ve had cherry before, and we’ve had vanilla before. We’ve had blueberry, raspberry and cranberry sodas. We’ve had Coke with coffee in it, and Pepsi that was the same color as liquefied saline. But, pray tell, was the last time you’ve had a MANGO-flavored soda trickling down your esophagus?

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Pepsi Next Paradise Mango. And it is…well, not something an American soda enthusiast like me is really all that accustom to.

You know, the human tongue is a peculiar creature. Since our taste buds are so close together, I suppose that, every now and then, our tongues get a little confused and can’t decide whether or not something is sweet and delectable or sour and utterly icky. Mango, I guess, is a fruit that toes that line finer than any other tree-hanging, seed-bearing produce. At first sip, my head swam for a couple of seconds. There was this millisecond where I tasted sugar, and then…castor oil. And then, tire rubber. And after that…something that kind of tasted like a peach, except a little less starchy. All of this, I remind you, in the course of what couldn’t have been anything more than the time it takes most people to text “lol” on a cell phone pad.

Last Christmas, I visited the World of Coca-Cola, and got an opportunity to test out some international sodas. Simultaneously, the Paradise Mango blend reminded me of both the absolute best beverage I tried out - a South African delicacy known as Bibo - and the absolute worst thing I have ever ingested, this Italian piss-water called “Beverly.” Ultimately, I think the mango taste sort of shell shocked me when it first hit my taste buds, so I automatically tasted nothing but pure pain and agony until my mouth was able to recollect its wits. A lot like French kissing, Pepsi Next Paradise Mango is really gross and unusual at first, but after you try it out a few times, you realize that it’s actually pretty awesome (and another plus? I don’t think you can catch mononucleosis from Pepsi Next.)

For all of you health-savvy folks, the two products are essentially caloric kindred, boasting the exact same nutritional data. Both sodas, like Pepsi Next el regular, are 60 calories each, and all of the other vitals (sodium content, caffeine levels, etc.) are dead leveled. I really wouldn’t call the two products “healthier” soda options (there’s this thing called “water, I hear that’s apparently way better for you), but I suppose it’s preferable to sucking down a 64 ounce chalice of Code Red Mountain Dew.

Anyway, you can probably guess where my curiosity got the best of me. Like that part in “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” where the coroner can’t stop himself from eating Mr. Voorhees’ heart, there’s no way I could be in the proximity of these two sodas WITHOUT feeling the urge to merge them into a singularity of sodas. I fought as hard as I could, I really did, but at the end of the day? A mango-cherry-vanilla hybrid cola was all but inevitable.

The astounding thing here is that not only do the two sodas merge together rather well, the end result is actually…really good. As in, really, really good, way better than two divergently flavored sodas ever should taste while hanging out in the same cup. Once the colas fused, I think a couple of neutrinos of sugar collided head-on, and created this mass (albeit invisible to the human eye) explosion of artificial fruit-flavoring goodness. So Coca-Cola execs, take heed: a van-cher-go soda may not be a bad product to roll out come the holiday season.



There’s only so many things you can say about cola, and since I got 1,000 plus words out of these two, I suppose there’s not too much else to mull here. I plan on keeping least one of the Paradise Mango cans around, simply because you just know that come 2022, some nostalgic shit-head is going to be willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money on fermented soda water just because he feels pangs of remembrance whenever he looks at the design stamped on the metal. As a guy that routinely imbibes this stuff, I have to say that the two varieties are quite nice, and certainly improvements over the earlier Pepsi Next release - although I’m not completely sure we, as a culture, need anymore offshoots from the sub-branding.



Because I’m an “online curator” according to this one professor I had last summer (translation: I probably have Asperger’s) , I guess it would behoove the totality of humanity if I posted my official “first time” with each of these products with you. Please enjoy squandering the next 4 and half minutes of your life with this glorious waste of both high definition technologies and bandwidth.


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