REVIEW: Starbucks Violet Drink

Starbucks Violet Drink

My wife and stepdaughter are local thespians and recently appeared in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, surely the only Broadway musical to begin as a grade school Easter pageant. The show includes a number introducing the titular wardrobe piece, a catchy tune detailing all TWENTY-NINE colors used in the robe, including everyone’s favorites: ochre, fawn, russet, and mauve!

Maybe Starbucks should seek a partnership with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice because a Fawn Drink and Russet Drink would be awesome. But for now we have the viral Pink Drink, fashion-forward Ombre Pink Drink, and the new Violet Drink. Lady Gaga, no stranger to the charms of ALW, has teamed with the Seattle behemoth on the “Cups of Kindness” campaign, which the new beverage is a part of.

Starbucks Violet Drink 3

The drink is a simple combo of Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher, coconut milk, freeze-dried blackberries, and ice. The liquid components and ice were combined in a cocktail shaker, while I patiently tried to avoid making an obligatory Bond joke. (Special thanks go out to the People’s Plaza Starbucks staff, who took my odd questions in stride and allowed me to traverse the drive-thru without an order to snap shots of the drink signage that wasn’t inside the store).

Starbucks Violet Drink 4

The faded hue of the drink certainly fits the billing. The texture was smooth with a light mouthfeel, and the taste is sweet in the right ways — balanced and not overwhelmingly so. This is a nice upgrade on the Refresher itself, which I always found to be overly tart and a little jarring as a result.

The drink was certainly fresh-tasting, and reminded me of a melted smoothie or Orange Julius variant, but better than either one. The flavor is not complex. It’s really a one-note berry flavor, with only a vague floral indication in the background. Despite that, I never got sick or bored of the drink and finished it quicker than many other LTO Starbucks offerings.

Starbucks Violet Drink 2

I strongly suggest that you do not eat the freeze-dried blackberries on their own (while realizing that in our meta-culture you surely will do as such following my warning). They largely clumped together in a foamy portion of the beverage and only mildly defrosted, crunching like Pop Rocks in my mouth without the summer berry goodness you would desire.

I typically think of non-coffee drinks at Starbucks falling into two categories: for the non-coffee drinker who went with a friend to Starbucks, or a way to avoid caffeine in the later hours of the day. But because the drink is built using the Refreshers, which are caffeinated due to green coffee extract, that theory runs drier than Joseph’s manipulative interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dream. Is this drink for you? If you’re dreaming in violet, Donny Osmond predicts you’ll love this.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – 110 calories, 25 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 45 milligrams of caffeine.)

Purchased Price: $5.75
Size: Trenta
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Sippable sweetness. Higher quality than your typical smoothie. Dreaming in pastels. More refreshing than then Refreshers line. Colorful Canadian fun!
Cons: Caffeinated non-coffee beverages at SBUX. Blackberries defrosting slower than the polar ice cap. Millennials that think camo, rainbow, and plaid are colors.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Signature Crafted Recipes

McDonald s Signature Crafted Recipes

Baseball has been deemed “America’s pasttime” since these uniforms (photo attached) were en vogue, but now the typical game takes longer than an actual marathon.

MLB is engaging in steps to improve interest in their game, like the intentional walk signal. But their best move has been a change to their vaunted 7th inning anthem: “We’ll buy you nuggets in 4 or 6 packs.”

The Mid-Atlantic teams have partnered with the Golden Arches to bring free McNugget promotions on their app. The beleaguered Phillies have offered a free 4-piece whenever they score three runs. Their more successful counterparts, the Orioles and Nationals, have higher standards along with bigger rewards: four runs nets you a 4-piece, with six, ten, and twenty nuggets also attainable. (Notably, the Nats have restricted their rewards to home games, presumably due to road games in Colorado). Rest assured, if either club surpasses the 20-run plateau, I will make my way through the Chesapeake region, with a tank full of gas and a bunch of “burner phones.”

McDonald’s isn’t just trading nuggets for bloated ERA’s. They’re also giving you a chance to be a manager of the toppings on your own sandwich. The new Signature Crafted Recipes line attempts to emulate quick-service burger joints like Five Guys and SmashBurger by allowing you to customize your sandwich.

McDonald s Signature Crafted Recipes 2

Just don’t expect a plethora of choices. The options are limited to two bun choices, three protein choices, and three topping styles. That’s still enough combos to fill out a lineup card for both teams. We here at the Impulsive Buy selected the three featured options — the Mays, Mantle, and Snider of the bunch, if you Will(ie).

McDonald s Signature Crafted Recipes Pico Guacamole

Batting leadoff was the Pico Guacamole with grilled chicken on the artisan roll. Discovering the first major fast food sandwich adorned with a lime wedge was like taking a big lead off first base. However, finding out that my hands would become messier from this sandwich than holding a rosin bag was something of a detraction.

The grilled chicken patty was relatively standard, although there was some spice and it wasn’t dry, so there were positive attributes. The artisan roll was soft but not mushy. I enjoyed the guacamole -— it fell short of feeling homemade, but was far better than Subway’s recent offering. The lime gave everything a fresh feel, even after I brought the sandwich home for inspection before consuming.

This sandwich was not a five-tool player. It did have holes in its game. Namely the pico de gallo, which was not a distinguishable flavor with the much stronger flavored guac. The white cheddar cheese was also invisible, as I would soon find out it was on all three sandwiches.

McDonald s Signature Crafted Recipes Sweet BBQ Bacon

On deck was the Sweet BBQ Bacon, with Buttermilk Crispy Chicken, also on the artisan roll (why they didn’t “load the bases” with three bread options as well is perplexing). The chicken patty was somewhat like a McChicken patty, but with a little more TLC. However, the size of the patty was only marginally thicker than the bun, which pales in comparison to the also recently released KFC Zinger. Conversely, I might say this sandwich exceeds the Zinger in spiciness. The heat builds as you eat and made me enjoy this more as I dug in.

The sandwich was onion heavy, which I appreciated (I’ll often order extra on fast food). There were two types. The sautéed onions, that tasted legit, and frizzled onions, which largely just added to the overkill of breading from the patty and bun.

The bacon was the final detail. It was nice and salty on its own, but its impact was suppressed by the other ingredients when eaten together.

McDonald s Signature Crafted Recipes Maple Bacon Dijon

In the hole was the Maple Bacon Dijon, with a beef patty (perhaps “burger” is on Vince’s McMahon’s list) on a sesame seed bun. Dijon was a new, interesting taste, although it appears in some bites and vanishes in others. Otherwise, this was the most familiar flavor combination for Mickey D’s. As for the maple? None was detected. It was indicated that maple seasoning was added to the bacon, but when I tried the bacon solo it appeared to be standard.

I suppose these were the same grilled onions that appear on the BBQ version, but against the backdrop of the stronger flavor beef patty, they did not stand out nearly as much.

The bacon wasn’t that noticeable here either amidst a sea of lettuce and again the stronger tasting burger. It seemed a little wimpier this time, although before you start computing the WAR (Working As Refreshment) stat, I did order each sandwich from a different location, so maybe the differences can be attributed to that factor.

In the end, the concept of “premium crafted sandwiches” is no different than Wendy’s LTO offerings, but with three released at the same moment. If McDonald’s wants a premium line to last, they will have to consider a larger product. “Fast foodies” do exist these days, but they still want to be satiated by the food. When it came to these members of the lineup, I didn’t get a complete game out of them. I still had to trust the bullpen (value menu) to finish it out.

(Nutrition Facts – Pico Guacamole Grilled Chicken – 520 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 1540 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, 40 grams of protein. Sweet BBQ Bacon Buttermilk Crispy Chicken – 800 calories, 320 calories from fat, 36 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1820 milligrams of sodium, 80 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fiber, 39 grams of protein. Maple Bacon Dijon Beef Patty – 640 calories, 330 calories from fat, 36 grams of fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 110 milligrams of cholesterol, 1260 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 37 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.79 to $5.29
Size: N/A
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Pico Guacamole Grilled Chicken)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Sweet BBQ Bacon Buttermilk Crispy Chicken)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Maple Bacon Dijon Beef Patty)
Pros: Sauteed onions. Building BBQ heat. Lime wedge freshness. Hunter Greene’s potential to join the 20 HR / 20 SB / 20 win club.
Cons: None of the options are large enough. White cheddar is irrelevant. Gusto de pico es pequeno. The Twins passing on Greene with the number one pick.

REVIEW: Pepsi 1893 Citrus Cola

Pepsi 1893 Citrus Cola

When the NCAA Basketball Tournament became “March Madness,” a national spectacle filled with office pools, unexplainable sick days, and an increase in vasectomies, it wasn’t long before morning radio shows and Buzzfeed slideshows wanted to get in on the excitement.

However, basketball isn’t everyone’s cup of tea — and thus bracket-style “tournaments” began to pop up ranking candy bars, vacation activities, and comic book villains.

Much like turkey with the trimmings or costume wearing, bracket-fying should no longer be restricted to seasonal status. Welcome to TIB’s first-ever grapefruit-flavored cola bracket!

Pepsi 1893 Citrus Cola 2

#4 1893 Citrus Cola over #1 1893 Citrus Cola was upset city baby! 1893 Citrus Cola is a PTPer (Pepsi Thirst Pleaser)! Dick Vitale Impression intonation!

So 1893 Citrus Cola appears to be the first grapefruit cola. The can is small, sleek, and slender, and felt like a kid brother compared to the Mountain Dew White Label can I picked up at the same time. It does come in a burnt orange color, setting it apart from the other three 1893 variations as a brighter look.

Pepsi 1893 Citrus Cola 3

Grapefruit essence is noted on the side of the can, and although it doesn’t appear specifically on the ingredients list, “Natural Flavor” appears higher than usual, and perhaps includes for the grapefruit. When you open the can, you’re hit with a strong, refreshing grapefruit scent that shouldn’t be unexpected, but is. Perhaps years of Fresca disappointment had biased my expectations.

The soda’s taste was very effective. Cola out in front, followed by a noticeable, pleasing grapefruit taste that lingered appropriately as an aftertaste as well. The execution reminded me of Pepsi Blue, another product that overcame my cognitive dissonance of a fruit and cola flavored beverage that delivered what it intended, arguably exceeding those expectations by having the flavors occur sequentially.

In March, an unexciting team that executes well is always a pretty good bet to go on a deep run. But there’s a reason few people pick Butler, Xavier, or Wichita State to go far in their brackets. A grapefruit cola is not likely to appeal to many, and my primary reaction to the product is “who is going to buy this?”

If that “who” is you -— the kind of person that appreciates offensive efficiency ratings and senior-laden squads — then 1893 Citrus Cola will surely outplay their seed. Just know that they’ll likely be right back “on the bubble” come next March.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 150 calories, 0 grams of fat, 55 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 39 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 2 for $3 (on sale)
Size: 12 oz. can
Purchased at: Country Maid Deli
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Innovative flavor combination. High marks for execution. Stands out on the shelf.
Cons: Questionable market for grapefruit cola. Pricey for a small can. Being told by the dental hygienist I should no longer sip on soda. Pat Riley will probably trademark “Greatfruitest.”

REVIEW: Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero

AP English nerds rejoice! The world has redeveloped an interest in classic dystopian novels, the likes of which “Cliff Notes” developed an entire business off the laziness of the rest of us.

At the top of the list stands “1984”, the seminal Orwell work about the sacrifices of personal privacy in modern society and how individuality can be suppressed through fear.

This resurgence is just in time for a new development. When the Coke Freestyle soda fountain, seemingly a paragon of choice, was released eight years ago, numerous pundits referenced “1984” in regards to one feature: that each Freestyle machine collects data on the beverages we have dispensed for “Big Bubbler” at the “Ministry” in Atlanta. For the first time, that data has been put into play, as the two most popular choices have been bottled and rolled out nationwide.

Moving past the debate about privacy invasions that are just as commonplace at the grocery store and Amazon.com these days, cherry soft drinks have been popular since the 1930’s, and it’s no surprise Cherry Sprite is the top Freestyle option for most anyone – other than the namesake of one version of the concoction. Apparently identity appropriation doesn’t get you a seat on the “Good Ship Lollipop”.

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero 2

The press release states: “Formulations for the fountain and bottled versions of Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero vary”. Let’s hope this isn’t like heading to a Chevrolet dealership to find out the SS Sedan doesn’t look like this.

Sprite Cherry and Cherry Zero are clear, identical to original Sprite, but unlike the red-tinted versions that come from the Freestyle. The initial scent of Sprite Cherry was a strong cherry, with the citrus notes fading in at the end. Sprint Cherry Zero was less distinct, fruity and fresh but not as discernible.

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero 3

Sprite Cherry was a wonderful experience. It was crisp and really suggested a balance of cherry with a lemon/lime combo and equal in sweetness to original Sprite. It was one of the best new bottled sodas I have tried in recent years.

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero 4

Sprite Cherry Zero was adequate, but in comparison to Sprite Cherry, was a relative disappointment. No individual flavor stood out. This was a particular letdown as cherry flavors have proven very effective in no-cal soft drinks. Cherry Coke Zero, Diet Dr. Pepper Cherry, and Diet Mountain Dew Code Red stand as some of my all-time favorites.

The primary reason is that the strong cherry flavor seems to make up for the artificial sweeter, resulting in a less diet-feeling experience. Coke may have tried to achieve the balance of cherry with the other flavors in the full sugar version, but it was the wrong call in the diet version.

My hopes for a new go-to diet drink were dashed as abruptly as Winston’s fleeting happiness before the novel’s climax. Sprite Cherry might end up with more staying power, as an enjoyable but not radically different option (Ministry of Plenty approved!)

As for me, I’ll go back to dreaming about my soft drink “dark haired girl” – when Coke decides to add Mango, Watermelon, Pomegranate, and Chocolate options to the Freestyle – or my “Golden Country” – a Pepsi Spire machine near my home.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 fl ounces – Sprite Cherry – 200 calories, 0 grams of fat, 110 milligrams of sodium, 55 grams of carbohydrates, 54 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein. Sprite Cherry Zero – 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 55 milligrams of sodium, less than 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 2 for $3.50
Size: 20 oz. bottles
Purchased at: Wawa
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Sprite Cherry)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Sprite Cherry Zero)
Pros: Freestyle feedback leading the R&D process. Balanced Cherry hit of Sprite Cherry. Brave New World. Fahrenheit 451. It Can’t Happen Here.
Cons: Not enough cherry “umph” in Sprite Cherry Zero. Uber-safe options coming from the Freestyle (no Grape Mello Yello?). The Pepsi Spire locator map that indicates a Subway next door to where I work in Delaware that is actually in Saskatchewan.

REVIEW: Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch

My seven year old son is clearly a college “dudebro” in training. His perfect day involves lying on the couch in his underwear watching cartoons and playing video games. His favorite bands are Fall Out Boy and Green Day. He’s earned the nickname “Dude Imperfect” for his desire to watch, recreate, and innovate sportz trickshot videos.

His eating habits are the most reflective of his inner fratboy. However, as he’s a decade away from the Freshman Fifteen, no junk food seem to put a pound on his lanky frame. This is most evident in his Doritos Locos Tacos appetite, and he was rush-week excited to try the new Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch.

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 2

I prepared four pieces in the toaster oven and eight pieces in the conventional oven.

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 3

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 4

Slightly smaller in diameter but four times as thick as traditional Doritos, these snacks are sprinkled with something breadcrumb-ish, as well as a muted version of the expected red and green Cool Ranch seasoning.

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 6

The pieces looked practically the same fully cooked, except that some interior cheese spurted out of every piece onto to the pan via both cooking methods. The cheese did remove easily and remain on each piece, resembling a cross between a mohawk and a pizzelle.

The whole family weighed in positively. Comparisons to pizza rolls and mac ’n’ cheese bites were both apt. The consensus views:

  • Same from the toaster and conventional oven
  • Not crisp like a chip
  • Tasted like Cool Ranch, but should have been seasoned more liberally
  • The interior cheese has nice salty flavor and softer textural elements, but the product failed entirely to deliver on the graphic shown on the box of stretchy pull-apart cheese. In fact, the autopsy photo below indicates a nearly hollow product with slight remnants of cheese clinging to the outer walls.

Doritos Loaded Cool Ranch 5

Despite the noted shortcomings, we all enjoyed these. As predicted, the future Epsilon Kappa Gamma founder was the most effusive, instantly rating them a 10/10 and subsequently remarking they would have earned an 11/11 had the center cheese been as displayed.

He clearly hasn’t developed certain college attributes yet, including a sense of cynicism that regresses most every experience toward the mean. After all, he’s 7 — and so is the rating for this product.

(Nutrition Facts – about 3 pieces – 270 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 690 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.98
Size: 15 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Compares favorably with other breaded appetizers. Cool Ranch taste. Tasty interior cheese. Potential scholarships in dizzy golf and slip ’n’ slide football.
Cons: Too little interior cheese. Not enough Cool Ranch seasoning.