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REVIEW: Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar

Written by | July 28, 2014

Topics: 7 Rating, Pepsi, Soda

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar

Just like blue whales, the African wild ass, and Gary Busey’s sanity, commercial soft drinks made with real sugar seem endangered. Take a look at beverages found in your local convenience store. Most likely they’re sweetened with a processed corn syrup.

A Google search can reveal a multitude of negative health effects reportedly associated with the consumption of high fructose corn syrup. But a little bad press will never curb my soda consumption. After all, I don’t give a fructose what I put inside my body.

Nevertheless, soft drinks flavored with real sugar are making a comeback. All the cool kids are drinking them now, or at least that’s what the guy who sold me ninety crates of Mexican Coke told me.

Earlier this summer, beverage behemoth PepsiCo announced it would be manufacturing Pepsi Wild Cherry with real sugar for a limited time. Upon hearing the news, I hightailed it over to the nearest Walmart. I just couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to try Pepsi Wild Cherry, one of my favorite sodas of all time, made with that precious, ecstasy-inducing white substance. (No, not that one. The other white substance.)

If you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting Pepsi Wild Cherry, trust me, it doesn’t taste like cherry cough syrup mixed with soda. Lovers of purple drank, look elsewhere. (Sorry, Lil Wayne.) Pepsi Wild Cherry is a simple beverage, offering the same cola taste of regular Pepsi but with a slight cherry zing as the flavor develops on the tongue.

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar 2

But this isn’t the first time PepsiCo has released a soda sweetened with real sugar. Pepsi Throwback, introduced in 2009, contains beet sugar. Though it doesn’t taste like beets, Throwback’s flavor is noticeably different relative to standard Pepsi. Because I tend to prefer Throwback, I wondered whether I would favor Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar over the original.

It’s packaged in a pink can decked out with a retro Pepsi-Cola logo. In comparison to standard Pepsi Wild Cherry, the real sugar variant contains two grams less of sugar and ten fewer calories. The caffeine content and ingredients lists are identical — aside from the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup, of course.

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar 3

Poured into a glass, the sodas appear indistinguishable, sharing the same color, aroma, and amount of fizz. But what about taste? Is Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar preferable to its high fructose counterpart?

I tasted each soda in a variety of different manners. I tried them in both blind and not-so-blind taste tests, hoping to identify some true difference between the two beverages. I tried the sodas cold and at room temperature from freshly opened cans, and at room temperature served completely flat.

I wanted the real sugar variant to prove superior, but dagnabbit, these two sodas taste identical. At times, it tasted like one soda might be a hint more cherry-flavored or just a bit more fizzy on the tongue. But I was unable to re-recognize these qualities during a blind taste test. Maybe my cola-tasting palate hasn’t yet reached the level of sophistication needed to distinguish between the two. But I would be lying if I claimed to perceive a difference. If PepsiCo sought to create an exact duplicate of their original Pepsi Wild Cherry, they pulled it off. Both colas possess the same sweet cherry flavor, and both make me gassy beyond belief.

Unfortunately, this means there’s little reason to buy Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar unless you’re looking to avoid high fructose corn syrup. The flavors are identical — so why should I choose one over the other? I will likely continue drinking beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, even if it cuts a few years off of my life.

Meh, I review junk food on the Internet. I’ll probably die young anyway.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 150 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 30 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of total carbohydrates, 40 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar
Purchased Price: $4.28
Size: 12 pack/12 oz. cans
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes identical to regular Pepsi Wild Cherry. Made with real sugar, not HFCS. Not giving a fructose.
Cons: Doesn’t taste better than regular Pepsi Wild Cherry. Gassy food reviewers.

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REVIEW: Red Bull Summer Edition Energy Drink

Written by | July 24, 2014

Topics: 8 Rating, Energy Drink, Red Bull

Red Bull Summer Edition Energy Drink

Sure, Red Bull’s Summer Edition Energy Drink looks like a urine sample sitting in a drug testing lab. But, to be fair, regular Red Bull also looks like a urine sample sitting in a drug testing lab, but from someone who’s dehydrated because they’ve been hanging out for too long in the summer heat.

If you happen to find yourself parched from the summer heat, near a 7-Eleven, and with a couple of bucks, you can purchase a somewhat refreshing 12 ounces of this tropical flavored Red Bull in a can that will remind you of the sun that caused your current parched predicament. Or you could buy a more refreshing two liter bottled water that you can drink and, with the likely leftovers, use for an impromptu wet t-shirt contest, with you being the only contestant.

Red Bull Summer Edition is a 7-Eleven exclusive flavor. It joins a long list of exclusive beverages the convenience store chain has gotten this year, like Solar Flare Mountain Dew, Green Apple Gatorade Fierce, Raspberry Citrus Vitaminwater Energy, and Dale Jr. Sour Amp Energy Drink. Suck it, Circle K!

This yellow-colored energy drink has a generic tropical aroma. If you’re wondering what generic tropical smells like without having to buy anything, go to your local Walmart. Then mosey on over to the air freshener aisle, find a spray with the word “tropical” printed on it, spray some of it into the air, and inhale those chemicals. After all that, I think you’ll get an idea of what Red Bull Summer Edition smells like…and get dirty looks from Walmart employees.

Red Bull Summer Edition Energy Drink Closeupd

The beverage is lightly carbonated, which makes it easy to consume, but is less nose-tickling fun when poured into a glass. However, it’s taste bud-tickling fun when consumed. It has a delightful sweet flavor that wasn’t too syrupy. I could taste pineapple, orange, papaya, and maybe mango, but the pineapple stood out. It was almost like drinking pineapple juice, but there isn’t any pineapple, orange, papaya, or mango juice in the ingredients list. But there is “Artificial and Natural Flavors.” Vague? Yes. But not as vague as the last ingredient listed…

Red Bull Summer Edition Energy Drink Colors

…Colors.

I’m someone who likes the odd medicinal flavor of regular Red Bull and the odd medicinal artificial sweetener-laden flavor of Sugar Free Red Bull. I’m also a fan of the Red, Blue, and Silver Editions. But Red Bull’s Summer Edition is now my favorite flavor. It has a nice tropical flavor with a slight sour back end, it’s not too syrupy, and it comes in 12-ounce cans and not the smaller 8.4-ounce one.

I see myself urinating it out a lot this summer.

Disclosure: I received a free sample of Red Bull Summer Edition from Red Bull. I believe this satisfies the FTC requirement. If not, I shall add, I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

(Nutrition Facts – 160 calories, 0 grams of fat, 200 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 39 grams of sugar, less than 1 gram of protein, 140% niacin, 120% vitamin B12, 360% vitamin B6, and 70% pantothenic acid.)

Item: Red Bull Summer Edition Energy Drink
Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 12 oz. can
Purchased at: Received from Red Bull
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Nice tropical flavor. Not in an 8.4-ounce can. 114 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine per can. Smooth. Passing drug tests.
Cons: “Colors” is an ingredient? 7-Eleven exclusive. Limited edition. No juice. Not passing drug tests.

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REVIEW: Vitaminwater Zero Drops Revive Fruit Punch

Written by | July 10, 2014

Topics: 6 Rating, Vitamin Water, Water

VitaminWater Zero Revive Drops

Finally, a drink that combines two of my favorite things: a Vitaminwater brand beverage and the toil and satisfaction of making something with my own two hands. Enter Vitaminwater Zero Drops. With only a few effortless squeezes, you can enjoy the familiar taste of Vitaminwater right out of any glass of water or water bottle you have lying around.

In what could only have been a response to the general public demanding an additional step in the Vitaminwater drinking process (which was just too goddamn simple before), you can now forgo the accuracy of a formula created by food scientists and received positively by millions in favor of what you think should be done. That’s right, you.

Remember when you forgot your keys yesterday, walked into your house to get them, blanked for a second, ate some pretzels you had lying around, and left your house without your keys? Yeah, well now the creation of your own Vitaminwater can be in those same hands.

VitaminWater Zero Revive Drops with regular Revive

With the pressure on, I decided to try the Revive Fruit Punch flavor. Being a longtime fan of the bottled version, I was wondering how close the two would be in taste. Unfortunately, my local Stop & Shop only had the full calorie version of Revive, apparently unconcerned with what Google tells me will take a 30 minute walk to burn off, so it will have to do.

Because Vitaminwater Zero Drops offer little detailed instruction on how much concentrated fluid to add, my strategy was to slowly keep adding it into a glass of water until it matched the color of bottled version. After a few tries, I matched the same reddish pink tone as closely as I think is possible.

VitaminWater Zero Revive Drops comparison

Had I any last minute doubts which was which, the taste comparison would have revealed which one was made by a Glacéau bottling plant and which one was made on my living room table. While the Vitaminwater Zero Drops were able to create that distinct and pleasing Vitaminwater taste that is much lighter and less sweet than its sports drink and soda competition, it is definitely apparent that something is…well, off.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s like eating cereal dry because you’ve already poured it into a bowl before realizing that you’re out of milk. Even without milk, cereal is still pretty good, but, just like any type of make-it-yourself beverage, it’s still gonna taste just a little bit different. Despite the clear presence of that original fruit punch tastiness, it’s still hard to shake the feeling that something is definitely missing, and not in the regular zero-calorie way.

But you know, maybe the problem is just me. Try as I might, I will never be as accurate as the industrial robots that pump this stuff out in gallons per minute. Not really helping this issue however, is the fact that Vitaminwater Zero Drops use the word “drops” pretty lightly. Instead, its a laser beam of concentrated flavor firing at an incalculable rate into your water. (Be thankful Glacéau doesn’t make eye drops). So, until you are a veteran at administering Vitaminwater drops (which I have set as my next life-goal) you are going to have to get pretty familiar with administering intermittent taste tests after each squirt. But don’t worry, this isn’t really a problem unless you purchased Vitaminwater Zero Drops because you were hoping for a fast, convenient way to effortlessly enjoy Vitaminwater on the go.

But all in all, at least the “do it yourself” aspect of this product allows you the opportunity to finally connect with your grandfather the next time he reminds you he built his own damn house using only his “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality, and his subtle yet still uncomfortably palpable racism. Vitaminwater Zero Drops may require some elbow grease, but if for some reason you plan on being away from actual Vitaminwater for a while, it’s certainly the next best thing.

(Nutrition Facts – 8 fl oz prepared – 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 70mg potassium 0 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of
protein.)

Item: Vitaminwater Zero Drops Revive Fruit Punch
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 3 fl oz.
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: 18 servings of vitamin water for only four bucks. Stays mostly true to fruit punch flavor. Zero calories is not a lot of calories.
Cons: Not as effortless as it may appear. Forgetting your keys. Tastes mildly off from the original flavor.

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REVIEW: Starbucks Spiced Root Beer Fizzio Hand-Crafted Soda

Written by | July 2, 2014

Topics: 5 Rating, Fast Food, Starbucks

Starbucks Spiced Root Beer Fizzio Hand-Crafted Soda

I am fascinated by transformations. From The Wolf Man to Teen Wolf, I love to watch things slowly take on new forms. Especially if it involves becoming a wolf. I’m highly interested in one steady conversion in particular.

Over the past five years, Starbucks has undergone a metamorphosis from a somewhat upscale coffee bar into your run-of-the-mill fast food chain. Granted, it’s a “high-end” version of a fast food chain, but they cover all the basics. Instead of cheeseburgers, they prepare paninis. Instead of milkshakes, they offer a plethora of creamy iced beverages and Frappuccinos. Instead of Egg McMuffins, they hawk wraps and sandwiches with slow-roasted ham and Fontiago cheese. Instead of donuts, they sell scones and Mallorca sweet bread. I’m waiting for some hoity-toity French fries – maybe fingerling potatoes with rosemary and garlic?

The latest Starbucks item to fulfill their fast food roots initiative is the Fizzio™ Hand-Crafted Soda. Starbucks has introduced three new carbonated drinks — Spiced Root Beer, Golden Ginger Ale, and Lemon Ale.

I suppose the Golden Ginger Ale is for later when you’re puking your guts out after having whatever the hell Lemon Ale is supposed to be. (NOTE: The Starbucks press release says that Lemon Ale is “a refreshing, citrus-forward blend of real lemon juice with hints of apricot and ginger.” That ridiculous phrase “citrus-forward” sounds like a marketing term dreamed up by someone who doesn’t understand words anymore.) Anyway, I decided to go with the Spiced Root Beer. Frankly, to me, that flavor seemed to be the one closest to its origins as a diner staple.

After ordering the new drink, I watched a barista pull a carton labeled “Root Beer” from the mini-fridge and pour a small amount into my 12-ounce cup. Then she added ice. So… about that “hand-crafted” business… I don’t know what constitutes hand-crafting except for the fact that the barista had to pour the root beer base into a pitcher in order to make my drink. I wasn’t expecting much, but the phrase “hand-crafted” creates the image of careful measurements, stirring, and taste-testing. Or at least shaking something. Nah. In this case, hand-crafting just means pouring into a blender.

I have no idea what the barista did next, outside of pulling out a magic wand and hollering “Expecto Bubbletronum,” but my drink arrived appropriately sparkling. Apparently, the bubbles were created using a new Starbucks-trademarked contraption called The Fizzio™ machine. Basically, the machine carbonates any drink, so you can walk in and ask for a cold, fizzy whatever for an extra 50 cents.

Unfortunately, bubbles couldn’t save the Fizzio™ Spiced Root Beer from being a mostly bland and underwhelming beverage experience. According to the Starbucks website, the Spiced Root Beer flavor presents “the nostalgic taste of classic root beer with a deliciously unexpected twist – cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and star anise add a flavorful kick to this soda.”

Besides the fact that Star Anise sounds like the latest discovery in the Andromeda Galaxy, the use of these interesting spices is your proof that it’s the hoity-toity version of a regular old root beer. In reality, instead of a flavorful kick, it tastes more like a feeble nudge with an outstretched toe. The Fizzio™ Spiced Root Beer tastes like a watered-down version of regular old root beer, but that could be because it’s not full of high fructose corn syrup.

It was certainly spicy, but the flavor was more reminiscent of cinnamon gum — Kind of a delicate spiciness with just a hint of sweetness to balance it. It was an okay drink, but nothing I’d run back to Starbucks to get. I suppose that this is part of the transformation process. When you begin to change into something else, part of you dies forever. I would hope that if I began a metamorphosis, I would change into something that might go well with rum.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 fl oz. – 80 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 10 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar, 2% Calcium.).)

Item: Starbucks Spiced Root Beer Fizzio™ Hand-Crafted Soda
Purchased Price: $2.55
Size: 12 fl oz.
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Spiced with interesting spices. Bubbly. One of three new flavors. Lycanthropy.
Cons: A bland experience™. Hand-crafted = pouring into a blender. Getting nudged with a toe. “Citrus-forward.”

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REVIEW: Tropical 7UP

Written by | June 27, 2014

Topics: 6 Rating, Soda

Tropical 7Up

To most of the world, the word “tropical” bring to mind images of sandy beaches, colorful umbrellas blocking the sun gently, coconut drinks, a dramatic bead of sweat seductively rolling down near cleavage, and skies so deep blue they belong in a Michael Mann film.

To those who grew up in a tropical climate, it means butt-crack sweat, hair destroying humidity, stifling heat when the sea breezes refuse to come, body odor, regretful exposed tattoos on leathery old people, and weird fucking bugs with lots of legs and antennas.

Sorry to ruin it, but the tropics ain’t the shit you’re led to believe in those Royal Caribbean cruise line commercials. Hell no a coconut rum drink served by some vague Jamaican tinged Islanderish accent isn’t going to wash the memory of that flying cockroach flying in my mouth when I was walking my dog outside near some palm trees.

But I’m not an idiot. Like parents…sometimes the ideal is more important than reality.

Now I’m a 7UP guy. Nothing quenches the thirsties after mowing the lawn on a disgustingly hot day like a fresh out of the fridge 7UP. And if you have a Cherry 7UP, well now we’re talking. But now Tropical 7UP has made a quiet introduction. However, the can will definitely catch your eye because it’s a nice bright orange with the iconic 7UP logo emblazoned in large print.

At Epcot, Coca-Cola has this place where you can try all these international varieties for free called Club Cool. Trust me when I say this, I will drink the bitch out of some Beverly, a bitter soda from Italy. Everyone else makes faces like they are either in mid-orgasm or suffering from pain when they drink it.

The reason I bring this up is because I assumed Tropical 7UP was going to taste like those strange Fanta sodas from Latin countries or China that all the kids pine for inside Club Cool. Those Fantas just suck as they are full of depressing, indistinguishable melon flavors and are heavy handed with the sugar.

Tropical 7Up Closeup

Upon pouring Tropical 7UP in a glass, imposing but vague melon tones erupted out, which was followed by a sickly sweet smell. I was turned off by it and wasn’t encouraged. A second pour released a faint pineapple scent I did not initially notice. I poured more and the smell of the orange zest peeked through.

I took a sip and was surprised. The taste was a refreshing balance of light melon and citrus, but the type of melon and citrus were indistinguishable. However, these flavors and scents, when combined, created images of a sunny beach with breezes lightly kissing your skin. I swear I could hear the steel drums playing in the distance. The crispness of the first cold sip was welcoming and the second washed away thoughts of unwillingly fellating a flying cockroach.

The citrus flavors complement the melon and only add to the refreshment. I have to give a nod to 7UP for not going too hard on the sweetness, but like one who argues but knows they are wrong, I spoke too soon. It makes me a bit sad to acknowledge that there is a lingering sweetness that ruins it after a while because each sip intensifies this to the point where your tongue is covered in syrupy sweetness.

Like a shandy, the key is you need to drink this thing ice cold or else the cloying sweetness will overpower the beverage. Also like a shandy, a few sips are really enough because I can’t imagine anybody wanting to drink the entire sixteen ounce can.

Also, as soon as it warms up slightly, the soda is ruined for me. The sweet finish overpowers the taste and you’re left with a three parts powdered fruit punch to one part water type of drink. I cannot stress enough how the sweetness just strangles you. In fact, I’m not sure if children could down the entire can unless they were the offspring of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – 190 calories, 0 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 50 sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Tropical 7UP
Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 16 oz can
Purchased at: Publix
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: When very cold, this drink is crisp and refreshing. Killer Klowns. The melon flavors are light. The citrus tones compliment the melon flavor. The idea of tropical.
Cons: When getting less cold, the drink is sluggish and too sweet. John Wayne Gacy and clowns in general. The heaviness of the sugar kills the drink. One cannot finish a whole can unless one wants to get diabetic neuropathy and blindness. The reality of tropical.

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