REVIEW: Coca-Cola Orange (Japan)

Coca-Cola Orange (Japan)

In order to taste an orange-flavored Coca-Cola, you could do it the easy way.

That involves visiting one of the many Coke Freestyle machines throughout the country and selecting a Coke with orange flavoring. Here’s a link to help you find your nearest Coke Freestyle machine. There’s probably one within driving distance from you.

But if you want to taste an orange-flavored Coca-Cola the hard way, you could search eBay for someone selling Coca-Cola Orange, which is new in Japan, mull over spending $10 or more to purchase and ship a bottle from an eBay seller in Japan, decide to pull the trigger when you rationalize to yourself that it’s cheaper than flying to Japan, and then wait 1-2 weeks for it to arrive.

Guess which path I chose.

Yes, I took the harder option. I believe a wise man once said, “Satisfaction is sweeter when the tougher path is taken.” Or did I read that from a fortune cookie? Or is that a combination of inspirational song lyrics?

Anyhoo, I picked up a bottle of this limited edition soda from a seller in Japan for the low price of $3.99 plus $8.99 for shipping.

When it comes to new flavors, Coke in Japan is much more conservative than Pepsi Japan, who puts out exotic flavors like baobab, cucumber, and strawberry milk. The other Coke Japan flavor I tried was green tea. That might sound exotic to you, but in Japan green tea is like pumpkin spice in the U.S. It’s in everything.

Coca-Cola Orange (Japan) Closeup

Coca-Cola Orange has a slight orangey aroma to it and, when I hold it up to a light, it looks like it has a slight orange hue. To me, its flavor ratio is 70 percent Coke and 30 percent orange, which makes it taste 100 percent awesome, or as the Japanese would say, sugoi. That’s your Japanese lesson for the day and there will be a pop quiz at the end of this review.

I’ve had Coke with Lime and Coke with Lemon before, and the thing with those flavors was that they had a floor cleaner-ish vibe to them. But there’s none of that with Coca-Cola Orange. According to the label, there’s no fruit juice, so it’s not a natural orange flavor. The orange is artificial, but it definitely enhances the Coke with a pleasant sweet citrus flavor.

Now that I think about it, the flavor combination would make a great Coke Float. Imagine a Creamsicle Coke Float. That would be…what’s the Japanese word for awesome?

I told you there would be a pop quiz.

(Nutrition Facts – 100 ml – 47 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 11.7 grams of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Coca-Cola Orange (Japan)
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 500 ml
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Better tasting than Coke with Lime and Coke with Lemon. Orange doesn’t taste floor cleaner-ish. I think it would be great in Coke Float form. Doing things the easy way.
Cons: Not made with fruit juice. Pop quizzes. Spending over $10 per bottle when purchased from eBay. Kind of boring compared with the flavors Pepsi Japan comes out with. Doing things the hard way.

REVIEW: Pepsi True

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High fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. To some, they’re just ingredients on a label. To others, they’re a plague that has destroyed society. To me, they are the sweeteners that’ll haunt my liver for the rest of my life.

You will not find high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners in the new Pepsi True. Instead, you will find and taste old school and new school plant-based sweeteners — sugar and stevia. There’s also carbonated water, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavor, and caffeine.

Don’t let the green can fool you. It’s not a natural, environmentally friendly, St. Patrick’s Day celebrating, green tea containing, or 4/20 celebrating version of Pepsi. (Although I do imagine the can is bong-able.) It’s just a cola for those who stay away from high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. Coca-Cola has a similar product on the market called Coca-Cola Life.

However, while Coca-Cola Life can be purchased from stores, the only way to get your hands on Pepsi True is through online retailer Amazon. And you can’t just buy a 12-ounce can, a six-pack, or a 12-can fridge pack. You have to buy a nine dollar, 24-count case made up of adorable 7.5 ounce cans. Right now I imagine some of you doing math in your head. Stop what you’re doing and let me be your abacus.

SPOILER ALERT: Buying a case of Pepsi True from Amazon is pricey.

A 12-pack of regular Pepsi/Diet Pepsi/Pepsi Next in 12-ounce cans go for around three bucks. So if 24 cans will be around six bucks, then it’ll cost two cents per ounce. Now a 24-pack of 7.5-ounce cans of Pepsi True has 180 ounces and costs nine smackers. So it ends up at five cents per ounce. So Pepsi True per ounce is more than twice as expensive as any other Pepsi in cans. Oh, but nine dollars is not Pepsi True’s true cost. There’s also the shipping cost or the other items you have to buy in order to get free shipping on Amazon. Sometimes it’s a pain to spend $35.

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As a Pepsi fan, I was excited to try Pepsi True, but after drinking through the four cans I received from Pepsi, I don’t think I’ll be filling my Amazon shopping cart with cases of it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Pepsi True. It’s smoother and cleaner than regular Pepsi and Pepsi Next, which I adore. It has 10 fewer grams of sugar than a 7.5-ounce can of regular Pepsi. I dug that slight kola nut extract vibe it has, making it taste kind of like Pepsi Natural (although there isn’t any kola nut extract in the ingredients). Also, there isn’t any bitterness that usually comes with some stevia-sweetened products.

But it’s not good enough to make me want to pay a premium for these tiny cans from Amazon, even if I do have an Amazon Prime account. If Pepsi True ends up in brick and mortar stores and comes in larger sizes with prices equal to its HFCS and artificially sweetened bretheren, then I do see myself buying it on a regular basis.

However, if you’re a soda drinker who avoids high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, I imagine you would be willing to pay extra for Pepsi True since real sugar and stevia sodas tend to be pricier, like Mexican Pepsi and Coke, which are sweetened with real sugar, and Zevia soda, which contains stevia and monk fruit. So if you’re one of those people, I think Pepsi True a good option to have in the mostly high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweetener world we live in.

DISCLOSURE: I received free Pepsi True samples from Pepsi.

(Nutrition Facts – 7.5 ounces – 60 calories, 0 grams of fat, 20 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepsi True
Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 7.5 ounces
Purchased at: Received from Pepsi
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Smoother and cleaner than regular Pepsi. Fewer grams of sugar than regular Pepsi. No HFCS or artificial sweeteners. Has a kola nut vibe to it.
Cons: Right now, only available only on Amazon by the case in small 7.5-ounce cans. You’ll have to pay a premium for it. Spending more money to get free shipping on Amazon.

REVIEW: Rockstar Energy Horchata

Rockstar Energy Horchata

Let me start off this Rockstar Energy Horchata review by stating I’ve never had horchata before. And while I’m in the state of admitting things that make me sound boring, I’ve never watched a minute of the movie Titanic (the 1953 and 1997 versions), I haven’t traveled beyond the borders of North America, and I’ve never danced with a monkey under the moonlight to the sounds of endangered birds.

Horchata, according to the editors at Wikipedia, is a beverage that can be made from almonds, sesame seeds, rice, barley, or tigernuts, which I learned from Wikipedia are not tiger testicles. As I went deeper down into the Wikipedia hole I started by looking up horchata, I learned a dried tiger penis can sell for $2500 and is used as an aphrodisiac. Then I learned deer penis is also used as an aphrodisiac. Wait. What was this review about again? Tigernuts! No wait. Rockstar Energy Horchata.

Rockstar Energy Horchata, according to the can, is made using, “Fresh dairy, rice flour, and natural cinnamon flavors.” Although cinnamon isn’t listed in the ingredients, instead listed as “Natural Flavors,” its flavor stands out from the very first sip. It pretty much tastes like cinnamon milk.

Rockstar Energy Horchata 2

The dairy, which is whole milk, and the rice flour give the beverage its milky white color and some thickness. The non-carbonated Rockstar Energy Horchata looks so pure and innocent, but don’t let that fool you. This is one caffeinated beast that’ll make your heart thump like the bass drum at a metal concert. Rockstar’s Energy Blend that consists of, say it with me, guarana, ginseng, taurine, inositol, L-carnitine, and caffeine provides each can with 225 milligrams of sweet, heart-thumping caffeine.

For the most part it doesn’t taste like an energy drink. It’s creamy, smooth, and the cinnamon and dairy do a great job at masking Rockstar’s Energy Blend and the artificial sweeteners. However, the finish does take a slight dive towards bitterness, but as a regular energy drink drinker, I didn’t mind that.

There is another minor issue with the beverage. When I let an open can sit in the fridge for a few hours, some of the ingredients congealed into tiny bits. They didn’t affect the flavor and there were very few of them, but obviously the beverage wasn’t so smooth anymore.

I’ve had four Rockstar Energy Horchatas within the past week, so I guess that means I really like it, or there’s crack in it. Since I’m not having withdrawals, I’m going to say I really like it. So if you love the C words – caffeine and cinnamon – I’d suggest you try this energy drink.

(Nutrition Facts – 8 ounces – 100 calories, 20 calories from fat, 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, 6% calcium, 100% vitamin B6, 100% niacin, and 100% pantothenic acid.)

Item: Rockstar Energy Horchata
Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: 15 oz. can
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like cinnamon milk. Wonderful flavor. 225 milligrams of sweet, heart-thumping caffeine. Creamy and smooth, at first.
Cons: If left open in the fridge, some of the ingredients will congeal into tiny bits. Slight bitterness with the finish. Comes in what looks like a 16-ounce can, but has only 15 ounces of liquid. Going down Wikipedia holes.

REVIEW: Surge (2014)

Surge (2014)

I want to find someone who’s been living under a rock for the past 15 years. I would greet that person with a Motorola StarTAC phone in one hand and a can of the re-released Surge in the other, and then tell him or her that there hasn’t been much change in the world. The old flip phone and the 1990s graphics on the Surge can would surely give him or her comfort.

And then when I see that comfort in their face, I’d say, “Nah! Just kidding!”

Then I’d blow that person’s mind by pulling out an iPhone, making a phone call, then taking a selfie with the, most likely, smelly person, and then post that photo on Facebook. Then I’d tell him or her Surge was discontinued, but was brought back and now it’s sold only on the internet. And then I would follow that by singing, “Welcome to the jungle. We got fun and games. We got everything you want. Honey, we know the names. Sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na knees, knees.”

I’d also like to go back into time.

I’d travel to 2012 and post on the most popular Bring Back Surge Facebook page, “I’m from the future. Surge is coming back in 2014. Amazon will sell it. And, oh yeah, we figured out time travel. I just blew your mind twice!”

For those of you too young to remember Surge, or don’t want to look up Surge on Wikipedia, it was Coke’s caffeinated and radioactive green answer to Mountain Dew. Wait. Let me rephrase the previous sentence so that the soda nerds don’t have to adjust their glasses, raise their fingers to protest, and begin a sentence with “Actually.” Surge was Coke’s second answer to Mountain Dew. The still available, but not widely available, Mello Yello was Coke’s first answer to Mountain Dew. While Surge has a non-rhyming name, it’s radioactive green, mean, and full of caffeine.

Okay, I’m not sure about that mean part. I just added it in there for a rhyming effect.

To be honest, even though I’ve had many cans of Surge in my 20’s, I don’t remember what Surge tastes like, or if I preferred it over Mountain Dew, or if I signed some Bring Back Surge online petition, or if I used Surge to keep me up at night to play Nintendo Super NES in college while everyone else was partying. But what I do know is that Surge’s flavor is…how can I explain this without getting a bunch of hate mail from Surge fans…not what I would expect from a soda that’s marketed to the “extreme” crowd.

Although, it might appeal to the zombie crowd today because Surge came back from the dead and the can’s design makes it look like a zombie.

Surge (2014) Closeup

While Mountain Dew has a syrupy citrus flavor that has a slight bite, Surge’s flavor and mouthfeel is a bit more mature than that. And being mature myself, I’m fine with that. Fart. It tastes like there’s a combination of lime and orange (orange juice concentrate is one of its ingredients, just like Mountain Dew), and it’s smooth and not too syrupy, which makes it much easier to drink than Mountain Dew.

Here’s another way I could explain it: If someone were to blindfold me, serve me a Surge, and tell me I was drinking a clear citrus soda and called Citrue, “The Citrus Soda with True Flavor”, I would believe them.

Overall, it was nice to be able to revisit Surge. I enjoyed its flavor, it gave me a nice caffeine jolt (it has slightly less caffeine than Mountain Dew), and if I want to dress up as 1990’s Guy for Halloween, I’ll have a great prop.

A big thanks to Aaron over at The Soda Jerks for sending me a can of Surge, which stopped me from spending $10 plus shipping to buy a can off of eBay from some stranger, since Amazon keeps selling out.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – 230 calories, 0 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 56 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Surge (2014)
Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 16 oz. can
Purchased at: Received from an internet friend
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nice lime and orange flavor. Easier to drink and has a more mature flavor than Mountain Dew. 69 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine.
Cons: Has a flavor that I wouldn’t associate with “extreme.” Available online via Amazon, but they sell out quickly every time they get a new shipment. Available online via eBay, but get ready to pay 4-5 times more than it’s worth for one can. Has slightly less caffeine than Mountain Dew and a lot less caffeine than most energy drinks that didn’t exist in the late 1990s. Being introverted in college…and today.

REVIEW: Sprite Blast

Sprite Blast

There’s a Mitch Hedberg joke from the early 2000s.

“They say the recipe for Sprite is lemon and lime. But I tried to make it at home—there’s more to it than that. ‘Want some more homemade Sprite?’ Not ‘til you figure out what the f*** else is in it!”

It’s true. Homemade Sprite sounded impossible in 2003, when that joke was recorded for Hedberg’s second stand up album. Fast forward about a decade and homemade soda machines are in all the hippest kitchens, yet if someone yelled from the other room “Hey, man, what do I put into this thing to make Sprite?” my answer would probably end up being “Let’s just go buy some Sprite,” followed up with a 20-minute conversation about the time Rufio from Hook rapped in a Sprite commercial. Bangarang.

Sprite does feature that lemon-lime logo and, if I’m remembering correctly, advertisements in the 90’s with wet, airborne lemons and limes. But for a drink so closely associated with citrus, it lacks any sour bite whatsoever. Enter Sprite Blast. This is an iteration of the drink that tastes like it was possibly made with actual sour ass fruit, or at least the sugar they sprinkle on sour worms.

The fizz is typical of Sprite, seemingly softer than actual Coke, and sets the table for a mouth puckering that never comes. Sprite Blast has a slight sour jab that stimulates the roof of the mouth and tingles the top of the throat and never overwhelms, or whelms even. The American palate is not acclimated to sour tastes, sure. The only sour-tasting foods I can name have “sour” already in the name: Sour cream, sour pickles, sweet and sour sauce, sour grapes.

The one I most engage with is sour grapes, and that’s not even a food. I’m a master rationalizer, and didn’t really want to be a stupid astronaut anyway. It just seems like a lot of work. But Sprite Blast’s flavor is a bit anemic, even for sour neophytes. And it doesn’t necessarily play with the sugar in the drink that well either. The flavor doesn’t lilt at the end in concert with the sweetness, like a Sour Patch Kid. It just sorta lays there in your mouth like a stoned roommate. The drink is buffed of any extremes, like a mass-produced, focus-grouped product and mostly serves as a reminder of how freaking sweet regular Sprite is.

Sprite Blast 2

Sprite Blast comes in tiny 7.5-ounce cans for some reason, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe it costs that much more to produce the drink, or Coca-Cola wanted to visually differentiate it from other sodas on the shelf, but I keep searching for the “real” reason, like the can makes a particularly good bong or it can be easily fashioned into fireworks. Maybe 7.5 ounces of liquid is the perfect amount for some sort of alcoholic mixed drink, or codeine-cocktail krokodil. Maybe it fits easily into a regulation muffler, or into a body cavity.

Whatever the reason, the amount is about three-fourths a regulation soda but goes down like a shot. It’s so tempting to go “Woo!” right after and then huck the can across the room, like I just pledged some sort of dumb lemon-lime frat. Guys, tomorrow night we kidnap Sierra Mist’s mascot, which is actually a lonely guy wandering around Albertsons buying discount snacks for an ill-attended poker night.

The other thing about Sprite Blast is that it’s a 7-Eleven exclusive. Know this: Nobody is going to 7-Eleven just for Sprite Blast, which makes me think it’s there to pair well with something else. To be honest, I do think it would complement some 7-Eleven delicacies. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Pork rinds. Those gross-looking Doritos nuggets. Machine-rolled taquitos. Day-old hot dog. Lowrider magazine. A tin of Skoal Snus Mint. Sprite Blast would not go well with the Sausage McMuffin knockoff, Simpsons pink sprinkles donut or prophylactics.

Sprite Blast costs a buck at most 7-Elevens and is a low investment for a pretty low payoff. So no need for a homemade version, just spring for the real thing. And for those who still want to recreate it in the house, I think after reading the label, the secret ingredient is sodium benzoate.

(Nutrition Facts – 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 115 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar,and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Sprite Blast
Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 7.5 ounce can
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Actual sour flavors from Sprite. Could pair well with other 7-Eleven items, flavorwise.
Cons: Unremarkable. Comes in a teeny tiny can.