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.

REVIEW: Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar

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.

REVIEW: Red Bull Summer Edition Energy Drink

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.

REVIEW: Vitaminwater Zero Drops Revive Fruit Punch

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.