REVIEW: Mtn Dew Green Label

Mtn Dew Green Label

Kiwis and I had a pretty good relationship.

I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand, kiwi birds are my favorite animals, and during elementary school lunchtime I would’ve happily traded a Ziploc full of half-crushed Oreo cookies (worth more in those days than gold dust) for a Strawberry Kiwi Capri-Sun.

But that relationship was tested when I was forced to watch a peer eat an entire kiwi fruit like an apple—a grueling sight that would make the Ludovico Technique feel like Sesame Street. I understand that many of you will probably defend this practice, but let me tell you, when I cracked open my can of green apple kiwi-flavored Mtn Dew Green Label, all I could hear was the haunting crunch of canine teeth piercing hairy kiwi skin.

I think I want my baggy of sandwich cookie smithereens back.

Despite these preexisting prejudices, I will give Green Label some credit: its premise is more interesting than Mtn Dew White Label, which was essentially a white grape sequel to Black Label that tasted more like a Phantom Menace-esque prequel. I had hopes that Green Label would close Dew’s first Label trilogy off right, mostly because the stuff is the same color as Luke’s lightsaber in Return of the Jedi.

Mtn Dew Green Label 2

Seriously, this stuff is green: greener than Kermit the Frog after too many Midori and Ecto-Cooler mixers. But even though it’s about 50 shades of Oz darker than original Mountain Dew, my first sip of Green Label just tasted like watered down Dew. It took a few swirls, swishes, and elevated pinky fingers before Green Label’s tarter green apple notes began to develop behind its syrupy lemon-lime base.

Despite its largely natural ingredients, this soda doesn’t taste much like a real green apple. I know: big surprise coming from a fine beverage brand that pairs with authentically cheese flavored hors d’oeuvres like Doritos. Green Label’s mild carbonation sort of mimics the refreshing crispness of a Granny Smith, but the drink’s leading fruit flavor is closer to an artificial green apple candy.

On a scale of “Green Apple Skittle” (that filthy, lime-killing Brutus) to “Green Apple Jolly Rancher,” Mtn Dew Green Label’s tasty tanginess is about a “Green Laffy Taffy.” Not too sweet, not too biting, this green apple flavor is pleasantly juicy, but still tragically underpowered compared to the core Dew taste.

Speaking of oppressed flavors in a puppet Dew-mocracy, Green Label’s faint kiwi taste only emerges near the tail end of every gulp. Its lightly floral, tropical melon twist reminds me of a Strawberry Kiwi Propel, and my secret conspiracy theory is that PepsiCo diluted Green Label with that very same electrolyte drink —- hence why it’s kind of watery.

Mtn Dew Green Label 3

But even if this Dew is nefariously spiked with the kiwi-flavored stuff plants crave, it’s still worth trying for the aftertaste alone. For a brief, magical moment at each sip’s end, Green Label’s apple and kiwi flavors merge to produce a delightfully sweet, trachea-crackling fruit cocktail that tastes like green Wonka Fun Dip.

Seriously, if I could bottle just that fleeting flavor, I’d have something more addictive than Soylent Green with a side of Green Eggs & Ham.

Overall, Mtn Dew Green Label’s advertised flavors may be too mild and washed out, but in those rare instances when both green apple and kiwi work, they work memorably enough that your taste buds will want to frame them right next to your uvula.

To use another Force-sensitive analogy: if White Label is the Jar Jar Binks to Black Label’s Qui Gon Jinn, then I think we found his soda Obi-Wan.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, 80 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 35 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.79
Size: 16 fl oz. can
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Straight-off-the-Lik-a-Stix aftertastes. The surprisingly palatable union of Laffy Taffy and power sports beverages. Enjoying the taste of plain Dew enough to like this stuff regardless. Having cheese platters on hand for emergencies. Using “trachea-crackling” as a compliment.
Cons: Authoritarian lemon-lime Dew-tatorships. Watered-down sugar water. Meek apple-kiwi wallflowers. The non-existence of fancy Limburger Doritos to pair this with. Et tu, Skittles?

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: Mtn Dew White Label

Mtn Dew White Label

Gather ‘round, kids: it’s time for a Choose Your Own Adventure story!

You are Mountain Dew Pitch Black, a heroic soda knight whose early 2000s Halloween conquests — and recent 2016 revival — made him the sugary stuff of legends and memories alike.

But although you’re a more mythic Mountain than Olympus, people aren’t as charmed by radioactively purple syrup as they used to be. So if you don’t want to join Heinz EZ Squeeze in Violet Valhalla, you’ll have to grow up.

Which path will you take at this pivotal crossroad?

If you choose the dark path, turn to a different review.

If you choose the light path, turn to the next page and prepare to see a threatening, all-caps THE END that’ll make you glad you kept your thumb on the previous page.

Why? Because while Mountain Dew’s recent Black Label was a deliciously classy Pitch Black who grew up to host dinner parties and own an art house theater, this new White Label tastes like an adult Pitch Black who bitterly yells at the local news with his mouthful of lukewarm Hungry Man dinners.

Mtn Dew White Label 2

Enough doom, gloom, and microwaved rib eye for now: let’s start with the positives. Mountain Dew White Label does preserve much of the grape flavor that makes Pitch Black great, without the syrupy discomfort that Pitch Black’s many grams of sugary slugs slime onto the back of your throat. At only 35 grams of sugar and 140 calories per can, this comparatively light Dew won’t leave you shamefully feeling like you drank a Nickelodeon prop.

I say “much of the grape flavor,” because the fruitiness is lighter, too. The white grape juice concentrate lacks the sour, tangy punch of its red sibling, but it replaces it with an unparalleled crispness that’s nearly floral. It’s no chardonnay, but I can see this flavor appealing to a niche audience of Dew snobs.

Unfortunately, that’s the nicest thing I can say about Mtn Dew White Label. Because once the white grape flavor fades, an unwelcome orange backend takes its place. The can claims that White Label is “Dew with Crafted Tropical Citrus,” but the bitter, acrid tang of this orange finish just tastes like the juice of a wrinkly tangerine that was infused with expired SunnyD and the pity tears of a passing pineapple.

In short: this tropical shipwreck’s more LOST than Gilligan’s Island.

Mtn Dew White Label 3

Mtn Dew White Label isn’t undrinkable, and it might work for those seeking a super smooth soda that won’t pummel their trachea with the aggressive jabs of a million bubbles, but Black Label just tastes superior in every way. White Label is pretty much Diet Black Label (it contains Sucralose, and you can tell), and since Black Label was already a less carbonated Pitch Black, this new Dew’s one degree of separation too far away to be worth it.

So please, young Pitch Black, if you’re reading this, disregard Master Kenobi and embrace the power of the Dark Side.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 can – 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, 70 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 35 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.69
Size: 16 oz. can
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: White grape concentrate that’s crisper than Denny’s hash browns. Not feeling like my taste buds went on Double Dare. Liquid opacity that rivals Crystal Pepsi. Pairing this with Doritos for a low-budget wine & cheese night.
Cons: Diet Diet Pitch Black. Cantankerous citrus aftertastes. Pineapple pity parties. Suddenly: sucralose! Never getting to eat purple ketchup again. Throwing so much shade they could’ve called it “Grey Label.”

REVIEW: Coca-Cola Plus Ginger (Japan)

Coca-Cola Plus Ginger (Japan)

For most of my life I’ve thought of ginger as more of a medicine than an ingredient.

When I felt nauseous playing DOOM, I sucked on ginger candy. When I felt something funny in my tummy while watching someone play DOOM, I drank ginger ale. And when it felt like the room was spinning around every time I closed my eyes after playing DOOM, I hung out next to the toilet.

While ginger ale is quite possibly the most popular beverage with ginger, more drinks are being offered with it, like ginger beers, ginger kombucha, and, last year, Pepsi put some into their wonderful 1893 Ginger Cola.

Because of my love for Pepsi’s craft ginger cola, the first thing I sought out during my Japan trip was the new Coca-Cola Plus Ginger.

While Pepsi Japan comes out annually with limited edition soda flavors you’ve never seen in a PETE plastic soda bottle, Coca-Cola Japan keeps it simple by just adding a bit of flavor to the standard Coke and does it at an Olympics-like frequency. About three years ago, Coca-Cola Japan sold a delicious orange-flavored Coke.

It’s funny that the Pepsi Japan flavors are like ideas from a cocaine binge (cucumber, baobab, cherry blossom), while the cola that once had actual cocaine in it ends up being tame.

Much like the amount of orange flavoring in the last limited edition Japanese Coke I had, this soda had the right amount of ginger flavor. You can’t miss it, but it doesn’t overwhelm the cola. To be honest, it tastes right at home with the cola spices. Also, it didn’t burn, like it does with ginger beer. Coca-Cola Plus Ginger is such a great tasting soda that I bought two more bottles at the end of my trip.

If you enjoyed Pepsi’s ginger cola, you’ll like this, if you get your hands on it. It’s only available in Japan for a limited time (it was available in Australia in 2016) or from an online Japanese snack seller. If you think you’ll be able to replicate it by mixing Coca-Cola with Seagram’s Ginger Ale, you won’t because I tried using various ratios and none of them tasted anything close.

I really hope Coca-Cola Plus Ginger ends up in the United States, or at least be an option on a Coke Freestyle machine.

(Nutrition Facts – 100 ml – 44 kcal, 0 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sodium, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 130 Japanese Yen
Size: 500 ml
Purchased at: Lawson Station
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: If you’re a fan of Pepsi’s 1893 Ginger Cola, you’ll like this. Right amount of ginger flavor. Ginger complements the cola spices. Doesn’t have ginger burn.
Cons: Not available in the U.S., but might be available through online Japanese snack sellers. The nauseous feeling I got when playing DOOM.

REVIEW: Mtn Dew Mango Heat Game Fuel

Mtn Dew Mango Heat

If you asked me to write down the flavors that remind me of October, I assure you that “mango” and “spicy heat” would both fall pretty low on that list, right there near the bottom with “overcooked pork chop,” “accidentally ingested Reese’s wrapper,” and “neighborhood bully knuckle sandwich.”

There’s really no logical reason for Mountain Dew’s new Mango Heat Game Fuel to debut after summer, unless the titular flavors are meant to symbolize global warming and all the unsold overstock from Trader Joe’s recent mango mania. I understand that Mango Heat doesn’t need to make sense, since it’s only meant to tie-in with the upcoming video game Titanfall 2, but as a meticulous Halloween fanatic, I want everything I consume this month to taste appropriately spooktacular.

It’s why every steak I eat in October oozes blood, every pizza is extra saucy, and every PB&J has enough J to create an impressive splash zone around me when I bite into it.

So Mountain Dew should’ve just tied this drink to the new Resident Evil zombie game and called it “Blood Orange Game Fuel.” Because as I quickly found out, that’s what it tastes like, too.

Mtn Dew Mango Heat 2

Amidst the wails of my Spooky Sounds cassette tape and the annoyed groans of my upstairs neighbors, the fine carbonated hiss of my Dew became a welcome part of the spooky symphony. But nothing about my first sip screamed “mango!” to me. Instead, it tasted like a carbonated Hi-C Ecto-Cooler.

More specifically, it tasted like Mountain Dew took a carbonated Ecto Cooler, added a splash of Sunny D, tossed in a dash of black pepper, and mixed it all together—by using a Mango Dum-Dum sucker as the swizzle stick. In layman’s tastes, this means Mango Heat’s predominate flavor is “sugary artificial orange,” with a mildly biting tang and an even milder tropical fruitiness.

While its lack of mango is already lame enough to make an ordinary man go nuts, this Dew’s peppery heat is the disappointing icing on an already sad birthday cake—the kind of cake that misspells my name as “Don.” The promised heat isn’t spicy or burning: it’s just kind of annoying. After every sip, a tingling, unflavored aftertaste tickled the back of my throat like one of those sneezes that teases but never comes.

I tried swishing the Mango Heat around in my mouth to test for deeper flavor complexities, but this merely spread the Dew’s unpleasant slimy corn syrupiness around my mouth and made my dentist shudder in his sleep without knowing why.

Mtn Dew Mango Heat 3

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this Dew’s angsty tangerine juice box flavor. Its “liquefied Velma Scooby-Doo fruit snacks” taste is perfectly pleasant when sipped in isolation. Yet I can’t but help compare Mango Heat to its similar-tasting Game Fuel brother: Citrus Cherry. Since Citrus Cherry is also back in stores, I wish Mountain Dew had been more experimental with this new Game Fuel flavor.

With a color as atomically orange as Mango Heat’s, Mountain Dew could’ve made a vanilla-tinged Orange Creamsicle Dew or a BuzzFeed-breaking Pumpkin Spice Dew. Heck, I would’ve even accepted a nationwide release of 2014’s legendary, nacho cheese-flavored “Dewritos” soda. It’s the most deviant time of year, yet Mountain Dew tried to play it a little too safe.

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If you really like Hi-C’s Ecto-Cooler or Orange Lavaburst, Mtn Dew Mango Heat might still tickle your fancy as much as it does your trachea. The rest of us are better off using it as a glowing Halloween mood talisman.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bottle – 170 calories, 0 grams of fat, 100 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 46 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.69
Size: 20 fl oz bottle
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: A stinging high-five between an Orange Starburst and a pissed-off glass of Sunny D. A soda the color of melted jack-o-lanterns. Using carbonation for atmospheric effect. Ordering an “extra large, extra bloody” pizza from Papa John’s. Never having the chance to masochistically taste “Dewritos.”
Cons: Mango flavor that’s as faded as my summer memories. A heated aftertaste that’s as irritating as YouTube’s Annoying Orange. A palette-swapped Citrus Cherry doppelgänger. PB&J stains on my best white shirt. Unknowingly eating the brown wrapper on every Reese’s Cup until I was six (seriously).