QUICK REVIEW: Mountain Dew Game Fuel Electrifying Berry

Mountain Dew Game Fuel Electrifying Berry

Purchased Price: $1.59
Size: 20 oz. bottle
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Pleasant berry flavor and aroma, but it tastes and smells like a previous Mountain Dew Dewmocracy flavor. If you’re looking to electrify yourself, it has 124 milligrams of caffeine per bottle.
Cons: Tastes like another Mountain Dew flavor. Might be too cloying for some. Purple color makes me miss Mountain Dew Pitch Black even more. Wow…I just consumed a lot of sugar. Still waiting for a pee-colored, banana-flavored Mountain Dew.

Nutrition Facts: 290 calories, 0 grams of fat, 105 milligrams of sodium, 77 grams of carbohydrates, 77 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Sprite Zero Cranberry

Sprite Zero CranberryAs one of those rare and socially mysterious individuals who abstains from alcohol for reasons completely unrelated to health, religion, finances, or even just a really overactive bladder, I readily acknowledge I’ve missed out on more than my share of, uh, experiences in life.  Some I don’t feel too badly about, but oftentimes I can’t help but feel a tinge of regret for having never had the chance to drive backwards through the drive-thru at McDonald’s, nor make-out with a mannequin in a department store window.

More than anything else, though, I miss having the pretentious but totally boss ability to pair foods with beer and wine, and then brag about it to everyone I know.

I’ve always suspected I would make a fine sommelier, what with my extensive background testing seasonal McDonald’s pies and limited edition Oreo flavors. In fact, I’ve often imagined myself amongst many a social gatherings, carrying on about how my drink selection perfectly matches the bold and intrepid flavors of whatever dish I’ve slaved over (or at the very least, the frozen pizza I just popped into the oven.)

Come to think of it, what makes alcohol so special that only it can be paired with foods? If you’re going to brag ad nauseam about how your bright, citrusy Chardonnay compliments the diverse selection at the Thanksgiving feast, you’d think those of us still relegated to the kids’ table could do the same with soda.

Sprite Zero Cranberry seems like it would be just that kind of soda. Forget the seasonality of cranberries at holiday parties, the bright, tart, and tangy flavors strikes me as the perfect relief for copious amounts of turkey and stuffing, with that lemony carbonation of Sprite Zero serving as just the stimulant to get those much needed second helping burps going.

Of course, Coca-Cola isn’t the only soda company to reckon just that, which is probably why Sierra Mist has been making a cranberry flavored lemon-line soda for a few years now, and why Canada Dry Cranberry Ginger Ale has been a staple on grocery store shelves each September through December.

Those sodas are good, but they do have flaws. Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash tastes too lime flavored if you ask me, while the cranberry taste gets a little too intense after a single glass. Cranberry is a great flavor and all, but there gets to be a point where it’s too much. Thankfully, Sprite Zero Cranberry doesn’t take it that far.

Sprite Zero Cranberry Label

Appearing identical to your standard glass of Sprite Zero, the essence of cranberry hits you as soon as the cap comes off. It’s a good essence though, and not the kind of essence that involves actually standing out in a cranberry bog with your grandfather. The first taste is floral and sharp, but it quickly gives way to the unmistakable taste of Sprite Zero. For a regular diet soda drinker like me, it’s a taste that comes across as neither overly artificial nor overly lemony (as many store-brand or lesser lemon-lime sodas seem to be.) Bolstering this quality is a distinctively cranberry finish, leaving an endearing, but not overpowering, fruit flavor.

Sprite Zero Cranberry with cranberries

It’s very good, and pairs wonderfully with a hearty turkey sandwich. The deficits are minor; the cranberry flavor could be bolder (like you’d find in a cranberry juice) and the soda could also convey some element of lip-puckering tartness. I mention that with some caution, however, as the attempts to replicate authentic fruit flavors in diet sodas often turn out maddeningly artificial. And maddeningly artificial gives me headaches, especially when it comes to having to endure an hour at the kids’ table while I attempt to instruct little Patrick that no, in fact, the turkey leg cannot be used as a weapon. In any case, those looking for an extra cranberry tartness should do as I did and dump dried cranberries into the fizz.

Sprite Zero Cranberry isn’t quite the fruit-filled cranberry hit that Sierra Mist Diet Cranberry Splash is, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lighter, with that distinct Sprite bite that’s sandwiched between an enjoyable cranberry essence, it doesn’t become artificially cloying or saccharine as quickly, and yields instead to the similarly non-overpowering lemon-lime flavor of Sprite Zero.

Overall, I actually enjoyed it more than the potent Sierra Mist Diet Cranberry Splash, a fact which, among other things, will likely leave me with more pours and conversation to impress upon my nine-year old cousins at the Thanksgiving kids’ table. Whether or not it can save me from getting a turkey leg thrown at me is another question still yet to be determined.

(Nutrition Facts – 0 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugars, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Sprite Zero Cranberry
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 2 liters
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Non-diet tasting diet soda. Cranberry taste is floral and slightly spicy, with a smooth, non-artificial finish. Doesn’t taste as saccharine or lime flavored as Diet Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash, and has a better carbonated bite. Equality in beverage and food pairings. Pairs well with turkey sandwiches.
Cons: Lacks over the top cranberry flavor and sweetness that cranberry sauce has. Not as tart as actual cranberry juice. May lead to excessive burping. Getting hit with a turkey leg at the kids’ table during Thanksgiving.

REVIEW: Lester’s Fixins Ranch Dressing Soda

Lester's Fixins Ranch Dressing Soda

Do you ever just sit around your house on the internet and think that you’ve seen it all? Think that there is nothing left to look up? Nothing left to read about?

You’ve read Benjamin Franklin’s “Fart Proudly” essay like three times, you know all of the inventors killed by their own inventions, and you have the formula for OpenCola committed to memory.

I think that sometimes when I’m staring at my screen trying to find how I can change the blink rate of the cursor in Microsoft Word (Accessibility options).

Then I get a bottle of Ranch Dressing Soda in the mail and am ecstatic to have a few more minutes of fresh internet excavating to keep me busy.

I have to admit I was ignorant of the history of ranch dressing. As such an American staple, you’d think it would be right there in our high school history book glossaries, wedged in between Radical Republicans and ratification. But it’s not.

Did you know that ranch dressing, which is the number one salad dressing in the U.S., didn’t exist until the 1950s? I had no idea. I thought it was like the Mississippi and had just been around since time immemorial. But it hasn’t. It was invented by a couple at the Hidden Valley Ranch in California. The Hidden Valley Ranch! It was a real place! It must’ve been magical there. I also found out that Wish-Bone was a real restaurant, and get this, Paul Newman was a real guy! Crazy!

Ok so that’s really the whole story. They made it at their ranch and people liked it and they started selling it and then Clorox bought the rights to it.

Cut to a half a century later and we have Lester’s Fixins Ranch Dressing Soda. I’m not sure if the Hensons of Hidden Valley would approve of what has become of their majestic concoction.

This is one of the latest offerings from the novelty soda company, Rocket Fizz, in their line of Lester’s Fixins sodas. Lester’s Fixins seems to be the product line where Rocket Fizz showcases their most unusual (read: grossest) flavors. Its sister soda line, Melba’s Fixins offers slightly less disturbing flavors like Apple Pie, Lemon Merengue Pie, and Sweet Tea.

I must say it’s good to see a small upstart take aim at a market dominated for too long by Jones Soda! Thinking you’re all cool with your Egg Nog and your Road Kill flavors! Take that Jones! (I have no stake in this fight.)

Lester's Fixins Ranch Dressing Soda Bottle Closeup

Right out of the box, I’m not a huge fan of the packaging. It could be punched up a bit. Seems a little too DIY. But maybe that’s what they were going for.

Also, of all the colors that a liquid can take, I argue that none is more repellant than a murkily translucent shade of white (shiver). I’ll take your foulest shades of green of brown any day.

Lester's Fixins Ranch Dressing Soda Liquid

The nosegrope is not of food or beverage. It’s a subtle blend of paint and new cardboard. Not old, ratty cardboard. New cardboard, like a box you’d buy for moving day. A nice box.

The soda is surprisingly sweet. Almost like it has a sugared up Sprite base. The sweetness hits your tongue a split second before the wave of absolute heinousness comes crashing down upon it.

Lester's Fixins Ranch Dressing Soda Ingredients

When I blog about vintage cereals, those that are decades past their expiration date, the cereals always take on a plastic chemical flavor from their containing bag. This soda tastes like that. Like it’s been sitting around in a waxy plastic bag leaching chemicals for decades. It. Is. Foul. And that foulness is sharp and coats your mouth in a repellant sticky film that refuses to go away.

I expected this to be bad, but my expectations were exceeded. This doesn’t taste like any ranch dressing I’ve ever had. And if there is a ranch dressing being made somewhere that tastes like this, the residents of that ranch need to be evacuated immediately because there has been some kind of breach at the nuclear plant upriver. The cows may already be dead.

(Editor’s Note: Thanks to Impulsive Buy reader Jonathan for sending us a bottle of Lester’s Fixins Ranch Dressing Soda.)

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 170 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 25 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 42 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Lester’s Fixins Ranch Dressing Soda
Purchased Price: N/A
Size: 12 ounces
Purchased at: Rocket Fizz
Rating: 0 out of 10
Pros: Absolutely nothing.
Cons: Taste. Smell. Color. Bottle.

REVIEW: Mountain Dew Kickstart (Fruit Punch and Orange Citrus)

Mountain Dew Kickstart

Wise men once said in the late-1980s, and more recently in a Kia commercial, “Ooh, are you ready girls? Ooh, are you ready now? Ooh, yeah! Kickstart my heart, give it a start! Ooh, yeah, baby! Ooh, yeah! Kickstart my heart, hope it never stops! Ooh, yeah, baby!”

During my teen years, those motivational words from Mötley Crüe made me run faster, drive faster, eat faster, build Lego kits faster, and feather my hair.

But today, because I’m old, decrepit, and my iPod’s alarm allows me to snooze it, I need more than Tommy Lee’s drumming, Mick Mars’ guitar licks, Nikki Sixx’s bassing, and Vince Neil’s screaming to kickstart my heart and morning. Well, Mountain Dew might have what I’m looking for with their new Kickstart beverages.

Sure, if you wanted to Dew the Dew while there’s morning dew, you could drink a regular can or bottle of Mountain Dew, but Mountain Dew Kickstart is made for the morning. It’s a sparkling juice beverage that combines the flavor of fruit juice with the caffeine of coffee. Yes, it’s basically a morning soda that can be part of your complete breakfast. But, just like breakfast cereals, consuming them at two o’clock in the afternoon would not be a faux pas.

Mountain Dew Kickstart comes in 16-ounces cans and two flavors — Orange Citrus (makes sense) and Fruit Punch (not so much). If you were to drink a can to start your morning, you’d have downed 80 calories, 20 grams of sugar, 100 percent of your daily vitamin C, 80 percent of your daily niacin, 80 percent of your daily vitamin B6, and 92 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine, all of which is much better than regular Mountain Dew. A 16-ounce serving of Mountain Dew has 230 calories, 62 grams of sugar, 72 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine, and isn’t a significant source of any vitamins and minerals.

Mountain Dew Energizing Fruit Punch Kickstart

We love our fruit punch here on this rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, so a part of me was excited to see it as a Mountain Dew Kickstart flavor. However, at the same time I was a bit confused about the choice. Fruit punch isn’t a breakfast drink and is stereotypically (according to television) something that’s spiked at school dances with alcohol or Spanish Fly. Perhaps a more breakfast-friendly flavor, like apple, would’ve been better.

The aroma from the can was mildly fruity and somewhat reminded me of Hawaiian Punch. The sparkling juice beverage sparkled moderately, making it easier to drink than any other Mountain Dew soda. It started off with nice sweet fruity flavor similar to other fruit punches I’ve had (which is mostly McDonald’s fruit punch) and ended with an aftertaste that’s similar to Diet Mountain Dew. If you decided to test my taste buds for which fruits make up the punch, I would fail. Overall, it’s not a bad beverage, but I feel weird drinking it with breakfast.

However, Mountain Dew Orange Citrus Kickstart tastes more like something appropriate for breakfast.

Mountain Dew Energizing Orange Citrus Kickstart

The orange-flavored sparkling juice beverage doesn’t have an aroma as strong as its red sibling, and whatever smell there is its a generic citrus. Just like Mountain Dew Fruit Punch Kickstart, it had a mild amount of carbonation, so look elsewhere if you want to wake up with fizz tickling your nose.

The orange citrus flavor tasted more like tangerines, which was fine, but what wasn’t fine was how the initial taste, which, like its aroma, wasn’t very strong, quickly went from mild to extremely watered down to an artificial sweetener aftertaste. Its flavor wasn’t a kickstart; instead it was more of a downshift.

To be honest, I’m not sure who’s going to regularly buy Mountain Dew Kickstart. Xtreme Dew fans will probably sneer at the fact that it’s a “sparkling juice beverage”; hardcore energy drink drinkers will scoff at the 92 milligrams of caffeine per 16-ounce serving; nutritionists will ridicule the 5 percent juice both flavors contain; and 12-year-olds will laugh at the acetate isobutyrate they contain because they’ll probably pronounce it as, “ass taint I saw booty rate.”

But what do I know. I feathered my hair in the late 80s.

(Disclosure: I received free samples of Mountain Dew Kickstart from Mountain Dew. I should also disclose, along with the samples, I also got sunglasses, an iPod shuffle, and Beats Audio headphones in a fancy Plexiglass box. Two of the items will be given away in the near future.)

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – Fruit Punch – 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 170 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, 100% vitamin C, 80% niacin, 80% vitamin B6, 60% pantothenic acid, and 10% phosphorus. Orange Citrus – 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 180 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 20 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, 100% vitamin C, 80% niacin, 80% vitamin B6, 60% pantothenic acid, and 10% phosphorus.)

Other Mountain Dew Fruit Punch Kickstart reviews:
Thirsty Dudes
The Soda Jerks

Other Mountain Dew Orange Citrus Kickstart reviews:
Serious Eats
The Soda Jerks

Items: Mountain Dew Kickstart (Fruit Punch and Orange Citrus)
Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 16 fl. oz. cans
Purchased at: Received from Mountain Dew
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Fruit Punch)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Orange Citrus)
Pros: 92 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine. Good fruit punch flavor. Nice energy boost. Significantly less calories and sugar than regular Mountain Dew. Mild carbonation makes it easy to drink. Awesome source of vitamin C, niacin, and vitamin B6. Mötley Crüe.
Cons: Only 5 percent juice. Weird drinking fruit punch in the morning. Both have an artificial sweetener aftertaste. Orange Citrus’ flavor goes from mild to light. Not sure who will buy this regularly.

REVIEW: 7 Up Ten, A&W Root Beer Ten, Sunkist Ten

7 Up Ten, A&W Root Beer Ten, Sunkist Ten

According to basic high school chemistry, which I managed to somehow retain despite frequent non-approved nap breaks during 10th grade, a single gram of carbohydrates contains exactly four calories*.

*3.9 if you want to get all technical about it.

According to even simpler preschool math, I have also managed to remember (although in this case, I credit school-sponsored naps) one plus one equals two and four plus four equals eight. So with two grams of total carbohydrates, it’s perfectly reasonable to think the eight calories per can of the new 7 Up, and Sunkist low-calorie sodas would take on names like 7 Up Eight or Sunkist Eight. Likewise, you might think the folks at RootBeer.com would piggyback “Twelve” onto the end of the name for their new low calorie, three carbohydrate version of A&W Root Beer.

Except they didn’t, mostly on account of the FDA having this whole rounding thing going when it comes to calories, but also because saying you’re an “eight” is like wearing a pin that sports how moderately above average but not spectacular you are.

It makes sense when you think about it. I mean, when was the last time you bragged to your friends about scoring that “eight” at the bar or walked into an interview touting the fact that you earned the equivalent of a B- grade point average? Face it. An eight is like losing in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. It’s not horrible, but nobody really cares or remembers. And 12? Don’t even get me started on 12. Hyperbole might be all well and good for cartoons, but when it comes to superlatives in my food, I can see right through that marketing fallacy.

So we’re left with rounding up on two new sodas and rounding down on one new soda to get us to the magic ten calories which give the new 7 Up Ten, Sunkist Ten, and A&W Ten sodas their names.

It’s not the first time a “Ten” soda has been released. Aside from their calorie (or lack thereof) content, the only thing the new flavors of “Ten” sodas have in common with the previously released Dr. Pepper Ten is that they’re owned by the same company. Otherwise, I would have pegged them as the last sodas to get an upgrade in flavor. Popular Coke or Pepsi products, or something otherwise legendary and iconic? I could see that. Who wouldn’t kill for a Cheerwine 10? But 7 Up, A&W, and Sunkist? This is like the cast of characters that come back for reality shows like Rachel Vs. Guy Celebrity Cooks. But considering this is the most play 7 Up has gotten since Spot Goes to Hollywood hit the Sega Saturn and the most love any flavor of orange soda has gotten since Kel Mitchell went all PG-13 on that bottle in All That, well, I guess it was time for something different.

7 Up Ten

I started with 7 Up Ten because that seemed like the soda that could be the least offensive of the three. Or as I like to say, boring. Go figure, boring is exactly how it tasted. It has your characteristic diet soda body in that it didn’t leave any syrupy sensation going down, and it lacked the “bite” or harshness which something like Sprite Zero or Diet Sierra Mist has. The carbonation meter on 7 Up is still on the wimpy side, while the taste lacks any zing or pizzazz or other onomatopoeic word you would use to describe soda. It’s terribly typical, and almost indiscernible from Diet 7 Up. I was not a fan.

Sunkist Ten

Next, I moved on to Sunkist Ten because the taste of 7 Up Ten left me feeling pretty plain about my soda drinking and because I thought it would help my self-esteem to be kist by the orange sun of celestial citrus goodness. Of course, I’ve had Diet Sunkist plenty of times in my life and have found it to be about as dull and exciting as getting kist by a grey sun peeking through the fog on a cloudy day.

Sunkist Ten, for some reason completely unexplainable to me, has a much greater intensity and brighter orange flavor than Diet Sunkist, putting it closer to our image of an actual sun kisting you. The carbonation walks the line of being just enough to give you a few quiet burps but not enough to make embarrass you at the office lunch meeting, while the sharper flavor of the orange and citrus do a much better job at covering up the harsh aftertaste of aspartame. Quite frankly, it’s about damn time we got low calorie orange soda that didn’t suck, and would give me cause to consider why someone like Kel Mitchell would kist it back.

A&W Ten

With two flavors of ten sodas down (that’s 16 calories, for those keeping track) I moved on to A&W Ten, which prides itself on having aged vanilla flavor.  I’m going to have to take their word for it because I don’t think I’ve ever had aged vanilla before, unless you count the pint of nine-month expired Ben and Jerry’s I once bought at a thrift grocery store.

I thought the taste was a moderate improvement over regular Diet A&W, with the actual liquid having a bit more body and the vanilla and sassafras flavor coming across as sharper and better defined. It’s a good low calorie root beer, although it’s still not nearly as good as Barq’s Zero, which has a serious bite and no calories, but is only available through Coke Freestyle machines. I don’t think they sell those in 12-packs though, so I consider A&W Ten an acceptable substitute for the time being.

The cynic in me wants to back up the assertion that making sodas out of two of the most hated ingredients – high fructose corn syrup and aspartame – isn’t going to please anyone in the regular soda vs. diet soda debate, and if I was going off of 7 Up Ten alone, I’d probably just tell you to buy regular Diet 7 Up or 7 Up depending on your preference.

But as I lifelong diet soda drinker who occasionally dabbles in the empty sugar rush of HFCS-sweetened beverages, I can say there’s a real improvement of flavor and body in both Sunkist and A&W Ten that makes them highly preferable to their zero calorie predecessors.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 7Up Ten – 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 45 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbs, 2 grams of sugars, and 0 grams of protein. A&W Root Beer Ten – 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 80 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbs, 2 grams of sugars, and 0 grams of protein. Sunkist Ten – 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 130 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbs, 2 grams of sugars, and 0 grams of protein.)

Other 7 Up Ten, A&W Root Beer Ten, Sunkist Ten reviews:
BevReview: 7 Up Ten, A&W Ten, Sunkist Ten
Purple Knee Socks
Diet Coke Babies

Item: 7 Up Ten, A&W Root Beer Ten, Sunkist Ten
Purchased Price: 25 cents each
Size: 12 ounce cans
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 3 out of 10 (7 Up Ten)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (A&W Ten)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Sunkist Ten)
Pros: Low calorie. Sunkist Ten is like being kist by the sun without the risk of skin cancer. Aged Vanilla in A&W Ten actually tastes more defined and sharper than in diet version. Busting out the Sega Saturn references. School sponsored naps.
Cons: None have heavy bite and carbonation that will get you through the first half of burping the alphabet. 7 Up Ten tastes just like Diet 7 Up. Contains a whole bunch of chemicals that the internet says will give me cancer. Still have Diet Soda body, and not the body you get from abstaining from regular soda, if you know what I mean.