REVIEW: Limited Edition Dr Pepper Vanilla Float

Limited Edition Dr Pepper Vanilla Float

Hello, everyone. I’m very sorry I was gone for so long, but it’s good to be back!

If summer could talk, that’s what I imagine it saying, anyway. It was a brutally cold winter that also lasted roughly 11 years for large portions of the U.S., so the warm weather we’ve all been experiencing these last few weeks is more than welcome for you and I, but even more so for marketers.

Every summer you know to expect the lawn care and iced beverage ads, and car dealerships start pointing out your inalienable right to independently choose whatever Nissan you’d like for no money down at signing your John Hancock, at prices that are practically free(dom).

Be that as it may, the colder it is, the less you feel like standing outside in your parka to grill up some elk and watch the kids break icicles off the sprinkler. So you can bet that like every food company but Swiss Miss, Dr Pepper was glad to see Frozen finally exit theaters and our lawns simultaneously. In fact, they’re SO excited they’ve released a limited edition variety of their famous product: Dr Pepper Vanilla Float.

Limited Edition Dr Pepper Vanilla Float Closeup

As is no doubt obvious from the pictures, the can basically IS summer. You got your sunglasses, flip-flops, grill tools, surfboard, fireworks, plus an Uncle Sam hat because this soda wants YOU to drink it. Don’t like it? Eff off, this is ‘Murica. There’s also some backstroke flags to remind you of when you forgot how many strokes it is to the wall and slammed into it headfirst. Or maybe that was just me, but luckily there were no long-term side elephants.

I actually haven’t had a Dr Pepper since about high school, either five years ago in my mind or sixteen by the calendar. Never drank it after that because it tasted too much like Cherry Coke, but I was eager to revisit it for this review. Popping open the tab wafts up a hint of vanilla and cherry — the smell isn’t overpowering or unpleasant, but it’s certainly noticeable… though, it must be said, far more cherry than vanilla.

And unfortunately, that carries over to the taste as well. Oh, it tastes like Dr Pepper — granting I haven’t sampled the good doctor since Bill Clinton’s first term, but this is exactly how I remember it tasting. And, well, that’s the problem, because I believe there was some mention of vanilla? You certainly wouldn’t know it from a casual swig. Or a concentrated one, for that matter. It tastes fine (assuming you like regular Dr Pepper), but that’s all you’re getting.

But hey, maybe I’m just an outlier. In the interest of journalistic integrity I drafted my wife to try a can. She reported thinking she smelled and tasted a liiiittle bit of vanilla, but very mild. Whether there’s a slight “Emperor’s New Clothes” syndrome going on there is for you to decide, but we both agreed that by no means is there enough vanilla taste in this soda to justify its name. “A batch of Dr Pepper we accidentally spilled a bottle of vanilla extract into,” maybe, but certainly not “Vanilla Float.”

Unfortunately there’s not much else to say: you should buy this soda if you like Dr Pepper, but don’t go in expecting any kind of radically different experience. Unlike Vanilla Coke, where there was no mistaking it for a can of the original, I could easily see someone being served this in a cup and not even realizing it isn’t the regular stuff. As is, the can is more interesting than its contents; and if you want a Dr Pepper Vanilla Float, be sure to have some ice cream on hand.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 160 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 55 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of total carbohydrates, 41 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Dr Pepper Vanilla Float
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 12-pack
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: It is a pretty fun can, as… soda cans go, I guess. Didn’t cost a ton. My wife has a new beverage to enjoy for the next couple weeks. If you like regular Dr Pepper (or Cherry Coke), you’re in luck!
Cons: Could’ve just said “We wanted an excuse to use these cool cans our design guys came up with, but all our batches were already made.” Vanilla really would’ve helped cut that strong fruit flavor. The idea that it’s called Dr Pepper because it was originally marketed as a laxative is, sadly, just an urban legend. Revisiting high school relationships is never very satisfying (er, so I’ve heard).

REVIEW: Mountain Dew Kickstart (Limeade and Black Cherry)

Mountain Dew Kickstart (Black Cherry and Limeade)

In an increasingly health conscious market full of zero-calorie sweeteners and unpalatably low-fat Chobani yogurt, PepsiCo decided to throw a proverbial middle finger in the face of personal trainers and inclined-treadmill-users everywhere when they released the first two flavors of Mountain Dew Kickstart back in 2013.

For those of you who don’t know, Mountain Dew Kickstart’s first flavors, Orange Citrus and Fruit Punch, are literally soda for breakfast. Like something out of a cartoon-binge induced dream of a seven-year-old, these two caffeinated flavors promised to give your humdrum morning that “kick” it so desperately needs.

Yet, amid skeptics (myself included), this year Mountain Dew Kickstart was ready to expand its caffeinated scissor-kick not just to our boring and mundane mornings, but to our boring and mundane evenings as well. Now available in (the rather unimaginatively named) Limeade and Black Cherry, the energy that these nighttime themed Mountain Dew Kickstarts provide can help you complete the important junk in your life, like applying for a job or finally getting around to completing that custody paperwork for your daughter. I was intrigued.

Because seeing a Mountain Dew product marketed as a breakfast beverage is not something one easily forgets, I knew exactly the retailer that would be carrying its nighttime themed companions. Looks like I was taking a little field trip to my local Walmart.

Amid familiar blue aisles of ridiculously low-priced goods and boxes of $5 movies containing twelve copies of Shrek the Third and an 80s Val Kilmer action flick, I found both new flavors of Mountain Dew Kickstart displayed humbly, at room temperature, on a rack near the checkout. Much like the Orange Citrus and Fruit Punch varieties, the first thing I noticed is that both the Limeade and Black Cherry flavors look suspiciously similar to their energy drink competition. I could not help but think that the familiarly shaped tall 16-ounce cans, colored pull-tabs, and generic labeling were channeling the style of both Monster and Rockstar.

Yet, what these Mountain Dew Kickstarts lack in originality, they certainly make up for in taste, which is surprising considering the executives over at Mountain Dew HQ decided to go with the uninspiring ubiquitous choice of Limeade and Black Cherry. However, I have nothing against these two flavors and I was excited to see how Mountain Dew (now famous for making a variety of beverages that actually have nothing to do with the original Mountain Dew itself) handled each one.

Mountain Dew Kickstart (Black Cherry and Limeade) Closeup

I have always been skeptical of flavors labeled “limeade”. Deep down I really want to believe, really, it’s just that anything labeled “limeade” usually just tastes suspiciously similar to lemon-lime, or just plain lemon for that matter.  Yet, despite my general feelings towards the marketing maneuver of all things “limeade”, this Mountain Dew Kickstart incarnation is fantastic. If Mountain Dew can do nothing else, it’s create an exemplary citrus drink. The flavor itself tastes (unsurprisingly) similar to the original Mountain Dew, but totally in a good way. Compared to other energy drinks, Mountain Dew Kickstart Limeade is a refreshing deviation from the guarana fueled, syrupy norm. In fact, if you didn’t tell me this was an energy drink, I would be hard pressed to tell it was anything other than just a new flavor of Mountain Dew.

However, as surprisingly good the Limeade flavor was, I enjoyed the Black Cherry variety even more. I have to admit that yes, I am a bit biased. Of my specifically colored fruits, I’d have to say black cherry trumps blue raspberry any day (get at me Jolly Ranchers!). With this in mind, I was happy to find this Mountain Dew Kickstart version did my beloved black cherry justice. But seriously, this was one of the best black cherry flavors I have ever had. It’s sweet and pleasant, but, like its Limeade companion, not overwhelmingly sugary or “chemical”.

Even though both Limeade and Black Cherry Kickstart may not offer the most original first impression, their fantastic flavors are proof that Mountain Dew absolutely knows what it’s doing in the beverage game. Although, I wouldn’t mind if Mountain Dew tried to pave some completely new path in the world of carbonated beverages.

I kinda want Mountain Dew to get freaky.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – Limeade – 80 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of total fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein. Black Cherry – 80 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of total fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Mountain Dew Kickstart (Limeade and Black Cherry)
Purchased Price: $1.49 each
Size: 16 fl oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Limeade)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Black Cherry)
Pros: Exemplary flavor. Barely tastes like an energy drink. Great flavor execution.
Cons: Lackluster packaging. Kinda boring flavor names. The fact that Walmart employees are incredibly underpaid.

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.