The Impulsive Buy

REVIEW: Pepsi Fire

You know what I think’s the big problem with Pepsi’s marketing? They’re too skittish to come out and tell us what they really want to call their products: non-alcoholic colas.

We’re actually seeing this more and more with Pepsi’s line-up of L-T-O products. The first wave of Pepsi 1893 sodas had a distinct gin-like taste, and the recently released Mountain Dew Spiked beverages are clearly meant to ape the alcopop-flavor of stuff like Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice. While the newfangled Pepsi Fire soda may be advertised as a cinnamon-flavored cola, one swig of the stuff ought to remind you of an entirely different kind of beverage. Simply put – Pepsi Fire is VODKA-flavored cola.

It’s understandable why Pepsi refrained from marketing the beverage as a hard liquor imitator (obviously, parents groups probably wouldn’t be too keen on a cola manufacturer getting their kids accustom to the taste of high-alcohol-content fermented potato.) But the synthetic vodka taste is just too spot-on to be a coincidence. In an alternate reality, I can imagine the product being sold as Absolut Pepsi with an ad campaign heavily targeted towards millennial consumers – and selling like crazy despite all the media controversy.

Alas, Pepsi went the “safe” route and stuck to its cinnamon cola marketing hook. The product isn’t new by any stretch – Pepsi has sold a cinnamon cola beverage with the very same name and almost identical packaging in Southeast Asia on-and-off again for at least two decades (sometimes, coupled with a spearmint-flavored counterpart called Pepsi Ice.)

Since cinnamon is a pretty polarizing flavor, naturally, your mileage will vary on the quality of the soda. While the cinnamon aroma is strong – if not overpowering – when you open the bottle, the actual cinnamon kick isn’t as tastebud-scorching as you’d expect. In fact, the aftertaste kinda’ feels like sipping on a cold glass of ginger ale while chewing some Big Red gum; you’re either going to find it appealing or disgusting, and there’s really no way to tell until you’ve given it a taste test for yourself.

The hue of the cola is nice (it’s darker than standard Pepsi but not as atomically vibrant as Mountain Dew Code Red) and it has a nice sparkly, tingly mouthfeel. Oddly enough, it doesn’t taste anything at all like the short-lived Pepsi Holiday Spice, which despite being marketed as a cinnamon cola, had more of a dark cherry kick than anything else. I really can’t think of anything else out there to compare it to, not even Old City Soda’s cinnamon-flavored cola (which is noticeably sweeter and less spicy than Pepsi Fire.)

This is a hard one to score. Just for its uniqueness it’s probably worth a try, even if many drinkers may consider the overall flavor mildly off-putting. If you like cinnamon (or getting sloshed on martinis), I say pick up a 12-pack. But if you harbor a distaste for the spice, do you really need me to tell you stay far, far away from this beverage?

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bottle – 260 calories, 0 grams of fat, 85 milligrams of sodium, 69 grams of total carbohydrates, 69 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, 63 milligrams of caffeine..)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 20 oz. bottle
Purchased at: Circle K
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: The cinnamon flavor is potent without being too intense. The medley of Pepsi and ginger ale is surprisingly decent. Taking that first swig and instantly recalling your first freshmen year kegger.
Cons: Unless you are a hardcore cinnamon connoisseur, it takes some time to get accustom to the taste. The packaging is really unimpressive. Trying to figure out why Pepsi thought it was a good idea to release a “hot” cola at the very beginning of summer.