REVIEW: Burger King Fiery Strawberry Sprite

There’s usually nothing more refreshing than a cold soda on a hot day, but if that soda is Burger King’s new Fiery Strawberry Sprite, I’d suggest proceeding with caution. That’s right, the brand (in)famous for its unsettling gimmicks (a black Whopper, anyone?) will once again have you scratching your head all the way to BK for its newest novelty: spicy soda.

This hot (ha, ha) item comes courtesy of its limited-edition summer Fiery Menu, which includes five different products ranked in increasing order of heat. The only beverage on the list is ranked just Spice Level 1, but like a poisonous frog advertising danger with its unnatural color, this bright-red Sprite wears its heat on its sleeve. This is because it’s mixed with “Fiery strawberry puree.” What makes the strawberry puree so fiery, you ask? You’ll have to keep asking because Burger King isn’t telling, though popular guesses I’ve seen include tajin and ginger.

While I can’t actually tell you exactly what’s in this Sprite, I can tell you what it tastes like. The first sip reminded me of a regular strawberry soda, but everything changed when the aftertaste attacked. The fabled fieriness had merely waited a few seconds to make its grand appearance, spreading slowly but undeniably against the roof of my mouth. Sure, I didn’t leap into the air with smoke pouring from my ears like a cartoon character, but I certainly winced, coughed, and maybe slightly regretted my reviewing choice (important context: try as I might, I am a weakling when it comes to spice).

I understand that sweet-spicy, aka “swicy,” is trendy right now, but in soda form, I found the combination of sweet heat with carbonation to be particularly abrasive. In some ways, the bite of the spiciness is a natural companion for the sharpness of the bubbles, but the dual sensation is intense in a way that I think many would find jarring. But I powered through the initial discomfort, and as I did, something strange started to happen: this slightly painful soda started to grow on me (in admittedly small sips, as I found it way too potent to chug).

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that, regardless of whether I was actually enjoying it, I felt compelled to keep drinking more. I think it’s because I was craving a cold liquid to quell the heat, but of course, said liquid was the source of the heat in the first place, so even though each sip was like throwing gasoline on the fire, I couldn’t stop. I took so long to finish that the ice melted and watered my drink down, and that actually made it a lot more pleasant.

Oh, and if you’re coming in expecting Sprite’s classic lemon-lime stylings beneath the heat, adjust your expectations; both the strawberry flavor and the spiciness were so overpowering that it didn’t read as Sprite at all, tasting more like a mutant Fanta to me.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that the Fiery Strawberry Sprite and I got along like a Sprite on fire. If you’re a spice connoisseur or just a thrill junkie, sure, give this one a shot, but just be warned that if you play with Fiery Strawberry Sprite, you’re gonna get burned.

Purchased Price: $4.34
Size: Medium
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 190 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 47 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Sonic Orange Cloudsicle Slush Float

I reviewed Sonic’s Sour Patch Kids Slush Float in the summer of 2022, so I had an idea of what the latest limited-edition Slush Float, Orange Cloudsicle, would bring to the table. This time, it features a flavor that I hope you’re not sick of yet from its other recent appearances in a Wendy’s Frosty, Arby’s milkshake, etc…

Slush Floats are made up of a majestic swirl of vanilla ice cream on top and slush on bottom, and garnished with a topping that matches the flavor of the slush. In this case, to suit the orange-flavored slush are what Sonic refers to as “orange vanilla flavor bubbles,” though you’re probably more likely to know them as “popping boba” if you’re a bubble tea fan (or “popping pearls,” if Starbucks is more your jam). There’s also “Orange Cloudsicle Syrup,” which is apparently cooler than plain orange because it features hints of vanilla as well (and is different than “Orange Creamsicle” because, well, that was already trademarked).

I used a straw for my last Slush Float and a spoon for this one, and this may sound overly persnickety, but I think the utensil you use really determines your experience. Drinking the Slush Float felt like getting a fun little treat (ice cream) on top of a fun little treat (slushie). Spooning it had the opposite effect: eating ice cream with a weirdly liquid-y, gritty ice mixture at the bottom was honestly kind of a bummer. In hindsight, that’s my bad since Sonic’s soft serve is so dense that I estimate it would take about a year to melt, while the slush had already become watery in the ten or so minutes it took to dig down to that layer. So, honestly, I trashed my layer of slush pretty quickly after I’d finished the ice cream, but I can chalk that disappointment partly up to user error.

Anyway, structural issues aside, how did this thing taste? Not to sound too much like a marketing agency, but: like the epitome of summer, plus a pinch of nostalgia. I don’t feel I need to say much about Sonic’s ice cream since it’s always excellent. The orange flavor of the slush and syrup reminded me more of the actual fruit than the candies inspired by it—think orange juice, not gummy Orange Slices.

But what made me want to eat this in the first place were the flavor bubbles (which, aside from a few stragglers at the bottom of my cup, were pretty much localized entirely on top of the ice cream). They added a sense of fun and uniqueness that was very welcome, plus they were surprisingly strong; I tend to enjoy bursting them against the roof of my mouth, but they were so stretchy that this didn’t always succeed in splitting them, leading to some anticlimactic moments where the juice instead just sort of ended up dribbling out sadly instead of exploding in a grand fashion. Regardless, they were tasty and entertaining, although I didn’t pick up on any of the vanilla that Sonic mentions they contain. Maybe my palette was just too dazed by the obvious vanilla-ness of the ice cream to notice something subtler in comparison?

Ultimately, this is a fun, yummy treat, but one that you should tackle with a strategic order of operations—I suggest learning from my mistake and alternating between spoon and straw for the full effect.

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: Medium
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 420 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 250 milligrams of sodium, 92 grams of carbohydrates, 87 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Burger King Mozzarella Fries

I thought I’d seen all the shapes fried mozzarella could come in: cylindrical, square-ish, flat (looking at you, TGI Fridays), wedges, balls, curds… but I can confidently say that Burger King has surprised me with its new Mozzarella Fries.

To be clear, it’s not the “Mozzarella” part that’s new, just the conjunction with the “Fries” part. Burger King has had a more traditionally named and shaped order of mozzarella sticks on its menu before, but like its beloved poultry predecessor, the Chicken Fries, this new creation takes those standard sticks and stretches them into a longer, thinner shape (no potatoes are actually involved) and plops them into a cute and colorful carton for convenient—and showy—snacking.

However, I did have some confusion about whether they were intended to be an appetizer or the main event. I ordered mine from the “Sides” section on the kiosk, which seems pretty self-explanatory, but I was also given the more meal-esque option of 4, 8, or 12 pieces and an offer to actually “Make it a meal?” by adding, well, regular fries. That seemed like a bit of a stretch (no pun intended), so I demurred, but I still ordered the largest size and got something that at least resembled a proper dinner in terms of portion, if not nutritional content.

Anyway, the ideal mozzarella stick for me is one with cheese that’s dense rather than stretchy, with the mozzarella and the breading being such distinct entities that you can nibble the breading off entirely without marring the solid contents within. That, as I guessed just by looking at them, is not the experience provided by the Mozzarella Fries. The cheese and the breading here are quite codependent; when you take a bite of the thick, crisp outside, the hot, runny inside instantly loses its shape, oozing out in an Instagram-worthy cheese pull.

The thinness of these sticks makes them quite brittle, too: a good portion of my order was bent or snapped completely in half, which didn’t really detract from the quality but was interesting to note in comparison to the sturdier, stabler conventional mozzarella stick.

And just like it doesn’t have much of its own shape, the mozzarella doesn’t have much of its own flavor either. The toasty breading, which was fried potently enough to give off a powerful smell and had a small bit of zest from a spice I couldn’t identify but whose presence I appreciated, made up most of the taste experience. Even when I nibbled some of the stretchy cheese on its own, I was hard-pressed to come up with a description for it. It was just mild (and perhaps even, as the kids would say, “mid”).

These come with marinara sauce on the side, which seemed like a sensible way to jazz things up… but don’t be fooled. I was mildly concerned upon opening my packet and seeing a dark, gelatinous mass that looked more like barbecue sauce. I should have heeded that discomfort because the sauce was so acidic it tasted like I was dipping my Mozzarella Fries in straight vinegar.

Overall, though, these still provided a great experience—the novel fry shape and the joyfulness of mozzarella sticks, in general, were fun enough that I was happy to overlook the fact that they’re ever so slightly lackluster. Apologies for being cheesy, but there is “mozz” to like!

Purchased Price: $6.39
Size: 12 pieces
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 730 calories, 36 grams of fat, 2,350 milligrams of sodium, 71 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, and 29 grams of protein.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Grandma McFlurry

The cruelest words you can hear in a McDonald’s are, “The ice cream machine is broken,”… but a kindly guardian grandmother must have been watching over me on my most recent visit because no technical difficulties came between me and the new Grandma McFlurry.

Yes, I can hear you scratching your head from here. The new what now? So, I’m just going to come out and say it—the ambiguous name has to be a reference to the Werther’s Original hard candies that just seem to universally, perpetually, magically accumulate in the homes of people of a certain age, right?

Or maybe not, because, unlike those classic caramel treats, the new geriatric-named McFlurry (whose true flavor was sneakily never actually mentioned in the initial press release, drumming up quite the mystique) has turned out to be butterscotch-based.

Atop the creamy pillow of vanilla ice cream, there are both butterscotch crumbles and a butterscotch swirl. In my McFlurry, the crumbles rested pretty much entirely on top, and while there was some syrup there too, I found that most of it quickly sunk to the bottom. That meant that mine didn’t look much like the promotional image—a bountiful, evenly-swirled beauty with alternating layers of copious syrupy gold—but the ratio of toppings to ice cream was great, and the taste was even better, so I had nothing to complain about.

Though some grandmas have a reputation for being crotchety, this treat made me feel more crochet-y—as in so joyful that, like a tender-hearted elder, I felt the urge to craft a sweater for my (not-yet-existent) grandchild. My McFlurry was sweeter than Grandma’s cookies. Yet with such a well-rounded creaminess, plus a tinge of saltiness from the butterscotch, that the sugariness never overwhelmed.

The ice cream had a silky texture and a full flavor, but of course, the butterscotch bits were the stars of the septuagenarian-inspired show. For me, the crumbles, in particular, knocked it out of the park/nursing home. As I mentioned, I went in with hard candy on the brain, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that these, while solid, were also unexpectedly tender: crumbly and satisfyingly yielding when I bit down but practically melt-in-your-mouth when I didn’t. They reminded me of the inside of a Butterfinger bar, and while they don’t contain any peanut butter, the orange-y color, crackly texture, and sweetness certainly felt familiar (and delicious). (And speaking of comparisons, I also found the whole thing to smell, comfortingly and nostalgically, just like Waffle Crisp cereal.)

As for the syrup, it was thinner than I would have thought but still retained an impressively rich taste. In fact, the blending together of the runny syrup with the ice cream that started to melt and pool at the bottom of the cup resulted in a malty, cereal-milk-esque experience that I really enjoyed.

No matter what exactly the Grandma McFlurry reminds you of, I think it pulls off its job of evoking warm, cozy, happy memories perfectly. No matter your age, gender, or preference in seemingly-endlessly-refilled household candies, I suggest you slide on your slippers, grab your walker, and embrace your inner senior citizen at McDonald’s today.

Purchased Price: $6.19
Size: Regular
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 600 calories, 12 grams of fat, 340 milligrams of sodium, 102 grams of carbohydrates, 86 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Gatorade Limited Edition Midnight Ice

Gatorade Midnight Ice, as its angsty color and name suggest, is a bit of an oddball. Most of the better-known Gatorade variants hint at their flavor via their color, like the grape-flavored light purple Riptide Rush, or blatantly call out the flavor in their name — you can’t get more straightforward than the orange, well, Orange. But it’s hard to put a finger on what fruit this black drink is supposed to evoke. It’s as if this emo-looking Gatorade is lamenting, “No one understands me!” In fact, it seems like the whole point of this flavor is to be mysterious and slightly spooky. Just look at the promo photos, which present Midnight Ice as an inky abyss darker than a vampire’s soul!

Unfortunately, as soon as you lay eyes on this flavor in real life, it’s apparent that its color is way closer to purple than jet black. And also… it tastes pretty similar to any other cool-colored Gatorades I’ve had. If you gave me a blind taste test of Midnight Ice and, let’s say, Cool Blue and Fierce Grape (and yes, I did have to pop onto the helpfully color-coded Gatorade Wiki to find those names instead of using my usual pet names for them, plain old “Blue” and “Purple”), I’m not confident I could tell the difference.

But of course, that comparison is only helpful if you’ve had a similar Gatorade flavor before. How would I describe this to someone with no frame of reference?

Honestly, I think the “purple=grape” association is so hard-wired that that’s my immediate comparison, even though upon further reflection, the taste doesn’t really feel as grape-y as the color does. When I close my eyes and open my mind, what comes to mind is that Midnight Ice is a rich yet mellow blend that’s kind of sweet, kind of tart, kind of tangy, kind of salty, and more than kind of artificial tasting… and yet all of these seemingly conflicting flavors work. It’s vaguely reminiscent of cough syrup yet so drinkable that the prospect of consuming a 28-ounce bottle feels comforting, not repulsive. It’s refreshing, the kind of more-exciting-than-water-but-still-not-too-overwhelming beverage that’s easy to crave and chug, whether you’re exercising, recovering from an illness, or just trying to beat the heat. All in all, while the drink isn’t as remarkable as its stark marketing would suggest, it’s definitely tasty, a fine addition to the Gatorade line (though I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to find it again since it’s only available in 28-ounce bottles at 7-Eleven or packs of 20-ounce bottles at Walmart).

I compared Midnight Ice to an emo teen earlier, but while those kids usually defend their style by asserting, “It’s not just a phase,” Midnight Ice can’t say the same. It’s a limited edition, so I’d recommend trying it soon if you want a fun new sports drink… or if you’re just trying to develop a more discerning palate for differentiating between similarly colored Gatorade flavors.

Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 28 fl oz bottle
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (per bottle) 190 calories, 0 grams of fat, 160 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 21 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.