PepsiCo has introduced the Pepsi Soda Shop cola line with two limited edition flavors — Black Cherry and Cream Soda. Made with real sugar, Pepsi promises a modern take on some classics. Drug store soda shops have become harder and harder to find. Yet, the concept remains a touchstone in America thanks to pop culture icons like Grease. Will these sodas have me doing the jitterbug on the way to the store for more?
I pour out samples of each. The bottle describes these as colas, so I was expecting them to be standard cola-brown. I’m pleased when the cream soda is a light caramel color and the black cherry is tinted red.
I take a sip of the cream soda one and taste plenty of vanilla, though little cola flavor. There’s not much of a modern twist either. According to Pepsi, its soda has added agave for complexity, but I’m reminded of every other cream soda I’ve tasted. I sample again and perhaps detect a honeyed aspect to the sweetness. Then again, I mostly drink diet soda and could just as easily be tasting plain sugar.
On the other hand, there’s something immediately twisty about the black cherry. Its scent is like cough syrup. It has herbal notes, says Pepsi, which helps make sense of what I’m tasting. It reminds me of herbal craft colas I’ve had. Those colas have interesting flavors not seen in mass-market soft drinks and are bold about not being for everyone. This black cherry soda doesn’t have enough herbal notes to be as interesting as those, but has just enough to make it off-putting.
The one area that stands out with these sodas is the label design. It’s simple, comforting, and the classic Pepsi-Cola font is evocative of the era. It’s a shame the actual product doesn’t live up to it. I briefly considered getting a black leather jacket, slicking my hair back with pomade, and driving to the local drive-in movie theater to more fully embody the time. But no. The lesson here is that a cool design can’t make up for a mediocre product, not that I should buy a very, very cool leather jacket.
Good branding can’t save a mediocre product. The Cream Soda one is too mundane to set itself apart from similar soft drinks. The herbal twist with the Black Cherry is enough to make it unpalatable. Skip these sodas and seek out CVS or Walgreens instead. It won’t have a soda counter, but it’ll have plenty of other sodas worth drinking.
Purchased Price: $1.89 each
Size: 20 fl oz bottles
Purchased at: Piggly Wiggly
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 250 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 65 grams of sugar (including 65 grams added sugar), and 0 gram of protein.