REVIEW: Salted Caramel Pepsi

Salted Caramel Pepsi

Most seasonal flavors stay in their section of the calendar.

Pumpkin spice and candy corn products show up during fall. Candy cane and egg nog products are around for Christmas. Carrot cake is a spring flavor. But salted caramel (and sea salt caramel) gets shoehorned into being a fall flavor, even though many brands have offered salted caramel products earlier in the year. What does salted caramel have to do with fall?

Maybe caramel’s brown color brings thoughts of fall leaves or turkey gravy. Maybe the salt represents the salty tears of sadness you’ll cry at your annual dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner.

Whatever it is, Pepsi is also getting into the holiday spirit of releasing a salted caramel product in the fall with their latest flavor.

Salted Caramel Pepsi sounds like a unique flavor, but it’s not Pepsi’s first rodeo with a caramel-flavored cola. A decade ago, there was Diet Pepsi Jazz Caramel Cream. The flavor in it did a great job at hiding the Diet Pepsi-ness of the drink at chilled temperatures. But this new flavor, while it has artificial sweeteners, isn’t a diet soda thanks to the high fructose corn syrup.

Like Toucan Sam’s nose following the scent of Froot Loops or the noses on Carmen Miranda cosplayers, my nose detects a fruitiness with this soda. The aroma is familiar and I’ve been racking my brain over why that is. And its flavor doesn’t help either because it tastes like something I’ve had before. Is it from my childhood? Is it another limited edition Pepsi flavor? Did I experience it in another life? Another dimension? I don’t know.

But what I do know is Salted Caramel Pepsi has a flavor I enjoy. It’s fruity at first, which is odd, but the salt and artificial caramel hit my taste buds a bit later and lingers for a while. The saltiness enhances the flavor of the caramel, which I like, but at the same time, a salty soda might turn off some drinkers. I mean, it’s not like drinking ocean water, but sodas are sweet 99 percent of the time, so it might be strange for some.

Every year, I wait with bated breath for the return of Holiday Spice Pepsi, a seasonal cola variety I enjoyed over a decade ago. But every year I release that breath with a sigh because it doesn’t come back. I let out another sigh this year, but Salted Caramel Pepsi softened my annual disappointment. It’s a nice seasonal flavor, although unusual for a soda. But I’m attracted to unusual, like moths to a flame or Toucan Sam’s nose to a box of Froot Loops.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 oz. – 170 calories, 0 grams of fat, 105 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 44 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 20 oz. bottle
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Not gross. Pleasant seasonal flavor. Lower sugar levels due to the sucralose and ace-k. Artificial sweeteners not too noticeable. If you know who Carmen Miranda is.
Cons: Might be too unusual for some. Might be too salty for some. It smells and tastes like something, but I can’t recall what it is. Not Holiday Spice Pepsi. Sighs.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Dragonfruit Pepsi X

Dragonfruit Pepsi X

I guess dragonfruit is the appropriate fruit flavor for The X Factor’s Limited Edition Pepsi X since almost everything that comes out of Simon Cowell’s mouth is verbal fire that can burn egos and Britney Spears is bat shit fruity.

Dragonfruit, or better known by Future Farmers of America members as hylocereus undatus, hylocereus costaricensis, or hylocereus megalanthus (depending on the color of the fruit’s skin and flesh), is grown in tropical areas, like this rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean I live on.

Just like I’ve never seen an episode of The X Factor, I have yet to try dragonfruit. So seeing as how I could easily get the exotic fruit, I thought it was necessary to taste an actual dragonfruit before writing a review about the dragonfruit-flavored Pepsi X.

It’s a good thing there’s a farmer’s market down the street from me, but it’s a bad thing that dragonfruits were selling for $4.99 a pound. I bought the smallest one, which cost me $5.15.

If you’ve never seen a dragonfruit in real life or saw one when accidentally choosing a Google Image search suggestion for exotic fruits instead of, what you really wanted, exotic females, the most common type of the fruit (hylocereus undatu) has a pretty, pretty pink skin with green leaves protruding out of it and behind it there’s white flesh with tiny black seeds.

A few other interesting factoids about dragonfruits, there’s also a red-fleshed dragonfruit (hylocereus costaricensis) and if you eat too much of it you may get pseudohematuria, which is a harmless condition that turns your urine and feces reddish in color. Now that you know that, I hope you never accidentally choose a Google Image search suggestion for pseudohematuria. And knowing is half the battle.

Oh, speaking of pseudohematuria, the color of Pepsi X was noticeably lighter than regular Pepsi and it looked like it had a reddish hue.

Dragonfruit Pepsi X 2

Now that I know what dragonfruit tastes like, I can definitely say Limited Edition Dragonfruit Pepsi X doesn’t have a flavor that’s recognizable as dragonfruit. The dragonfruit’s flesh was mostly bland with a very mild sweetness. It’s as flavorful as cucumbers or kiwis. However, Pepsi X has a strong fruity and slightly floral flavor that doesn’t taste anything like dragonfruit. There’s also very little cola flavor.

Of course, I might’ve selected the wrong dragonfruit to taste and needed to buy the pseudohematuria-causing one. Or maybe, because it’s a little floral, Pepsi is trying to reproduce the flavor of dragonfruit flowers. Or maybe the flavor was developed by blending together dragon meat with fruits.

Dragonfruit Pepsi X 3

Whatever the case, I didn’t really care for Pepsi X. It’s interesting and not horrible, but I don’t see myself buying more because its unusual fruity/flowery flavor just doesn’t have The X Factor.

While I didn’t care for Pepsi X’s flavor, I LOVE that Pepsi did something I never thought they would do — release an unusual Pepsi flavor. A dragonfruit-flavored Pepsi is something I’d expect Pepsi in Japan to release, but it was released here in the U.S. That’s extremely exciting. So, within the past few months, Pepsi has launched a malt-flavored Mountain Dew and this dragonfruit-flavored Pepsi. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, 35 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 30 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Dragonfruit Pepsi X
Purchased Price: $3.00*
Size: 12 ounces
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Not horrible. It’s a weird Pepsi flavor that sounds like it should be from Japan, but it’s not. Being able to buy dragonfruits down the street. Future Farmers of America.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like dragonfruit. Fruity/flowery flavor is a bit odd and doesn’t have The X Factor. Very little cola flavor. The price of dragonfruit. Pseudohematuria. Simon Cowell.

*To ensure I could review these as quickly as possible, I bought some off of eBay. It will most definitely be cheaper if you bought it in a store.

REVIEW: Pepsi Next Cherry Vanilla & Pepsi Next Paradise Mango

Cherry Vanilla Pepsi Next & Paradise Mango Pepsi Next

Crystal Pepsi must be jealous of the reduced sugar Pepsi Next. During its year of existence, Pepsi never released other Crystal Pepsi flavors. Diet Crystal Pepsi doesn’t count.

But the reduced calorie Pepsi Next has been around for just four months and it already has two new varieties — Cherry Vanilla and Paradise Mango.

I know that probably would make Crystal Pepsi so mad it would want to pop its top, but it would struggle to do so because, after 20 years, all its carbonation is gone. Well, at least there is some love for Crystal Pepsi, in the form of a disorganized effort to bring it back via numerous Facebook fan pages.

Cherry vanilla is a flavor we’ve seen before from Pepsi. Remember Pepsi Cherry Vanilla and Diet Pepsi Cherry Vanilla? You don’t? Well, the Internet does and so do I. Pepsi Next Cherry Vanilla smells more like Pepsi Vanilla than Pepsi Wild Cherry, but in my mouth the vanilla and cherry flavors are equally balanced. Because of that, it has a milder cherry flavor than Pepsi Wild Cherry. There’s a slight artificial sweetener aftertaste, but it’s far less harsh than Diet Pepsi.

As for Pepsi Next Paradise Mango, its aroma didn’t register as mango to my nose, instead it smelled more like apricots. Because of my past experiences with mango flavored beverages, I presumed this soda was going to have an extremely artificial mango flavor, but I was pleasantly surprised that wasn’t the case. I don’t know how the mad scientists at Pepsi did it, but they created a cola with a nearly authentic mango flavor. I say, “nearly” because its aftertaste is a bit artificial and the soda as a whole becomes a little more unnatural tasting the warmer it gets.

Now this is the part of the review where I bring up aspartame and high fructose corn syrup. Just like regular Pepsi Next, both of these flavors contain the sweeteners. If the comments in our original Pepsi Next review are any indication, people have strong negative opinions about them and they like to share those opinions with other people. For those of you who don’t want to look back through the 100+ comments, here’s what I vaguely remember the comment thread looked like.

Commenter #1: “Aspartame is evil!”

Commenter #2: “High fructose corn syrup is making everyone fat! It’s evil!”

Commenter #1: “No, aspartame is evil!”

Commenter #2: “No, HFCS is evil!”

Commenter #1: “ASPARTAME!”

Commenter #2: “HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP!”

Commenter #1: “Oh my God, you’re so hot when you’re angry! Let’s make out!”

Commenter #2: “Okay!”

Commenter #1: “Mmmmm.”

Commenter #2: “Mmmmm.”

Commenter #1: “Oooh baby, you have a fine, tight aspartame.”

Yup, I believe the comments went something like that.

Pepsi Next Cherry Vanilla & Pepsi Next Paradise Mango are both really good. I want to say they’re a step above regular Pepsi Next, but that could be my taste buds talking who are slightly tired of Pepsi Next since I’ve been drinking a lot of it over the past few months. These two new Pepsi Next flavors should continue to make Crystal Pepsi jealous because they’re good enough to ensure the Pepsi Next line will exist longer than Crystal Pepsi did.

Disclosure: We received free Pepsi Next Cherry Vanilla & Pepsi Next Paradise Mango samples from the fine bubbly folks at Pepsi in order to do this review. They came in a nice plexiglass box with a beach scene at the bottom of it with real sand. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m going to do with the box.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 60 calories, 0 grams of fat, 60 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepsi Next Cherry Vanilla & Pepsi Next Paradise Mango
Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 12 ounces
Purchased at: Received from the folks at Pepsi
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Cherry Vanilla)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Paradise Mango)
Pros: If you enjoy Pepsi Next and your taste buds want more variety, these will do nicely. Less sugar than regular Pepsi. Equal balance of cherry and vanilla. Nearly authentic mango flavor. Going to be around longer than Crystal Pepsi.
Cons: 38 mg of caffeine per can. Slight artificial sweetener aftertaste. Too many bring back Crystal Pepsi Facebook fan pages. Mango flavor becomes a little unnatural as the soda gets warmer. Those who hate aspartame and/or HFCS will not like it.