REVIEW: Driftwell by Pepsi

Driftwell by Pepsi Cans

The number of times I’ve had a drink to turn up: 9,356

The number of times I’ve had a drink to get ready for bed: 0

Well, until now.

In a world run by Dunkin’, overflowing with Starbucks, and exploding (or, BANG-ing?) with pre-workout energy drinks, the latest PepsiCo’s brand addition came as a massive surprise to me. Sure, some people like a little whiskey nightcap or swear by a soothing cup of warm milk. But aside from a much needed shot of NyQuil to literally pass out when sick, I have never tried, or even seen, a drink designed and advertised to go down like a gentle lullaby.

Driftwell is an enhanced water beverage designed to help you “sip into relaxation” via 200 milligrams of L-theanine in each 7.5 ounce can. The company claims it designed the drink not as a knockout punch (like booze or marijuana) but as a stress reducer. L-theanine is an amino acid most commonly found in tea leaves and sometimes taken as a supplement in pill form that can increase relaxation without causing drowsiness or reducing your resting heart rate.

Unlike grabbing a can of REIGN from the fridge and expecting to be able to run through a wall in 15 minutes (love it!), Driftwell suggests to the brain it’s time to sleep in an even milder way than melatonin. Halfway through the can I felt a noticeable shift in my headspace and was seemingly more sleepy. It was already late, and about 30 minutes before I planned on getting in bed, so the context was right. My eyes didn’t force themselves closed, but I was excited to get in bed. My attention gently drifted away from the excellent movie I was finishing (Batman Returns), and once I hit the pillow, it was easier than usual to slip into a dreaming state. I haven’t been having problems falling asleep recently, so take it for what it is, but I think this stuff kind of works!

Driftwell by Pepsi Glass

The flavor is very subtle and mostly pleasant; it is more or less what I expected from a product that boasts zero sugar and zero calories. Blackberry Lavender is a pretty unique flavor that interestingly tastes a lot like a combination of cantaloupe and honeydew with notes of chamomile. There’s definitely a tea-like aura to the whole Driftwell experience.

I tried it both cold and room temperature on separate nights. Since the box and website have no indication of how to consume this new sleep aid, I’m going to give a formal recommendation for room temp. It reminds me a lot of Hint Water, which I find is very hit or miss with its execution. Fortunately for PepsiCo, this is a pretty solid starting point in terms of taste for a drink that isn’t supposed to erupt with flavor.

Driftwell by Pepsi Box

PepsiCo was the first of the soda titans to respond to the sparkling water craze, launching its own brand Bubly in 2018, well ahead of Coca Cola’s AHA brand in early 2020. Does Driftwell’s slow trickle into the market indicate the company is ahead of the curve again? Or is this a crazy overpriced niche market drink for yogis? I’m edging towards the latter, but time will tell. Hopefully, this makes its way into stores in smaller packs or even single cans so people can test it out for themselves. Even though it does as advertised, it is more expensive than booze, and ten cans is a lot to commit to.

Purchased Price: $22.98
Size: 7.5 oz cans/10-pack
Purchased at: Amazon
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 gram of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Pepsi Pineapple

Pepsi Pineapple U S Cans

Pineapple is considered a summer fruit, but it’s offered all year long here on this rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Well, technically, it’s offered year-round in every state since everyone can buy it canned.

But here I can buy fresh pineapple, cut up or whole, in almost every store I walk into. I can also easily purchase a cocktail served in a hollowed-out pineapple with paper umbrellas and orchids as decorations around its rim.

What I’m trying to say is that they’re plentiful here. I mean, it’s not like I can throw a pineapple in a random direction and there’s a good chance I’ll hit another. Although, now that I think about it, that’s actually true for me since my neighbor has four pineapple plants.

Anyhoo, while the delectable yellow treat is considered a summer fruit, Pepsi Pineapple should be a flavor that’s available year round because it’s now my favorite fruit-flavored Pepsi. It edges Pepsi Wild Cherry. Heretic, I know. But the fruit flavor is more natural tasting, while the cherry is more artificial.

Pepsi Pineapple was available in Japan last summer, which I reviewed. In that review, I wrote that Pepsi in the U.S. should offer the flavored cola here in the States for Summer 2020. So here it is, maybe or maybe not, thanks to yours truly.

You might think that the two beverages taste the same, but they aren’t. If they were, I would’ve copy and pasted my other review here, dusted off my hands, and sat on a beach with a cocktail that’s served in a hollowed-out pineapple with paper umbrellas and orchids as decorations.

Pepsi Pineapple U S Closeup

I also wrote in my review of the Japanese version that the fruity flavor was a bit too faint for my liking. This one doesn’t have that problem. Sweet pineapple flavor hits hard from beginning to end (oddly, its aroma is not as fruity). I imagine if I were offered a Pepsi served in a hollowed-out pineapple (paper umbrellas and orchids optional), it would taste similar.

The beverage is described as a Pepsi with a splash of pineapple juice. The can also says it contains 1% juice, but it sure tastes like it has a lot more than that. Maybe that’s where the “other natural flavors” kick in.

Pepsi Pineapple U S

While the Japanese version came in 490 ml bottles (around 16.5 ounces), the American version is not available in bottles. Instead, they come in 8-packs of 12-ounce skinny cans. Oh, speaking of skinny, there isn’t a diet version.

Pepsi Pineapple is a simple soda. It’s pretty much a combination of Pepsi and juice from the golden fruit. But it’s also simply delicious.

Purchased Price: Way too much of eBay
Size: 8-pack of 12-ounce cans
Purchased at: eBay (available at Walmart)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (12 fl oz) 150 calories, 0 grams of fat, 95 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 41 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Pepsi Pineapple (Japan)

Pepsi Pineapple  Japan

If you’re looking for a review of the U.S. version, click here

What is Pepsi Pineapple?

The newest Pepsi flavor in Japan, if you’re reading this in summer/fall 2019. If you’re reading this after that, it is a Pepsi flavor that will never come to the U.S. unless a PepsiCo bigwig reads this review and is moved by my words so much that he or she convinces the powers that be to sell a pineapple-flavored Pepsi in the U.S.

How is it?

It’s good enough that, if a bigwig at PepsiCo is reading this review, he or she should persuade everyone there to offer a pineapple Pepsi in the U.S. next summer.

Now I say it’s good enough, but it’s not “Oh, my God! Find your passports and fly to Japan to buy them all” good. It’s pleasant enough that, if you’re willing to spend roughly $10-$15 and wait 3-5 weeks for a bottle to be shipped to you from Japan via some of the slowest forms of parcel transportation, then I’d say spend the money and wait.

The fruity flavor at the beginning of every sip is a bit too faint for my liking. The cola prevents it from shining. But the tropical fruit pops mostly in the aftertaste, which is not ideal. But it’s prominent and better than having no pineapple flavor at all. It’s a sugary, somewhat natural pineapple flavor that kind of makes me forget about it being not so noticeable at the beginning of each sip.

Is there anything else you need to know?

As I’ve said many times on this blog and in conversation ice breakers, I wish Pepsi in the U.S. was creative with cola flavors. I know we had mango, berry, and lime varieties earlier this year, but two of those have been done before. The creativity Pepsi expends in new varieties is about the same as what Hollywood expends nowadays with all these reboots.

After typing that, I realize the possible bigwig at PepsiCo reading this might’ve been insulted.

Also, I could go for a lychee Pepsi, Japan. I’d spend good money and wait ten days for one. (Ten days being how long it takes for products shipped from Japan to end up on this rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean).

Conclusion:

Although I’m not entirely pleased with it, Pineapple Pepsi is one of the better Pepsi flavors I’ve had from Japan since I started spending money on obtaining them over a decade ago. Some U.S. Japanese grocers might bring this in, so if you happen to see it in one of those stores, I’d recommend picking it up.

Purchased Price: $12.99
Size: 490 ml
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (100 ml) 47kcal, 0 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, 11.7 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.03 grams of salt.

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: Pepsi Fire

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.

Pepsi Fire 2

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.

Pepsi Fire 3

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.

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.