REVIEW: Pepsi Mango

Pepsi Mango  2021 Can

Confession: I’m a mango fiend.

I love them in savory or sweet dishes, juiced or whole. When my local grocery store’s supply is paltry, I will happily enjoy artificially flavored products to get my fix. Basically, if a mango is involved, I will likely be nearby, begging for a taste and sneaking leftovers into my Tupperware container for later. My love for the precious tropical stone fruit is why I was drawn to Pepsi Mango like a thirsty fruit bat to an actual mango.

Although Pepsi Mango – Pepsi’s first permanent flavor in five years – was a new discovery for me, the world has seen its likes before. Previously introduced as a limited offering in 2019, it joined lime and berry varieties to give Pepsi Wild Cherry competition as the brand’s most beloved fruit-and-cola mashup.

(Why am I late to the Pepsi Mango party? In 2019, I was likely still distracted by the release of Diet Coke Flavors, a lineup that included a mango version of my favorite caffeine source. Alas, those products, which I found too artificial and astringent-tasting to truly love, left me disappointed.)

Pepsi Mango  2021 Pour

Forgive the gaps in my soda experiences. The important thing is that today is a new day, and I get to experience Pepsi Mango now. The product’s package promises classic Pepsi “with a splash of mango juice and other natural flavors,” and even before my first taste, the juice’s presence made itself known. The soda’s aroma is wonderful and genuinely fruity. If it weren’t for the carbonation tickling my nose, I would have thought my glass was full of fresh juice or smoothie.

Pepsi Mango  2021 Top

In the first sip, mango flavor is at the forefront. Like the Pepsi’s smell, the bright, refreshing taste is strong and unexpectedly accurate. The classic cola taste follows, and while the mango overpowers it by a mere hint, the flavors play together well. I had expected the juice ingredient to give the Pepsi an additional harsh sweetness, but somehow it wasn’t too saccharine. The tropical flavor is a natural pair to Pepsi’s citrus notes, and this combination seems to cut through the syrupy quality that dark colas can have.

Pepsi Mango also has a smoothness and overall drinkability that I would not expect from a cola. Its end result is a delicate aftertaste that almost reminds me of drinking flavored iced tea — without sacrificing the carbonated crispness. This quality, combined with its spot-on fruity flavor, elevates this soda to next-level good.

Pepsi Mango  2021 Box

Mango fans will be pleased with Pepsi’s choice to resurrect this product, which is also available in the Zero Sugar variety. (Look for both kinds in 20-ounce bottles and 12 packs of 12-ounce cans.) Come summer, I will look forward to enjoying this Pepsi again as a refreshing treat on a hot day. The only downside: the three brands of mango-flavored sparkling water stashed in my pantry now seem a lot less enticing by comparison.

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 12 pack of 12 oz cans
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (per 12 oz can) 150 calories, 0 grams of fat, 95 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 41 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Dr Pepper Zero Sugar

Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Bottle

What is Dr Pepper Zero Sugar?

Keurig Dr Pepper has released a new sugar-free formulation of its iconic soft drink. Using a combination of aspartame and acesulfame potassium, Dr Pepper Zero Sugar is being described as an addition to the aspartame-only Diet Dr Pepper, rather than a replacement.

How is it?

Dr Pepper famously has 23 unique flavors, and you can find lists on the internet that purport to reveal them all. I don’t know how accurate these are (carrot, really?), but as a frequent Diet Dr Pepper drinker, I’m very familiar with what they create.

Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Closeup

I pour Dr Pepper Zero Sugar into a glass and take a sip. It tastes like the Diet Dr Pepper that I’m familiar with. Yet, I think a more direct comparison will be fruitful.

One result of spending way too much thinking about junk food is that I’ve realized how susceptible to marketing I am. I prefer Coca-Cola over Pepsi partially because of its comfortable, timeless-seeming aesthetic, as opposed to Pepsi’s aggressively cool Generation Next campaign from my childhood. I still think of a Subway sandwich as a healthy option.

Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Compare

I choose Diet Dr Pepper from the work vending machine because it tastes more like regular Dr Pepper. But does it, really? To test this, I grabbed the original, diet, and zero sugar versions to try them side-by-side. It’s a Dr Pepper Challenge, if you will.

I haven’t had a regular Dr Pepper or any full-sugar soda in years, so I taste it first to establish a baseline. It’s very similar to the Zero Sugar version, with a more syrupy consistency and more intense sweetness. I move onto the diet one and am surprised by the difference. The mouthfeel is thinner and the sweetness has a flatness with a slightly chemical flavor that I’ve never noticed before. It does not taste like regular Dr Pepper. This is very concerning to me. Are my opinions so subject to media influence? Am I captive to corporate forces larger than I can conceive? I resample Dr Pepper Zero Sugar to confirm that it tastes more like regular Dr Pepper, and am convinced that it more faithfully replicates the original.

Conclusion:

Dr Pepper Zero Sugar has opened my eyes to the truth. Diet Dr Pepper does not taste more like regular Dr Pepper, but this version does. Well played, Doctor, though you can still expect a malpractice lawsuit for all the quarters I’ve fed into the cafeteria soda machine.

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 2 Liter
Purchased at: Piggly Wiggly
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (12 fl oz) 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Mtn Dew Major Melon

Mtn Dew Major Melon Bottle

Watermelon is known as a summer fruit because it grows best when the weather is warm. So the season is also when we see watermelon-flavored products hit the shelves and then disappear when it gets cold. But I don’t restrict the showing of my legs to just the summer months, so the same should be said for watermelon-flavored products.

But some brands have moved away from summer releases. Last year, we saw Red Bull Watermelon in February and Monster Ultra Watermelon in September. So here we are in winter, and there’s a new, season-be-damned watermelon-flavored beverage — Mtn Dew Major Melon. It’s a permanent variety, so it’ll be available year-round, like the viewing of my legs.

Its aroma evokes memories of sitting under the hot sun, sweat rolling down every inch of my body, wondering if I should reapply sunscreen, and taking a whiff of a previous Dew flavor that smells just like Major Melon. I can’t quite put my nose on which of the gazillion Dew varieties it is, though.

However, while it smells similar to another, its flavor is definitely a different Dew, and it’s fabulous. My tongue notices the citrus first, and then the watermelon follows soon after. It’s pleasantly sweet, but, and this might just be me, it’s not as cloying as other Dew varieties. There aren’t any artificial sweeteners in it, only HFCS, so I’m not sure why it tastes that way to me. The soda also has a mild tartness, so don’t think of it having a bold sour watermelon taste.

My first sip of Major Melon was like the initial swigs I had of Mountain Dew Code Red and Maui Burst, which left me thinking, “I’m definitely going to overDEW it with this Dew.” Although, if I’m ranking flavors, this would be slightly below Code Red and Maui Burst.

Mtn Dew Major Melon and Zero Sugar Cans

Major Melon is also available in a Zero Sugar version, but I’m less enamored with it. It’s okay, but its watermelon flavor mixed with the artificial sweeteners makes it taste a bit floral. The sugar-free soda’s flavor also reminds me of non-carbonated, sugar-free watermelon beverages I’ve had.

Overall, the HFCS-sweetened version of Mtn Dew Major Melon is a major success, but not so much with the Zero Sugar one.

Purchased Price: More than one should pay on eBay
Size: 20 oz bottle and 12 oz cans
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Regular), 6 out of 10 (Zero Sugar)
Nutrition Facts: (12 ounces) Major Melon – 160 calories, 0 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 44 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein. Zero Sugar – 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

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: Crush Sour Patch Kids Berry Soda

Crush Sour Patch Kids Berry Soda

What is Crush Sour Patch Kids Berry Soda?

It’s a blue raspberry-flavored and Blue 1-dyed soda with a sour twist that’s brought to you by our friends at Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc. and Mondelez International. Also, like all Crush sodas, it’s caffeine free.

How is it?

It has that familiar, sweet blue raspberry aroma. But if I jam my nose into the bottle’s spout and take a good sniff, I smell a hint of something that could be considered tropical. Maybe that’s from the sour ingredients. Or possibly my nose got damaged from jamming it into a bottle’s spout. But, as a whole, it smells wonderful and enticing.

But I’m hesitant to use those same adjectives to describe the soda’s flavor.

Look, it sounds like I’m about to type that I hate this Cool Water cologne bottle-colored soda, but after drinking half of it, I find it to be decent tasting. However, I’m not craving for another bottle.

The blue raspberry flavor is super sweet, and perhaps too sweet for my taste buds. Its sourness level is noticeable, but it isn’t high enough to make me pucker even a little after each sip. But it does make me want to drink this slower than other soft drinks. Also, just like when I took a good sniff from its spout, I noticed something that registers as “tropical” in the aftertaste.

Anything else you need to know?

This isn’t the first Sour Patch Kids soda. 7-Eleven and Jones Soda Company partnered to come out with the Sour Patch Kids Watermelon Soda back in 2016. It’s also not the first collaboration between Crush and Sour Patch Kids. Earlier this year, the two offered Crush-flavored candy.

Also, is this the season for blue raspberry beverages?

Conclusion:

Crush Sour Patch Kids Berry is a novelty soda, and like most novelty foods, it’s worth a try at least once.

Purchased Price: More than anyone should pay on eBay
Size: 20 fl oz bottle
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 bottle) 290 calories, 0 grams of fat, 105 milligrams of sodium, 75 grams of carbohydrates, 74 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.