REVIEW: Coca-Cola Spiced

I’m a fiend for flavored Coke. And by “flavored Coke,” I actually mean any cola jazzed up with something else, like Pepsi that is mangoed in nature, and yes, the flavored Cokes — most of them, anyway. I love Cherry and Vanilla Coca-Cola, and I am still mourning the departure of Orange Vanilla Coke. (That and the Cinnamon Coke it did at Christmas a few years ago. I’d do bad, illegal things to have Cinnamon Coke be a regular offering.)

I did not, however, care for many of the past couple of year’s “Mystery Flavors” from the Coca-Cola Creations line. You know, the abstract ones meant to taste like emotions and concepts or those designed by algorithms or famous DJs. There were a couple that were tolerable, but because there were far too many to begin with, they all blended together, and now I can’t remember which ones they were.

But I had high hopes for Coca-Cola Spiced because the flavoring seems pretty straightforward: “Raspberry Spiced (and other natural flavors).” Plus, on more than one occasion, I’ve opted for a Raspberry Coke from a Coke Freestyle machine, and I’ve never regretted it.

But make no mistake. This ain’t that, though.

My previously high hopes were dashed against the rocks immediately after cracking open the bottle.

A strong cough syrup scent overwhelmed me before the first fizzy sip ever touched my lips. Then I took a drink, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the cough syrup was front and center. Thankfully, it wasn’t as strong as the scent, but it was still very present, a medicinal bite that tasted only vaguely raspberrian in nature, right at the beginning of the drink. And while it mellowed slightly on the back end, it never fully went away.

Because I am a “Zero Sugar” guy, I tried both, and while it is worth noting that the Robitussin-esque qualities of Spiced were milder in the Zero version, they are still there, just muted. It made that version more tolerable, but still, nothing I’d actively seek out again.

So until Coca-Cola brings back Orange Vanilla or Cinnamon (or makes Vanilla Zero Sugar more ubiquitous so that I can buy it more often than “that one time I found it last summer while vacationing in Des Moines”), I’ll stick with the options that don’t immediately evoke memories of staying home from school with a bad cough.

Purchased Price: $2.69 each
Size: 20 oz bottles
Purchased at: QuikTrip
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Original), 5 out of 10 (Zero Sugar)
Nutrition Facts: (1 bottle) Original – 250 calories, 0 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 67 grams of carbohydrates, 67 grams of sugar (including 67 grams of added sugar), 0 grams of protein, and 54 milligrams of caffeine. Zero Sugar – 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 95 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 57 milligrams of caffeine.

REVIEW: Limited Edition 2023 Mtn Dew VooDEW

Back for a 5th Halloween season, VooDEW Grim is here to deliver another mystery flavored ghost white soda wrapped in spooky graphics. In years past, the flavors have all been candy-themed, and while they were intended to represent fairly specific candies, like 2020’s “Fruity Candy Explosion” basically being Skittles, this year’s edition partners Mtn Dew with an actual candy brand.

They’ve offered up a few not particularly subtle hints about the flavor, so I’m going to be equally as unsubtle with offering my guess. If you’d rather try it without being biased, now is the time to pull your reaper hood over your eyes and slowly back away into your graveyard. Try not to trip over that mummy with the mohawk.

This year’s VooDEW is available in both regular and zero sugar, and I tried both before I did any research as to what the flavor was. The zero version was the first I found, and sniffing it, I thought it had a familiar scent, but beyond “fruity candy soda,” I couldn’t have told you what it was. Tasting it had a similar effect, except that I was totally distracted by the artificial sweeteners. As someone who typically enjoys all sorts of sodas, including zero and diet types, I’m surprised I found this one so offensive, but I just couldn’t overlook it. I guess I don’t want fake sugar when I’m drinking my candy?

I was feeling like this year’s flavor might be a disappointment, but thankfully, a friendly apparition in the form of the regular variety showed up in my grocer’s cooler. Things are much improved here. There’s a citrusy lemon-lime aspect in the vein of normal Dew (or maybe closer to Sprite or 7UP) with notes of other fruits like cherry. It leans much more sweet than last year’s decidedly sour edition.

It had me feeling like I should know what this is, but I’m not sure I could have placed it exactly without the help of Dew’s clues. With them, though, it made perfect sense. Calling it “SCAIRY” and dropping a red balloon emoji on their social media along with a Blair Witch-style video of people running through the woods being stalked by a red balloon, I can pretty confidently say this VooDEW is Airheads flavored. Typically, the non-color of the brew is part of the disguise with the blank slate not offering up any hints as to what it might taste like. This year, I think the flavor is hiding in plain sight: White Mystery Airheads. The candy is made with leftover flavorings that are hanging around, so if you try this and think it tastes like some blend of cherry, lime, raspberry, and whatever else, you’re probably right.

Overall, VooDEW 5 is a sweet, smooth drinking soda that I think most people will find enjoyable regardless of how they feel about Airheads as a candy. If you’re able to get the regular version of this scary sip, I highly recommend it over the zero.

Purchased Price: $2.29 (regular), $2.00 (zero sugar)
Size: 20 fl oz
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco (regular), 7-Eleven (zero sugar)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (regular), 6 out of 10 (zero sugar)
Nutrition Facts: (1 bottle) Regular – 270 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 80 milligrams of sodium, 73 grams of total carbs, 73 grams of total sugars (incl. 73 grams of added sugars), and 0 grams of protein. Zero Sugar – 0 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 80 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of total carbs, 0 grams of total sugars (incl. 0 grams of added sugars), and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Coca-Cola Limited Edition Y3000

According to Coca-Cola, its Limited Edition Y3000 Cola is “Futuristic Flavored” and was partially developed using Artificial Intelligence. But should we trust AI to come up with new flavors? I don’t even trust it to write a paragraph about the limited edition cola.

But I did anyway.

Here’s what it came up with after I asked it to compose something about Y3000: “Coca-Cola has recently introduced a new limited edition flavor that has fans buzzing with excitement. The new flavor, called Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Orange Vanilla, is a refreshing twist on the classic soft drink that has quickly become a fan favorite.”

So, um, yeah.

While it’s “Futuristic Flavored,” it smells like a beverage I’ve had before. Despite putting my nose on the top of this bottle for the same amount of time my dog’s nose is under a fire hydrant, I can’t definitely place where I’ve smelled it before. With its berry-ish aroma, I want to say Pepsi Blue, but that would be weird because my fellow reviewer said this other Coca-Cola Creations cola smells like Pepsi Blue.

But the way it tastes confuses me even more. There’s a tasty berry vanilla flavor at first, but the aftertaste sometimes reminds me of buttered popcorn jelly beans. That aftertaste was more noticeable after using Y3000 to soothe my mouth after eating some Takis. But other times, that aftertaste wasn’t buttery and leaned heavily towards vanilla-y. I think I also picked up on some artificial banana flavoring. But that buttered popcorn vibe caused a cola that started off good to fall a bit off at the end. Let me know in the comments if any of you also noticed that artificial buttered popcorn flavor.

So, um, yeah. Thank you, Artificial Intelligence. Thank you for making what started out as possibly one of the better tasting Coca-Cola Creations flavors and then making it perhaps the one with the weirdest aftertaste. Now I’m curious about how the Zero Sugar version tastes.

Although, to be fair, according to Coca-Cola, the soda was developed by AI AND humans, so maybe it was human error that caused the back end of this soda to taste like a Jelly Belly?

Purchased Price: More than one should pay on eBay
Size: 20 oz bottle (also available in 7.5 oz cans)
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 bottle) 240 calories, 0 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 65 grams of sugar (including 65 grams of added sugar), and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: A Cola With More Fiber Than Most Fiber One Products

Fiber One products used to enthrall me. I mean, not the products themselves, but the attempts to cram fiber into them. The boxes used to proudly show off how much of your daily fiber you’re getting per serving. For a lot of them, mainly the snack bars, it was 20 percent. But with others it fluctuates.

There’s 35 percent, 40 percent, 43 percent, and 28 percent.

Whenever I saw a new Fiber One product, I hoped that somehow the food scientists at General Mills could cram 50 to 100 percent of our daily fiber into a snack bar or something, but they couldn’t deliver. I guess they can only do so much with chicory root extract and soluble corn fiber without it tasting like it has chicory root extract and soluble corn fiber.

Now, I’m sure some of you are going to point out that you can get 65 percent of your daily recommended amount from eating a serving of Fiber One’s Original Bran Breakfast Cereal. But that’s not something I want to eat.

Thankfully, I found a product that’s better tasting than a bowl of Fiber One bran cereal AND gives me more fiber per serving — Kirin Mets Tokuho Cola. Yes, it’s a Japanese cola that many of you will not be able to get your hands on, but it’s such a fascinating product that I had to write about it.

It has 25 grams of fiber per 16-ounce bottle, which comes out to 89% of the daily recommended amount, and that’s possible because the second ingredient listed is dietary fiber. “Tokuho” is a label that can be put on food and drinks in Japan that have health benefits, and those health claims must be scientifically proven though testing and trials before it can be approved by the Japanese government to receive the “Tokuho” label.

As for the fiber-dense cola, its flavor reminds me of cola gummies, but sugar free and with a noticeable artificial sweetener aftertaste, thanks to the aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium. It’s better tasting than a bowl of bran, but slightly less satisfying to my taste buds than a Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi.

I’ve purchased this Kirin Mets Tokuho Cola three times so far ($2.50) from a grocery store chain here that imports products from Japan, and it would’ve been more, if not for the fact that it sold out a couple of times. I guess I keep wanting to buy it because it tickles me that it has almost an entire day’s worth of fiber. As for gastrointestinal problems for drinking something with so much fiber, it wasn’t an issue because I didn’t chug the whole thing in one sitting. (Nope, not going to try it. Don’t ask.)

Would I buy a diet cola from Pepsi or Coke that has 89% of my daily fiber? If it tasted like Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi, I would. Would you, if you’re a diet cola drinker?

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 480 ml
Purchased at: Times Supermarket
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 bottle) 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 25 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar (including 1 gram of added sugar), and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Mtn Dew Baja Caribbean Splash and Baja Passionfruit Punch

“Always two there are. No more. No less.”

That quote from a green, wise old man can be applied to the Sith and with annual Mtn Dew Baja flavor extension rollouts.

With the new Baja Caribbean Splash and Baja Passionfruit Punch, Mtn Dew has turned almost all the most popular tropical fruits into Baja flavors. (Waiting for banana and papaya, Mtn Dew.) Pineapple has been used twice, mango once, whatever is in tropical punch once, and then there are these two latest varieties — Caribbean Splash with a blast of guava and Passionfruit Punch with a blast of, well, you know.

Baja Caribbean Splash smells tropical, but its aroma doesn’t quite bring guava to mind. Its orange-red hue also doesn’t quite remind me of guava flesh, which in my head is pinkish. But its flavor is guava, although a lot milder than I’m used to because I grew up drinking many cans of this. Although I wish the guava stood out more, Caribbean Splash is tasty, and I like it slightly more than the other new Baja flavor.

Even though the can’s artwork shows a volcano spewing out many purple passionfruit, I was surprised by Baja Passionfruit Punch’s purple color because I grew up drinking many cans of this which depicts yellow-skinned fruit (lilikoi is passionfruit here on this rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean). But the soda’s slightly tart taste does bring to mind the passionfruit juice I’ve consumed over the years, but much like Caribbean Splash, the tropical fruit flavor needs to be punched up a bit. Also, I don’t know if the purple color is influencing my taste buds, but its aftertaste made me think of Mtn Dew Pitch Black.

Overall, Baja Caribbean Splash and Baja Passionfruit Punch are great and worth a try to fulfill your fruity caffeine needs. But I was more impressed with previous Baja Dew flavors, like Baja Gold and Baja Mango Gem. Anyway, they’re still good, and I look forward to next year’s Mtn Dew Baja offerings (again, waiting for banana and papaya).

Purchased Price: More than one should pay on eBay
Size: 12 oz cans
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Caribbean Splash), 7 out of 10 (Passionfruit Punch)
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) Caribbean Splash – 170 calories, 0 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 44 grams of fiber, 44 grams of sugar (including 44 grams of added sugar), 0 grams of protein, and 55 milligrams of caffeine. Passionfruit Punch – 170 calories, 0 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 44 grams of fiber, 44 grams of sugar (including 44 grams of added sugar), 0 grams of protein, and 55 milligrams of caffeine.