Since Zug.com died a rather abrupt death, I figured I should mirror my work here. Also, this way I can pretend they’re new updates. Excuse the terrible formatting, I felt like putting in effort to fix it would be an insult to the original work. Also, I didn’t want to put in effort.
As anyone who has to write a last minute article about Thanksgiving can tell you, the holiday is fast approaching. And we all know that means the four F’s of Thanksgiving: food, family, football, and flavored-like-Thanksgiving-food sodas.
I will admit that last one was kind of forced.
Luckily, we have the kind folks at Jones Soda who have been providing us with questionably-flavored holiday soda for years. I had long wondered how these flavors actually worked. Were they sweetened sodas with hints of meats and vegetables, or were they truly flavored like their horrifying descriptions?
There’s only one way to find out: I would taste these bizarre holiday sodas, along with how they stacked up against their real-world food counterparts.
Experiment #1: Turkey & Gravy Soda
It’s bad enough that I’m dreading this flavor already, but did they really need to include bare, warmed feet on the label?
Making the prospect of a Turkey & Gravy flavored soda even worse was that my soda was five years old. (I bought it off eBay.) Well, I reasoned, Thanksgiving is all about leftovers.
The smell of the soda was truly peculiar: a mildly sweet aroma, with overtones of turkey gravy. The taste was a combination of sweet and savory, like sugared gravy. Let’s call it “a really unsettling combination.”
You will usually have some sweetness creeping into your turkey from the cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, or pie (if you’re a weirdo who puts all your courses on the same plate). But you don’t expect the gravy to be sweet.
I think unsweetened gravy is a tradition for a reason: sweet gravy is horrifying.
“Turkey & Gravy soda sounds delicious,” you might be thinking, especially if you are obese, “but can it really compare to actually eating turkey and gravy?” To find out, I compared the soda to the lowest quality turkey meal on the market: Banquet TV dinners.
Even handicapped by its 89 cent price tag, real turkey and gravy comes out way ahead of the soda. The biggest advantages of the real turkey and gravy: it wasn’t sweet, wasn’t liquid, and wasn’t in a bottle.
Experiment #2: Wild Herb Stuffing Soda
What goes better with turkey than stuffing? Nothing, of course. But would stuffing-flavored soda make for an even better complement? I’m going to assume no, but we should confirm that fact. For science.
Opening the bottle, I was hit with a violent wave of herb aroma. If they made a stuffing-flavored ramen, the flavor packet would reek like this soda. Unfortunately, it tastes just like it smells. A bitter taste, followed by a brutal onslaught of herbs and spices. This is the gin of sodas, except that gin is awesome, and stuffing soda is wretched. And right about now, gin is sounding really good.
However, the important question remains: is stuffing soda better than real stuffing? The answer might actually surprise you.
It might surprise you, especially if you’re paying no attention to what I wrote above, because of course stuffing soda isn’t better. It’s awful! Even this sad, soggy stuffing easily won over the soda.
Experiment #3: Brussels Sprout
This was, without a doubt, the soda that I was fearing most. I actually like Brussels sprouts, but I was concerned about their ability to be a delicious and refreshing beverage.
You can’t accuse Jones Soda of trickery. If that shade of green doesn’t warn you that something is truly amiss, you might be beyond help. Whatever food dye was used to color the soda could be reused if they ever decide to make a line of Exorcist-themed beverages.
I stared at the bottle for a long while, working up the courage to open it. Finally, I went for it. As the top came off, the room was filled with this noxious odor. It certainly didn’t smell like cabbage. It smelled like the bottom of a homeless person’s shopping cart.
Miraculously, it didn’t taste as bad as it smelled. Mind you, that just means it tasted disgusting, instead of “maybe suicide is a viable alternative to finishing this.”
One thing both the soda and the real food have in common is an unpleasant smell. While real Brussels sprouts have a faintly off-putting aroma, the soda smells like it was stored inside the Ark of the Covenant that the Nazis opened.
Experiment #4: Cranberry
I was feeling pretty confident when I got to Cranberry. The worst flavors were certainly behind me, and a cranberry-flavored soda sounded pretty good.
I should have known it wouldn’t be this easy.
Upon opening the bottle, the smell hit me with the question: “Wait, is this flavored like real cranberries?” Almost anything flavored with cranberries is awesome, but the fruit itself is kind of terrible.
The soda had that bitter cranberry smell, mixed with the smell of a bottle of red wine that had been left in a hot car for a few weeks. The taste of the soda made me think it should be consumed by Norse gods, drinking it from upside-down skulls. It was incredibly pungent on the tongue, a mightily-flavored beverage that manly men would drink, before people like myself came along.
Since I didn’t know if they were trying to have this soda emulate real cranberries or cranberry jelly, I pitted the soda against both. As I said, fresh cranberries are just not good, and neither was the soda. Still, I don’t know if I could declare the soda a winner. We’ll call it a tie.
Cranberry jelly beats the soda, hands down. That is mostly due to the fact that cranberry jelly is awesome, and gets an unfair reputation from people who are too afraid to enjoy foods where the serving can be described as “cylindrical.”
Experiment #5: Pumpkin Pie
This time of year, everything comes in “pumpkin” flavor. Beer, coffee, donuts, Pop-Tarts, and of course pumpkins. It’s the flavor you can’t get away from, but wouldn’t want to. Because pumpkin-flavored foods are almost always awesome.
Which is why I had such high hopes for Pumpkin Pie soda. Opening the bottle, though, something seemed wrong. Sure, I was getting all the right spice scents, but something else was crashing through my sinuses: actual pumpkin.
The soda smelled, and tasted, like raw pumpkin pie mix. Which, if this was a flavor like cookie dough or cake batter, might work. But raw pumpkin, no matter how fancied up with cinnamon it gets, is disgusting.
I guess I should be grateful they only decided to have it smell and taste like raw pumpkin mix. At least there weren’t chunks pulp and seeds floating around in the liquid.
Not surprisingly, actual pumpkin pie wins out. You know why? Because it was cooked.
And that wraps up the most disgusting and depressing Thanksgiving meal ever. On the bright side, this meal doesn’t stretch the waistline like a normal Thanksgiving dinner, since all these sodas have zero calories. Yes: diet disgust!
I’m not sure why they went for the target market of “people who want to try weird and disgusting flavors, but don’t want to get fat,” but somehow they reeled me in.
Unfortunately, the meal was over, but the experiment was not. Time for football!
This collection of Jones Soda is supposed to revolve around the “tastes of football.” I was surprised there was no Cool Ranch Doritos flavor, until I realized they meant the tastes of playing football, not watching it.
Experiment #6: Dirt
The flavor I was most interested to try was Dirt. Which is a sentence I never expected to write.
The color of the soda is truly disturbing. It looks like the water in bottles that people leave on their porch to extinguish cigarettes. Opening the bottle, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of a rancid smell. Clearly I’ve been doing these experiments for too long, when I’m disappointed that something I’m about to put in my body doesn’t smell disgusting.
The soda confirmed it: dirt doesn’t actually taste that bad. It certainly wasn’t good, it just didn’t taste like anything, really. Which is probably pretty accurate. I can’t say for sure, since I haven’t eaten dirt in at least five years, so I don’t remember what it tasted like.
But come on … if you’re going to make a soda named Dirt, take some creative license. Grape-flavored ice pops don’t taste like real grapes, so who says dirt-flavored soda has to follow all the rules?
I am offended. How dare they not disgust me at the level to which I have become accustomed?
Experiment #7: Perspiration
Perspiration is the Latin term for what is now commonly known as “sweat.” After the Great Dirt Soda Fiasco, I was curious how they would approach a sweat-flavored soda. Would it be an artistic take on the idea of sweat? I thought. Or would it be … and then I saw the first two ingredients were carbonated water and salt, and realized, they’re going the realistic route.
I guess the one good thing I can say about sweat-flavored soda is that it tasted cleaner than ocean water. But that awful taste is one of the many reasons I hate going to the beach, ranking just behind “inevitable sunburn” and “people.”
I’ll be in the water, trying to enjoy myself despite weird, unknown things touching my legs. Then I’ll get seawater in my mouth, and try to wipe it off on my arm, which is also covered in seawater. So, no thank you to a soda that tastes like the Atlantic Ocean.
Experiment #8: Sports Cream
Let’s cut to the chase: this is Ben-Gay flavor. No one refers to it as “sports cream,” just as no one says, “I just cut my finger, do you happen to have an adhesive bandage?” Even during the times when I could actually use Ben-Gay, I never did, because the smell always repulsed me. I was expecting this one to be pretty terrible, and just hoping the Sports Cream flavor wouldn’t cause my tongue to go numb.
The smell of the soda immediately let me know they got that part exactly right. Opening the bottle smelled like the locker room of an over-40 men’s hockey league.
Tasting the soda was a truly surreal moment. After that dead-on smell, I was expecting it to taste like liquid Ben-Gay. However, it actually tasted good. Really good, in fact.
The Sports Cream flavor tasted almost exactly like my favorite gum, Teaberry. No one understands why it is my favorite gum when I tell them that it tastes like Pepto Bismol. I know that isn’t the most enticing description, but it doesn’t change the fact that Teaberry is awesome.
This was one of the few sodas that had sugar in it, which might be why it tasted so good. Maybe their marketing slogan for this one should be, “It’s Flavored Like Ben-Gay, But Don’t Worry … It Has Sugar.”
Experiment #9: Natural Field Turf
The Turf soda has one of the stranger colors. The first three football sodas all had vaguely bodily fluid colors, while Turf’s color was more along the lines of “Predator blood.”
The smell will bring you back to those happy days of summer. As long as you have fond memories of laying in a pile of warm grass clippings. Weirdo.
The strong grass clippings smell and taste was similar to those “infused” waters. It was like drinking Metromint. I don’t dislike water flavored with unsweetened mint, but it’s not something I’d like right now. It was the same thing with Turf: I wasn’t actually repulsed by the grass flavor, but I could certainly do without it. Forever.
Experiment #10: Sweet Victory
Sweet Victory is their consolation soda. If you made it this far, here’s a legitimate flavor for you, to make up for it.
The smell of Sweet Victory is basically pure sugar. Which makes sense, since the taste seems to be cotton candy. I don’t know what it says about me that I’d rather drink a bottle of Ben-Gay soda than one flavored like cotton candy.
The tough part about drinking Sweet Victory was that it pretty much tasted like liquid sugar, or perhaps an advanced, weaponized version of liquid sugar. Hopefully I can find a Novocaine soda; that way I can just take care of the inevitable cavities myself.
While these sodas didn’t quite equal a Thanksgiving experience by themselves, they did offer some of the same results: upset stomach, shame, and exhaustion. I just hope it’s not too difficult to explain to my family why my breath smells like Ben-Gay.