“*A constant horrifying stream of vomit*”
~American Soda drinkers
America loves soft drinks so much that every region tries to call it something else. Depending on your upbringing, you’ve spent your whole life drinking soda, pop, coke, soda pop, or fizzy drinks. Some of you even grew up enjoying “plain flavored carbonated beverages” but that’s just because you were home schooled, and your parents were too embarrassed to tell you they had tricked you into liking seltzer water. While carbonated water, the backbone of the soda industry, was first developed in 1767 by Joseph Priestley in, alas, England, America has long since used pop to fatten up our kids while keeping them obnoxiously hyperactive, with soda being available commercially stateside as early as 1806.
Pop is a part of our everyday life. The average American drinks almost 45 gallons of soft drinks every year. That sounds even more impressive when you realize that we only average 20 gallons of beer annually, so clearly someone must be doing something right in the R&D departments of old Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. We love our colas, our lemon-lime pops, hell, we even drink Mountain Dew. And while there are dozens, if not hundreds, of delicious sodas available at the nearest convenience to act as mixers for all sorts of deserving hard alcohols, there are some companies that, either on purpose or by terrible, terrible accident, make pop that is so repellant that even the Japanese have to take a step back and go, “Goddamn it America, you’re doing it wrong!”
Now’s the time to reflect and think about what you’ve done. Because some of you out there have drank these sodas. Willingly. Ye Gods.
America’s Grossest Soda Pops
When a major soda company has a well-publicized misstep, it usually is a case of Icarus flying too close to the sun. You’re at the top of the world, why not fuck with the formula everyone likes and release New Coke? Yeah, Pepsi is delicious, but wouldn’t it be more delicious if you could see through it and oh my God this cocaine is the best ever? Yeah we’ll joke about them for years to come, but we never get mad about it. It’s just some harmless marketing missteps. Hell, no one even remembers that Coca-Cola BlāK ever existed, and that cola/coffee combination was such an abortion of an idea that Planned Parenthoods keep cases of it lying around to show their doctors what everything’s supposed to look like when they’re finished.
The following kindness cannot be afforded to the following soft drinks. Yes, some of them are clearly made for prank gift givers and secret Santa’s to elicit a response of “LOL this soda tastes like roasted ham!” but that almost makes it worse, because everyone’s going to try it since most Americans are totally unfamiliar with the old phrase “Curiosity made the cat drink an awful soda and their taste buds never recovered.”
So for that very reason, our staff, and many other unfortunate Americans, have tried the following terrifying beverages. And wept.
DR. BROWN’S CEL-RAY SODA
Don’t let the spelling fool you, this is exactly what you fear it is—celery flavored pop. First produced in Brooklyn in 1868, it’s primarily popular in New York City, South Florida, and cooking shows that specialize in making you cook with an ingredient that makes serious chefs go “What the fuck am I supposed to do with celery flavored fucking soda? Goddamn it.” It pours a golden color (like piss!) and in the 1930s it was so popular among New York City’s Jewish community that it was nicknamed “Jewish Champagne” because there are roughly zero nicknames from the 1930s that don’t sound uncomfortably racist to modern ears.
When you think of ingredients that would taste great in liquid, sugar-laden, bubbly form, celery has to be at the bottom of your list. It’s not that celery is particularly gross, it’s that it essentially tastes like misty air. If someone told us they made a celery soda pop, we’d assume they found a way to make seltzer water taste a little like…leaf? That’s why we were terrified when we discovered how sweet Cel-Ray actually is. Sweet and bitter. It’s essentially a peppery ginger ale, which is not a combination of flavors we’re particularly excited to try again. As a general rule, whenever something is referred to as an “acquired taste” repeatedly, and is primarily enjoyed by older generations, you’re probably not going to like it. It just means that your taste buds have to give up before you can pretend it’s good to appease the egos involved, sort of like a bride who saved herself for marriage being disappointed on her wedding night. We imagine most people who say that they like Cel-Ray only do so because they’re being stared down by an 85 year old Deli owner who has some stories to tell, so they politely look over after each sip and say, “Oh yeah, that’s the stuff right there. Oh yeah, that’s real good. I like that. Ahhh.”
When you hear someone say, “That guy’s got moxie” you’re either watching a Neil Simon play or the TV is playing a black-and-white movie and an older character likes the spunk of one of the younger characters. That is, unless you’re from Maine, New England, or Pennsylvania, because then you’d associate it with “that awful, awful, soda.” It’s flavored with gentian root extract, an “extremely bitter” substance, and has been since it was first introduced in 1876. Since it’s not sweet like most mass-produced soft drinks, people often refer to the its taste as “unique”, which is telling since no one has ever described something they enjoy as “unique.” You never hear someone say, “I really loved The Departed, I thought that film was very unique.” You hear it used to politely point out someone’s flaw when they’re in earshot, like, “Oh yes, Allison, that two hundred pound girl with the Zooey Deschanel bangs and the ill-fitting sundress that kept shouting racial epithets? Yeah, she certainly was unique. I think it’s because she was flavored with the gentian root extract, so she was more bitter than most mass-produced wannabe manic pixie dream girls.”
Moxie was recently named the official soft drink of the state of Maine, which probably pissed off all the lobsters that thought being designated the “official state ___ of Maine” meant that you had to be, you know, something people liked. Dr. Augustin Thompson created Moxie, originally as a patent medicine called “Moxie Nerve Food” and claimed it was effective against “paralysis, softening of the brain, nervousness, and insomnia.” We’re going to pause for a second and point out that nine times out of ten, if someone in 1876 is offering you “nerve food” that helps fight “softening of the brain” you’re getting either a mouth full of opium or mercury. That might be preferable to Moxie, however, since mercury at least is sweet.
We tried to avoid the Coca-Cola/Pepsi failed product launches, just because it’s too easy to take cocaine pot shots about Crystal Pepsi, and also because we already used up that joke during the intro to this article, but we couldn’t help ourselves with Coca-Cola’s 2009 attempt to make milk soda happen. Yes, you heard us correctly, they were making a fizzy milk beverage sweetened with such flavors as “Peach Mango”, “Very Berry”, “Tropical Colada”, “Citrus Burst”, and “Every Time I Close My Eyes I See The Nightmares Of The World.” If we were to make a list of things to carbonate, beer would top the list, followed by water, and nothing else. Carbonated milk, on the other hand, is literally the first thing you’d think of if someone asked you, “What’s the grossest thing you could carbonate?”
To give you an idea of how bad of an idea “milk soda” is, the only market where it’s actually had any success is, you guessed it, Japan. If something sounds gross, and it’s popular in Japan, you know it’s gross. Trust us on this one. Japan is not someone you want to be taking soda cues from.
HUBBA BUBBA SODA
We here at AFFotD tend to feel that people put too much stock in something going “extinct.” You see a lot of hand wringing over the fact that the we’re the reason there aren’t any more Dodos in the world, but at the end of the day it was a short fat bird that couldn’t fly and only lived on an island in Madagascar. You never were going to see a Dodo, and who knows, they were probably dicks anyway. And besides, there are literally hundreds of terrifying, evil extinct creatures whose disappearance made the world a better, less horrific place.
What we’re trying to say is, at one point, there was a Hubba Bubba soda. As in, someone named Steve Roeder was chewing gum one day before he raised a finger and said, “Man, I love this flavored wax in my mouth, if there was only a way that I could swallow it without having to look up on snopes if that myth about bubble gum staying in your stomach for seven years is true. Oh, and I might as well carbonate it because I’m in the middle of a mild stroke.” So, he did some “trial by error” pop making until he found something that tasted like diabetes in a can, and after a call to The Wrigley Company asking to get a license to call it Hubba Bubba, Hubba Bubba soda was born.
Not only was there a product called “Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum Soda”, there was a diet version of the pop. Because if bubble gum soda doesn’t sound disgustingly artificially sweet to you, you might as well amp it up and make it taste even more fake. We’re pretty sure this is the exact line of thinking that’s responsible for people getting so much plastic surgery that they end up looking like a cat.
Anyway, it’s been discontinued. Thankfully. America saw this terrifying product, said, “not today” and released dogs into its natural habitat so it could be hunted to extinction, just like those asshole Dodo birds.
AVERY’S BEVERAGES TOTALLY GROSS SODAS
So remember when the Harry Potter movies started coming out, and everyone thought that Bertie Botts jelly beans were the funniest thing, because they had flavors like earwax and pencil shavings? And then Jelly Belly figured out they could totally sell that shit to gullible kids, and you could actually buy Bertie Botts jelly beans in real life in the back of a pre-bankruptcy Borders? And people actually had to ask themselves, “Huh… is this piece of candy going to taste like cinnamon, or vomit?” It was a dark time in our society.
Avery’s Beverages looked at this and realized they could totally make money if they produced soda and pretended it tasted like awful things. Yes, the “Totally Gross Soda” line of beverages was released by Avery’s Beverages in New Britain, Connecticut (not to be confused with the far superior and alcohol producing Avery Brewery in Colorado) as a way to introduce a little bit of sadness to any gift swap. “Oh wow, thanks, I really did want this Blue-Ray of The Hunger Games, I was totally meaning to pick that up, that was very thoughtful of you. Anyway, here’s a bottle of cat piss. Just kidding, lulz, but seriously it’s still not going to taste good.”
We’re not being facetious about that either. They have a soda called “Kitty Piddle” and while they do us the service of not trying to make it taste like actual cat piss, you know you’re not going to enjoy drinking a pale yellow fizzy beverage that purports to be cat piss no matter how much they try to make it taste like an orange-pineapple soda. Every single one of these pops essentially is a mediocre-at-best soda flavor given a name to ensure you’ll never actually enjoy drinking a bottle of it.
There’s “Swamp Juice” (“over half a dozen flavor ingredients”), “Toxic Slime” (blue raspberry, orange, and lemon are the “dominant flavors”), “Dog Drool Soda” (orange-lemon), “Bug Barf Soda” (Kiwi/Pineapple), the aforementioned “Kitty Piddle” and “Monster Mucus” (strawberry and blue raspberry). These all range from “tolerable” (Kiwi pineapple might not be that bad?) to “anxiety inducing” (we’re sorry, but if you have a “secret recipe of over a half-dozen ingredients” called “Swamp Juice” that is brown and fizzes when you open it, we’re not even going to try to smell it). Either way, we’ve come to the depressing realization that there absolutely have been people who bought these sodas, tasted it, and threw it to the ground angrily, shouting, “Orange and pineapple?! What is this shit? I wanted some fucking cat pee!” Although the people at Avery’s at least seem to have a sense of humor about the whole thing, we’ll give them that.
Jones Soda is a cute little beverage company from Seattle. They make pop using cane sugar, and they let you submit photos and vote on what pictures get to go on their labels. You’ve probably seen the last time you went to Panera. They also have a habit of making disgusting soda flavors that will haunt your digestive track years after consumption. There are so many “savory” sodas that Jones has made at one time or the other that we’re almost guaranteed to miss a few, but rest assured they are all terrifying and ruinous.
Seriously, just name the last foods you’d ever want to see liquefied and turned into a bubbling beverage. It’s been made into a Jones Soda. Seriously. Go ahead, try us. Okay, fine, something other than smoked salmon pate, because no one in their right mind would…oh God, seriously? Why would they do that to us? That’s the kind of crazy that just establishes that nothing is sacred, like if they made a pop flavored like gravy covered cheese fries and mother fucker why do we keep doing this to ourselves?
It all started with the Holiday Pack, which had flavors that you could imagine enjoying, like pumpkin pie or cranberry, and flavors that make you re-evaluate all the choices you’ve made in your life that led you to that very point, like turkey and gravy, Brussels sprouts, and wild herb stuffing. This began in 2003, when they first introduced the turkey and gravy soda to see it sell out in a matter of two hours, which might just be the most damning condemnation of Democracy we’ve ever encountered.
Among the other terrifying flavors that have come out of the Holiday Pack were green bean casserole, mashed potatoes with butter, sweet potato, dinner roll, pea, antacid, and again at this point we feel like we need to remind you that these are all flavors of fucking soda. Anyway.
They haven’t limited their monstrosities to just holiday packs. Once they developed the reputation for making “quirky, gross” soda, they went a little overboard with it. Like in 2007, when they released a Seattle Seahawks collectors pack, with “perspiration”, “sports cream”, “natural field turf”, “dirt” and “sweet victory” flavors. While sweet victory isn’t so much a flavor as it is an ideal, we’re just going to assume that that one is made out of roofies so you can forget what dirt, natural field turf, sports cream, and perspiration tastes like in soda form. That was the same year their holiday pack included Christmas Ham and Christmas Tree as flavors, while appeasing (punishing?) their Jewish consumers with a Chanukah pack with flavors like “Latke”, “Chocolate Coins” and “Jelly Doughnuts”. Wait, jelly doughnuts?
Anyway, Jones Soda is going to keep making these awful creations because we keep buying them. They’re pretty much the soda version of that one kid in your third grade class with a severe case of ADHT who would goof off all the time and whenever you laughed at his antics your teacher would scald you by saying, “Stop that, you’re just encouraging him.” Well, America. You need to stop. You’re encouraging Jones Soda.
As much as we spent about 700 words insulting Jones Soda to its very core, the fact of the matter remains that they are still, largely, a “serious” soda company. They make cola and ginger ale and other things that you can comfortably add Southern Comfort to, and they do a good job with real pop. They only freak us out when they try to make gimmicky soda for shock value, but they tend to limit that for the holidays, and hey, they donate proceeds to charity. The same claim cannot be made for Lester’s and Melba’s Fixins.
The brainchild of the Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop, Lester’s Fixins, and to a much more harmless extent, Melba’s Fixins, has successfully weaponized soda. Melba’s Fixins are the “sweet” sodas, so we don’t have much of an issue with them, even though they’re still obviously for novelty purposes as opposed to general consumption. Peaches and cream, lemon meringue pie, sweet tea, and other similar flavors aren’t exactly our cup of anything, but we’re not going to cause a ruckus about that. It’s Lester who has to explain all the horrible things he’s done.
Peanut butter and jelly soda. Coffee soda. Sweet corn soda. Bacon soda. Dear god, there’s even Buffalo wings soda. But nothing is as much of a sin against America as their Ranch Dressing soda. Yes. Ranch dressing. Let that sink in for a second. Ranch dressing is one of the best things on Earth. Many extremely learned, intelligent, and attractive people agree on this point. But as much as we’d eat Ranch on just about everything, we’d not want to actively chug the stuff, much less drink a bottle of a watered down, carbonated approximation of how maybe Ranch dressing might somewhat taste.
But, no, they found a way to do that. They’re ruining soda and Ranch dressing in one fell swoop. Let’s have a moment of silence. Because now, we don’t think we can drink soda ever again. Not after this. Not after everything we’ve seen.
You fools! Timid pieces of nothing! Be BOLD when you venture into the universe of unusual-flavored sodas!
Lester’s Fixin’s are mostly gross (especially Bacon and Ranch Dressing), but Sweet Corn is INCREDIBLY good. Melba’s Fixin’s are mostly good, especially Apple Pie.
Hubba Bubba soda was fantastic, I drank quite a bit of it as a 10-year-old.
Moxie, also available at Rocket Fizz stores, isn’t bad at all. Sure, it’s a bit less sweet than Coke, but since when is that a bad thing?
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Moxie tastes the way the tar patches on a Deep South county road smell after hours bubbling under the blazing summer sun. It’s concentrated, bittersweet evil — even more so when surrounded by the bright-orange can that cheerfully, deceitfully suggests delightful citrus flavors might dwell within.
I love every drop of it I can get, even though I’ve never been north of Delaware.
Recently, I was amused to find that The Fresh Market sells it all the way down here in Alabama; surely they’re catering to the snowbirds and transplants, but this Southerner is happy to get it locally and not by mail-order any more.