But before I get to that, let me back up a second.
One of the most bittersweet nostalgic experiences is the yearning for food and drink products that are long gone from this Earth. I mean, so many other things can easily be revisited. The prints and master tapes of long lost television shows and movies are typically stored in studio vaults and can be re-released at will (well, as long as it’s profitable.) Old books and magazines are all floating around in dusty second hand and comic shops (or in the middle of a precariously stacked section of trash in a horder’s bedroom.) Any pretty much every toy, video game or or plush doll is available on eBay, Etsy, or digitized as a rom for your downloading pleasure. But defunct food and drink products become extinct by design. Sure, there are actually plenty of old, full boxes of cereal, cans of pasta and cases of soda readily available for purchase, but it is all beyond safely consuming (not that some amazingly brave souls aren’t trying.)
So where does that leave a generation of kids who grew up loving certain tastes and textures? It leaves us mostly unfulfilled. Hey, no one ever promised us we’d have Keebler Pizzarias, Quackers, Fruit Corner branded fruit snacks, Bonkers candy, or yes, Hi-C Ecto Cooler forever. And on the scale of things that one needs to survive in this world, re-experieincing the flavor sensations of old junk food is pretty low. That being said, when left to our own devices we will try pretty damn hard to recreate those products. Whether it’s finding the closest possible substitutions (did you know that El Sabroso brand Salsitas chips make a pretty damn good stand in for Keebler Pizzarias?)…
…or trying our best to recreate the recipe. About five or six years ago an Ecto Cooler recipe started floating around the internet. I’m not sure who originated it, but I scoped it at my bud’s site, Strange Kids Club, and tried it myself for a special Halloween treat. It consisted of 1.5 cups of sugar, 1 packet of orange Kool-Aid mix, 1/2 packet of Lemonade Kool-Aid mix, 3/4 cup orange juice (with no pulp), 3/4 cup of tangerine juice, 14 cups of water, and 4-5 drops green food coloring. The concoction tasted pretty close, but it was way off in consistency and because it used orange and tangerine juices as a base it was way too opaque.
And backing up again for a second, why is Ecto Cooler so beloved anyway? Where did this drink originate? Well, it might be a bit of a surprise to some but Ecto Cooler as we know and love it is actually a rebranded version of one of Hi-C’s earliest flavor varieties from 1965, Citrus Cooler Drink (which was the same green, tangerine-flavored 10% juice drink…)
That’s right, kids and families have been chugging that sweet green tangerine drink since the 60s. In 1986-87, as part of a deal to work a Real Ghostbusters cartoon promotion into the Hi-C drink line the Citrus Cooler was rebranded to Ecto Cooler and featured everyone’s favorite ugly spud Slimer on the packaging. Though the actual drink was not new, it was one of the coolest and longest lived of all the Ghostbusters merchandising tie-ins that not only outlasted the cartoon series it was shilling, it far exceeded the company’s expectations fandom-wise. Even if it was just a rebranded Citrus Cooler, a who generation of kids thought it was new and amazing. It was like drinking citrus-flavored ectoplasm, or as I used to think of it, the essence of Slimer. It’s such a simple tie in that fit so perfectly that it became a part of the fabric of so many kid’s lives for a full decade (from 1987 to 1997.)
In 1997 the Slimer and Ghostbusters promotional aspect of the drink was dropped and it was again rebranded to Shoutin’ Orange Tangergreen for the next few years. In fact, back before I started Branded in the 80s, around 2001 or 2002 I was doing some research online to try and find out if Ecto Cooler was still being manufactured when I stumbled on a site called X-Entertainment (run by Matt from Dinosaur Dracula.) Pretty sure it was there that I learned that the drink was now called Shoutin’ Orange Tangergreen, and after reading his article I just had to have a taste of Ecto Cooler again. Unfortunately no stores in my area at the time stocked it, so in what seemed like a very desperate and insane choice at the time I ended up contacting a store in upstate New York and had them ship me a case down to Georgia. I think I paid something crazy like $40 in shipping for $9 worth of the drink, but for a couple months or so I had my Ecto Cooler nostalgic drink fix.
Since it was so expensive to procure, I didn’t try and order any more, so I was unaware until recently that the drink had one final rebranding back in 2006. The Coca Cola Company brought the drink almost full circle by renaming it Crazy Citrus Cooler before finally retiring it for good a year later in 2007. I think it was pretty safe to say that up until the announcement of the new Paul Fieg Ghostbusters movie starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, Ghostbusters and nostalgic food fans had given up any hope that we’d ever have a taste of that electric green tangerine flavored beverage. Thus, the fan concocted recipes began bouncing around the internet and a hundred online petitions to Coke were created. Every time there was a whisper of a potential Ghostbusters 3 movie in the works all of us fans would speculate as to whether it would be a big enough deal to raise Ecto Cooler like a spectral form from the junkfood graveyard.
Then a few months ago something amazing happened. With all the hubbub surrounding the new Ghostbusters flick taking the internet by storm, a lone empty can of Ecto Cooler popped up on eBay that very possibly signaled the return of our beloved juice drink…
It looked official, was obviously not vintage (because of the calorie count shield and the 2016 Coke copyright), and was hotly bid over. In fact, it topped out at about $200. Now this is noting new for empty Ecto Cooler packaging. There are routinely empty cases, juice boxes, and even full 32 ounce cans popping up on the auction site for up to $300. But at the time no one was quite sure if this was an elaborate ruse or the real deal. And if it was the real deal, wouldn’t it be less impulsive to wait until the movie came out to get cans at retain for way cheaper? But this is the life of Ecto Cooler fans, and really all nostalgia fans. We pay crazy amounts of money for tangible evidence of our pop culture obsessions.
Well, it turns out that that can was in fact the real deal, and we can fast forward back to the present and this past Thursday when a handful of bloggers and websites received care packages from Hi-C containing a very special advance shipment of one of the most desired soft drinks of the past 30 years, Ecto Freaking Cooler!
I have to hand it to the marketing department on the production of this advance giftbox. Having it designed to look like a cross between a ghost trap and a containment until was pretty rad. The two doors on top flip open to reveal the contents inside, a single can and juice box of the newly released Ecto Cooler…
Rounding out this set is a small barrel of toy slime which as you can see in the first picture above made for some great photo opportunities…
So how about the taste? How closely was the Coca Cola Company able to reformulate the original taste of Hi-C Ecto Cooler? Perfectly. To me it tastes the same as it did back in 2002 when I last had it, and as close as I can remember to those hazy days in the 80s when I was drinking a 32 ounce can every week. In fact, I had pretty much no doubt in my mind that it would taste the same as it’s a specific product variety that they’d manufactured for over 40 years before they retired it in 2007. I mean, it’s only been 9 years since it was last on store shelves, though it feels more like 20 since it wasn’t called Ecto Cooler since the late nineties.
It was hard getting accurate pictures of just how green this amazing drink is, but rest assured, it looks exactly as you remember it too. As an added bonus, the Hi-C logo on the can changes colors when the drink inside is chilled. Pretty nifty little design element.
The cans and juice boxes should be hitting retail chains on May 30th. I’m going to go ahead and say that your best bet will probably be checking out your local Target or Wal-Mart, which typically carry specialty movie tie-in merchandise like this. My hope is that much like the original launch of Ecto Cooler, this one outlasts the movie that it’s tied to and that it hangs around for the next decade. But just in case, stock up because it’s advertised as being a limited run only…
So, are you excited for the return of Ecto Cooler? Any plans to do anything crazy with it, like making popsicles, mixed drinks, or baking? Will you be checking your local stores on May 30th?