Category Archives: Soda Pop Culture

Return of the Living Podcast!

So, one of the small projects I’ve been working on this past month is the resurrection of the Branded in the 80s Podcast.  It’s been over five years since I last recorded an episode of the show and even though I find solo-podcasting terribly frustrating, I’ve always missed it a little.  I started this site with the podcast and for the 10th anniversary I felt it would be a fun challenge to see if I could dust off the show, clean it up a bit and put a new coat of wax on it.  I’m not sure how long this new incarnation might last, but I intend to try and keep it going throughout the rest of the summer at the very least…

Branded Podcast Logo

For the first new episode of the show I decided to sit down and record some thoughts on the return of Hi-C Ecto Cooler and why it might be a good experiment to try and find the positive aspects of the pop culture we love and love to gripe about.  I’m still playing around with the format a bit, so excuse me while I make a fool of myself.

There are a few ways you can snag new episodes of the show.  I’ve submitted it to iTunes and Stitcher, so those avenues should go live soon, but until then you can subscribe to the RSS feed or right click and download the first episode here.  You can also stream it via the player below or on the Branded Facebook page.

So for all two of you who have been asking for it, yes, the Branded in the 80s podcast is back.  For now…

Hi-C Ecto Cooler is back and it’s….


image1ssdBut 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?)…

pizzaria substitution…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.

homemade ecto coolerAnd 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…)

Image courtesy of Dan Goodsell

Image courtesy of Dan Goodsell

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.)

old ecto 1 Old Ecto 2In 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…

the canIt 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!

box 1I 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…

image3sdsd    pour

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.

glass 1    glass 2

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?


Diving back into Soda Pop Culture for a bit…

Just about done with the yearly hiatus, but in the meantime, I was a guest on the The Nerd Lunch podcast again, this time to geek out about the more lunch-y side of nerdom.  The show features NL alums CT and Jeeg, as well as Paxton from Cavalcade of Awesome, and once again a great time was had by all!

We spend the episode discussing the fizzy, syrupy goodness that is soda, a pop culture touchstone that pretty much anyone can relate to.  Whether you call it soda, pop, coke, or whatever, chances are you’ve imbibed a bit of one carbonated elixir or another, and you probably also have a favorite.  Listen to us talk about our favorites, least favorites, and bunch of general soda nerdery.  You can also find their show on iTunes.

World of Coke, Part 1…

So by “next week” I guess I really meant almost-a-month.  I didn’t plan on getting sick twice in the past month, not to mention the latter bout lasting for almost two weeks straight.  Stupid Bronchitis.   Anyway, I’m still hacking up a lung, but I believe I can think straight enough to write about the World of Coke…

As I mentioned in the last post, the wife and I made our first couple trips to the World of Coke here in Atlanta this past November and I had no idea how much of a weird effect it’d have on me.  For all intents and purposes I cut myself off of carbonated soft drinks a couple years ago, only breaking my vow of non-soda when I see a new variety or something along the line of the recent Pepsi Throwback products.  When we hit the World of Coke museum I was also preparing myself to indulge in their insane 60-odd flavor tasting room, hoping to sample some interesting concoctions from all over the globe.  But before I get to that I thought I’d talk a little bit about the museum and the self guided tours offered by Coca Cola. One of the main reasons we chose to visit was that we were looking to spend the day in the city and we wanted to hit something in addition to the Georgia Aquarium, but we didn’t want to go broke in the process.  At $15 per person, admission into the museum is only a little bit more expensive than going to see a movie these days, so it seemed like a fun, cheap way to spend the morning.  We were also sort of curious about the new WoC building since the last time we were in this part of Atlanta it was still under construction.  The area it self is pretty nice.  In addition to the interesting architecture of the building (including a wild three-story-tall coke bottle suspended in an adjoining glass structure – not pictured below), there’s a pretty decent-sized grassy park area in the rear of the museum (sort of in between the WoC and the aquarium) that looks like it would be great for picnics downtown.

I can’t speak for the previous location, but the design and layout of the new building is pretty nice, though there are some annoying traffic issues.   Basically, when you enter the museum there are three queuing areas before you’re left to your own devices for the two self-guided tours, gallery and soda tasting areas.  The first room is potentially the most boring as it’s the only official queuing area with only a few statues and some flat screen TVs talking up the importance of Coke.  The second room is an interesting exhibit of Coke signage, as well as a couple cases of antique memorabilia (and some Coke-inspired paintings by Norman Rockwell), where a Coke tour guide shares some trivia and gives an overview of what to expect in the museum.  Though this area is basically another way to corral the visitors for a bit, there are a ton of things to keep your attention including a couple of awesome vintage Coke machines…

After a fifteen minute spiel on the virtues of soda advertising the crowd is ushered into another room, a decent sized theater that acts as the third and final queue before you get to explore the museum.   The theater features short animated film called Inside the Happiness Factory, which is a much longer version of the weird Coke commercial that aired continuously in movie theaters a couple years ago.  Basically the whole thing is a fantastical take on what happens after you put a quarter (how long has it been since you could score a Coke for a quarter) into a Coke machine and the insane process that the bottle goes through before it’s vended to the customer.  Propaganda at its finest, the film is sort of mind-melting when you try and consider the target audience and the process behind the story and character design.  Honestly, this thing is all over the place, but instead of shooting for an upbeat, broad bit of schmaltziness (like the I’d-like-to-buy-the-world-a-Coke campaign of the early 70s) you can see the creators trying to specifically target all sorts of age groups and interests.  There’s some weird Gary Larsen-esque Farside-style humor in a sequence that involves snowmen being put into chipper-shredders to cool a Coke bottle right alongside some Blue Collar Comedy Tour style hick humor featuring two bumbling guy’s guys.   The overall character design is very alien in nature (think Close Encounters mixed with the Thumb Tech Deck figures) that evokes the custom vinyl toy movement.  There’s weird sexual innuendo, a giant slug in what I can only describe as flying bondage attire, and inexplicable anthropomorphic furry lips on spiked dog leashes.   Now I’m not saying I’m an authority on what does and doesn’t make for audience-bridging pop culture, but I’m really surprised at how “on board” the company seems to be with this campaign.  There’s even an official comic book!  Well, I guess if Max Headroom managed to capture the hearts and minds of walks of like 25 years ago, then lollipop sucking, baton-twirling thumb-women have a shot…

The first time the wife and I sat though it we were sort of left in a daze of shock and awe.  I do have to say though, that upon future visits to the museum this short film becomes just this side of unbearable as you have to pass through the theater to get to the museum so you have to watch it every time you go.   It’s sort of commendable in that it appears that Coca Cola took a cue from Disney theme parks in the crowd control and flow department, but unlike Disney you’re sort of punished upon repeat visits.

Anyway, after the film ends you’re escorted into a very bright atrium that opens up to the various sections of the museum.  On the ground floor there are three sections, a meet and greet photo-op area for the Coca Cola polar bear characters (again in the best Disney fashion), and two self-guided tour opportunities.  One of the tours takes you through the history of the brand, beginning in a recreation of an 19th century drug store/soda fountain and continuing on through a variety of Coke highlights including antique bottles and merchandising, international signage and brands, and artifacts from Coke’s various sponsorships (including the Olympics and the on-board Coke dispenser used by NASA on space missions.)  The highlight of this tour was what I like to call the Wall of Awesome…

…that features around a 100 different bottles/cans/cartons of Coca Cola brand beverages from all over the world and all throughout the company’s history.  I’m a huge fan of branding and package design so it was awesome to get a chance to stroll back in time to see vintage cans of Surge, Cherry Coke, Tab, and OK, as well as bottles of Mello Yello, Mister Pibb, and the small old school Styrofoam-paper-wrapped bottle of Diet Coke.   Noticeably absent from the wall was a can of New Coke, but there is one hiding in a display elsewhere in the museum.  The second tour focuses on the mechanics of bottling and distribution with areas of working equipment that’s busy packing cases and mechanically carrying bottles of Coke up to the tasting area (more on that in a later post.) The second floor of the museum features four areas including two more theaters, a gallery, and the coveted tasting area. 

The gallery features, from what I can gather, is a rotating selection of Coke-inspired artwork as well as two other exhibits, a mini, multi-media display that covers the New Coke controversy and a recreation nook with Coke-inspired furniture and a collection of Coca Cola pins.  Then there are the two theaters, one in a separate room that features a very zany 3-D film complete with wind and water spritzing effects, and a second that more open and features reels of various Coca Cola commercials from both around the world and throughout the last 60 or so years.  Again, you can so see Disney’s influence in the 3-D film which tries it’s best to mimic the experience of the 3-D films at the main Disney theme parks (the Bug’s Life flick at Animal Planet, the Muppets flick at Hollywood Studios, the Honey I shrunk the Audience flick at Epcot, and Disney’s Philharmagic at the Magic Kingdom.)  Unfortunately, instead of focusing on entertainment the film is yet another sledge-hammer-to-the-head advertisement.  By this point the museum was completely living up to my expectation of being strung out on Coca Cola propaganda.  As much as I love branding, it’s kind of draining to sit through hours of programming like this. Luckily Coke saves the best experience for last, the Tasting Area.

In part 2 of this look at the World of Coke I’m going to delve into the overall tasting area experience…

Soda, an explanation…

So, I thought I’d start off this new column with a quick explanation of why I wanted to start writing about bubbly colored sugar water, as well as to sort of backdate the column to include some pieces I wrote about six million years ago that really seem to fit into this whole idea.

First, the backdating.  Content-wise on this site, one of the first things that I couldn’t wait to write about on this site was my love of the 7-Eleven Slurpee, and the various related frozen soda-esque drinks that dot the landscape of fast food joints, gas stations, and convenience stores in America.  While breaking down all of the various nostalgic memories of food-related items into categories, I can’t help but notice that a few float to the top.   When I think of fast food, I think of Long John Silvers.  Favorite at-home food item as a kid = Chef Boyardee Mini Raviolis.  And when I think of my favorite drinks, Slurpees are right up there at the top.

As a kid I wasn’t really allowed to drink much soda.   Usually I was permitted my fill of Shirley Temples while dining at Red Lobster on special occasions, or whenever we hit a fast food joint, which was pretty rare.   The only exceptions were a free pass to get a Slurpee anytime we’d hit a 7-Eleven, or an Icee when we went to K-Mart. At the time I never equated frozen drinks with soda, most likely because I tended to stray from the basic Coke version of these frosty beverages in favor of whatever fruit flavor was available at the time.  But when you break it down, most of these frozen drinks are just slightly less carbonated sodas, so the series of article/reviews I did feel like they fit into the new column’s tone and content.   I’ve also written about some crazy sodas over the years, so I figured for simplicity’s sake (at least as far as making the site archives nice and neat) I’d include all of these past bits.

Now as far as why I all of a sudden have the bug to write about soda, well that came about this past November when the wife and I made out first visit to the World of Coke museum here in Atlanta.  Though I’ve lived in and around the Atlanta area for the past 20 years I never made it over to this liquid sugar shrine, and while twiddling our thumbs in boredom one weekend it finally seemed like it was time to check it out.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the museum to alleviate my boredom as it really does seem like a hokey cash-grab by one of the nations largest companies, not to mention that it was almost certain to be two or three hours of in-your-face advertising that I was paying for the privilege to sit through.

While my cynicism for the experience was more or less confirmed, I had to admit that there was a charm to the place, in particular the final stretch of the self-guided tour which consisted of a free, all-you-can-drink tasting area.  This was the section I was really looking forward to having had an inkling of what it would be like after a couple recent visits to Disney’s Epcot which houses a miniature version of this tasting room in the Future World section of the park called Club Cool.  Whereas there were only 8 flavors to choose from at Epcot, the full on World of Coke tasting area features over 60 different Coca Cola brand products.  I scoffed when the tour guide challenged everyone to try all the flavors, and then I left the museum with an intense tummy ache after only making my way through 50 off varieties.

Not being one that backs down from a stupid challenge, especially a stupid pop culture challenge, the wife and I decided to go back to the museum two weeks later determined to not only try each and every drink, but to also write up some reviews and thoughts.  You know, for content on Branded.  Anyway, after achieving this inane diabetes-inducing goal I inadvertently got soda fever and was curious about how many different varieties were peppering our local grocery and specialty stores.  100 bottles later I decided that the only way to justify the sugar intake, not to mention the expense, was to cover all of these finds for the site, hopefully jarring some interesting thoughts and observations along the way.

Next week I’m going to dive into the column proper with the first of a three part look at the insane tasting area at the World of Coke.

It’s like 1984 for frozen drink treats….

Wow, so Hoover just tipped me off to an interesting tidbit in the mythology that is frozen drink treats. In addendum to the series of entries I did reviewing various frozen drinks (you can find them all at the end of this blog entry), I’ve now learned that the Icee company, owned by J&J Snack Foods, acquired the Slush Puppie company (or logo, trademark, whatever) from Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages Company for an undisclosed amount. I’m apparently very late to the party with this bit of news seeing as how it happened last year in June.

So there is one less company floating around in the frozen drink game. This is just another in a long list of corporate mergers that I think is kind of sad in terms of branding because it’s one more choice that is little more than an illusion in terms of product loyalty. Now in the grand scheme of things and in the world today worrying about brand loyalty is pretty stupid and unimportant. I am well aware that there are many more important and terrible things going on, and yada yada yada.

I can’t ignore that I was raised in a world where branding was hard to ignore, I mean how many people out there are “Coke” people while the others are “Pepsi” (I doubt there are enough “store brand” loyalists out there for me to mention them, oh crap, I guess I just did)? It’s not like we’re going to go to war over it, but in a restaurant, when ordering a refreshing beverage to wash down a nice meal and you politely ask for a Coke and the waitress or waiter replies, “I’m sorry we only have Pepsi…”, doesn’t a very small part of you just fall for a second before saying, “That’s cool, I’ll have one of those.”

Well when I see companies and products merged under one roof, I can’t help but think that somewhere behind the curtain the product that is being produced just doesn’t matter as much anymore, I mean Matchbox, Hotwheels, it’s all just little toy cars (well not really, but I’m sure it is under Matel’s eyes), it’s all units shipped and stuff. I mean, if it’s cost efficient, just ship the same toys in different packaging and no one will mind. When I was working at a grocery store in the 90’s I learned that the store-brand frozen veggies were actually the same exact frozen veggies that a huge major brand were selling, that the grocery chain had the “major brand company” provide the contents and just packaged them in their own store-brand packaging and sold it for less because they could afford to. So at the end of the day, it didn’t matter which frozen green beans I picked up, it was all the same thing. That if I took more than a few seconds choosing between the two it was a complete waste of time because there really was no choice, just the illusion of one, and to me that’s kind of sad.

Obviously there is a big difference between a Slush Puppie and an Icee, and I don’t even particularly like Slush Puppies, hell they could probably do nothing but benefit from Icee owning them, but I know that there are people out there that love Slush Puppies and if down the road a bit it become apparent that the profit margin for Icee is higher than SP’s, that if keeping the option open to choose between the two is unprofitable, Slush Puppie will be fazed out.

I think I’m thinking about this too hard. Hey look, CHiPs is coming out on DVD….

Liquid bliss….

Jolly Rancher sodas, who’d thunk it. I keep meaning to write about these, but I keep putting it off and I don’t know why. So here it is. Jolly Rancher Sodas. I came across these during my Christmas 2005 visit to my family in Florida. They were in all the 7-Elevens and pretty much nowhere else.  I was so excited because the Slurpee crop for that year was pretty piss poor.

Growing up I was a huge Watermelon Jolly Rancher fan; I loved the JR sticks and stuff even though they taste nothing like watermelon, so when I saw that these sodas came in a Watermelon flavor I was pretty darn excited. I expected the soda to taste pretty shitty and nothing like a Jolly Rancher because seriously, who in their right mind would think drinking liquid candy would be a great idea. You can’t see me now, but I’m raising my hand. Seriously though I figured these were just branded with the Jolly Rancher logo like the Minute Maid sodas of the 90’s and the Tropicana Twister sodas you can sometimes find in Pepsi machines, just a name brand for a basic fruity soda. But then again these do come in some non-traditional flavors. I picked up one of each available, Watermelon, Blue Raspberry, Green Apple and Grape (not pictured.)  There’s also an Orange flavor but I have yet to find one.

I got out to the car, twisted off the top, and took my first sip of liquid gold. Ho-lee crap nuggets. This stuff tastes exactly like the candy, spot on, and no matter how gross that may sound to you it’s pretty darn heavenly to me.

Out of the rest of the flavors, the Blue Raspberry is probably the best, though it’s very rich. In fact all these sodas are pretty rich, enough so that you could probably only drink one every couple of days at the most.

I also really dig the bottles and stuff because they’re super-clear so the vibrant colors are the soda, not the plastic.

I’m not a big fan of Green Apple to begin with, but this flavor isn’t bad. If you like Green Apple then this is probably a good version for a soda though it’s a little on the tart side.

I found these bottles at a local Shell station this past winter so I’m glad they finally managed to make their way up from Florida to Georgia, though after I bought out their stock of Watermelon they didn’t replenish it, so it might not really be here yet. If nothing else, I have to give the company that makes these (Elizabeth Beverage Company of New Castle, Delaware) props for sticking to the actual flavors instead of just using the branding.

As an added bonus I’ve also got a snapshot of another soda that I found this past Christmas in Florida, Bubble Yum Soda. Let me just say that these are freaking awful. I think I might have mentioned this, but the clerk at the 7-Eleven I found these in tried to haggle with me to get me to buy the entire stock of these he had. They were marked down to $0.50 each and there’s a reason for it. They taste like death warmed over.

Frozen Drinks 101, Part 10!

So this has ended up being a much longer list of reviews than I thought it was going to be. This is the second to last of them though, and a double whammy at that. These last two entries will cover the more long running and original frozen soda drinks.

This entry is going to cover the Icee and its sister brand the Artic Blast. Before I started these reviews I knew next to nothing about the history involved in the frozen soda drinks outside of the fact that Slurpees have been around for 40 years, and I only know this because of the commemorative keepsake cup series they did last year. Well as it turns out, the Icee is the grand daddy of all frozen soda drinks.

As the story goes, Omar Knedlik who owned and ran a Dairy Queen in Coffeyville, Kansas in the 1950s, invented the frozen soda drink. Depending on the telling of the story, he either didn’t have a soda fountain machine yet or it was broken and he needed to supply his thirsty customers with cold soda so he took to sticking bottles of soda in his freezer. One day he left them in a bit too long and the bottles half froze, but being the soda-serving lovable guy he was, he gave them to customers anyways. Well everyone apparently flipped for the half frozen sodas, which consequently have almost the exact same consistency as today’s Icees and Slurpees. Since the customers were so taken with the novelty sodas, he decided to devise a machine that would dispense half frozen soda.

Once again the story gets cloudy, but Omar either couldn’t come up with a design himself or his design wasn’t adequate so he contacted the John E. Mitchell Company, a Dallas machinery manufacturer, in 1959 to help him realize his dream of a frozen soda fountain machine. According to the Slurpee website, Mitchell was very taken with the idea and his big advancement for the machine design was to being working with automobile air conditioners to freeze the syrup and water mix. Together Mitchell and Knedlik began building the frozen fountain drink machines and then sold them to other Dairy Queens and convenience stores under the branding of the Icee.

Depending on the brand history you read (Icee or Slurpee) the machines were either very successful (Icee’s version of events) or a failure (Slurpee’s version of history.) Either way a 7-11 storeowner ended up in Omar Knedlik’s Dairy Queen and ended up buying three machines for the 7-11 Corp. So 7-11, after tweaking the design of the machine, introduced Slurpees to the public.

Both drinks went on to flourish and basically became the standards upon which all others have been derived or judged (in my humble opinion.)

So like I said, this entry of Frozen Drinks 101 will cover the Icee and the Artic Blast. I was always under the impression that the two were different brands, but they are in fact the same product under different names. Up until recently I had only seen Artic Blasts at movie theatres in the area so I was figuring that maybe that was the reason, that maybe Icee licensed their brand to like AMC or something, but then when I decided to hit the local Target for an Icee to review they only had Artic Blasts. So I have no idea why there are two brandings, and the Icee website doesn’t have any info on that. Oh well. I managed to find an Icee at a local Shell gas station so whatever. I’m going to review both though for reasons that will become apparent in a minute.

First we’ll start with the Icee though. With the famous polar bear in a sweatshirt branding, the Icee was definitely the second frozen drink of choice (behind Slurpee of course) growing up in Florida. The main reason for this is location because I doubt that I had developed my now keen sense of distinguishing between flavor and consistency at the age of seven. When I did have them it was while visiting K-Marts, which my mom rarely seemed to go to. Back in the 80’s there seemed to be more choices as far as non-food shopping went. Whereas today you pretty much have to choose between places like Targets and Wal-Marts which are both the same but different, in the 80’s there were more places like Ross, Service Merchandise and stand alone Sears stores and stuff.

Anyways, I didn’t have that many Icees growing up, but recently, recently I’ve almost overdosed on them now that I know they are at a gas station on the way to work. The basic set up by work has three flavors, cherry, blue raspberry and Coke. Once again, I’m going to stick with coke for the review for consistency’s sake.

Though the machine in the above picture has all the defrost lights lit, rest assured that it was from a different day than when I picked up my first Icee in years. The first thing that struck me about the Icee was just how smart the branding is on the product. Not only is it the only other brand outside of Slush Puppie to use a cartoon character as a mascot, but also its color scheme is so basically American that it isn’t funny. Red, White, and Blue all the way. Adding the basic Coke flavor, this should be temporary re-dubbed the Freedom Slushie.

Okay, as far as the consistency is concerned, the Icee is pretty damn good. It’s got use enough ice and syrup that it’s almost always on the brink of becoming a liquid so every slurp sort of melts in the straw and it’s a lot like drink the perfectly cold unwatered down coke. It’s a pretty interesting aspect to the drink that puts it a little more in function over form category of frozen drinks. Whereas the Race Trac Frozen Drink is frozen all the way up the straw, brain-freeze inducing and a little harder to drink, the Icee is more like the perfect fountain drink. I can see this in the company history of the story and it seems to be that way to this day.

I did end up trying the cherry flavor recently when the Coke was on defrost in the morning and I was also pleasantly surprised by the non-cough syrup flavor it had. It tasted pretty much like your basic cherry candy flavor, though a little more soda like.

Now onto the Artic Blast. I wanted to cover this drink mostly because it broke one of the main conventions of frozen flavor drinkdom that I don’t think I’ve ever see done, it was available in Pepsi and not Coke. Gasp! Say it ain’t so Joe! As far as soda is concerned I’m not really in one camp or the other in terms of company loyalty. I can surely taste the difference, but sometimes I’m in the mood for a Coke and its rich syrupy bite, while sometimes I’m more in the mood for a Pepsi and its crisper cleaner less sweet taste. I’d just as soon pick up a Mellow Yellow as a Mountain Dew, and I pretty routinely avoid Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb both. I know from sodas, but the one thing I never really thought about is why you tend to always find frozen soda in Coke not Pepsi branding.

Well excitedly the fiancee and I marched right up to that machine and poured out heaps of frozen Pepsi fun into our Target branded cups.

In fact we were enthusiastic that we fell prey to the most common of frozen drink faux pas, the amazing growing slushie!

If you’re not careful the drink will continue to expand right onto the counter and all over your hands while you’re trying to save that precious drink.

Upon taking my first sip I realized why Pepsi is hardly ever found in frozen drink form. It’s too watered down to make a good frozen drink. That’s inherent in the soda itself as the syrup is less sweet than Coke and therefore when it’s frozen and it has to contend with the extra water (in the form of ice mind you) it makes the final taste rater watery. Part of this, I believe, rests with the Target version of the Artic Blast it self because all flavors at all Targets I’ve sampled are a bit on the light side when it comes to syrup. Target was the only place for a long time that I could find a frozen Mountain Dew, though it lost all the punch of the soda in the process, unlike the Mountain Dew Slurpee which is ten times better than the Artic Blast version.

The odd flip side to this is the difference between Artic Blasts at Targets and AB’s at AMC movie theatres. The movie theatre ones are much better as far as consistency and taste is concerned. So I don’t think it’s a brand thing as much as a location thing, and Target apparently isn’t the place to get the optimal version. Of course it’s freaking expensive to get into the movie theatre these days and there aren’t a lot of reasons (e.g. good movies) to bother, so the theatre Artic Blast is truly a treat that’s only available to me a few times a year.

Thus ends my frozen drink reviews for the time being until my next trip to Florida when I’ll cover the Slurpee in extreme detail. So once again, here are all the past reviews:

Slush Puppies

Burger King Frozen Coke

Quik Trip Freezonis

Race Trac Frozen Cokes

Sonic Slushes

Popeye’s Cajun Chiller Slushes

Crush Frozen Orange Dreams

Burger King Coke Float and Sonic Creamslush

Lollicup Asian Slush

Frozen Drinks 101, Part 9!

So today we divert a little from your classic American frozen drinks and venture into the unknown world of Asian slushes! Okay, so like pretty much the entire city where I live has had a make over in the last three or four years and slowly everything that was once there business-wise has moved down the main street about a mile. All the supermarkets went from twenty and thirty year old strip malls to brand new mega giant solitary locations while most of the other more eclectic stores that were in the old strip malls either closed or moved to another city. Basically the city has turned into a sort of ghost town of old empty strip malls.

Recently though, most of these have been bought up and either remodeled, or bull dozed to make way for new international strip malls. We now have a Mexican indoor mall where our outlet mall was (and it’s really nice with a bunch of awesome candy shops and tattoo parlors.) We also have no less than 4 Asian mega, two-story strip malls as well as two giant Asian farmers markets. Since I’m so enamored with the Asian culture this has been great. There are two stationary stores in particular that can’t be beat as far as Kogepan, Astroboy, and Miyazaki merchandise is concerned.

What’s been just the bee’s knee’s though are all the new restaurants that have popped up including a plethora of Vietnamese Pho houses. “Jefe, do you know what a plethora of Vietnamese Pho noodle houses means?” It means lots of awesome soup and sweet, sweet Vietnamese slushes. There are two houses in particular that I frequent, a hole in the wall place with great soup and okay slushes called What the Pho and a more upscale ritzy place with okay soup and awesome slushes called Pho Mimi. We’ll concentrate on the latter today as they have my favorite Vietnamese slush flavor, Green Apple!

Now I’m not completely convinced that this brand of slush is actually Vietnamese. The noodle house is, but the brand of slush they serve, Lollicup, makes no mention of nationality on their website and I believe it is based out of California, though it’s run by Asians. I’m making the assumption that it’s Vietnamese because I can only find them in the noodle houses, so if I’m wrong scream and shout and let me know the error of my ways. Anyway, I grabbed the fiancee and we strode off to Pho Mimi and picked up a couple of slushes, a green apple for me and a chocolate-mint for the lady.

It was a race to get back to the apartment so that I could photographically chronicle this momentous slushy event. As you can see below, traffic got a little bit of the better of my slush as it’s kind of melt-y on the bottom. None the less, I shall press on as I’m not about to run out and get another just for the pictures.

So these slushes are awesome. First off after the restaurants make them, they use a machine to seal them in the cup so there will be no spillage. You just poke your straw into the plastic covering and you’re good to go. All of the restaurants have served their slushes like this so far, so I’m assuming its par for the course.

Now one of the best aspects about these slushes is how they differ consistency-wise from other more American slushes. These are made with totally pulverized ice that’s got such small ice crystals that it’s got a very smooth and silky consistency almost like frozen yogurt but obviously more icy than creamy. Most of the places also give you a very oversized, diameter-wise, straw so you get pretty much a consistent flow of icy beverage and you don’t end up sucking out all the syrup first. Another great aspect is the syrup. High quality stuff, and it’s reflected in the price. Whereas most slush and Slurpee drinks will run you $1 to $1.89 or so, these Asian slushes are typically $3 or more, but they are so worth it every once in awhile.

The last thing that I love about these drinks is their flavor variety. Like I said the woman got a chocolate-mint slush. Chocolate?!? In a slush?!? Yes sir and she said it was great. They’re also offered in most of the more Asian fruit flavors like durian, longan, lychee, coconut and honeydew as well as more standard fruit fare like peach, watermelon, orange and strawberry.

It seems like the world of frozen drinks is truly opening up in Georgia.  All we need now is a freaking 7-11 franchise to open up and I’d be freaking set.

Frozen Drinks, Part 8!

Thatsa creamy frozena drinka! Today’s entry in the textbook of Frozen Drinks 101 is a double whammy as we take a look at the Burger King Coke Float and the Sonic Creamslush! I was introduced to the BK Coke Float before Sonics started popping up so I guess we’ll cover that one first.

Now I am no stranger to the float as a drink, and even sort of grew up on coke floats in general, but I have always known them to be a mixture of vanilla ice cream and regular sodas. Now I love me a float, but I’ll be honest, making them at home is an art unto it self. I am not sure if it’s an order thing (to add coke or ice cream first) or a “brand of ice cream used” thing but every time I’ve ever made a float the same problem happens. This nasty unappetizing foam forms on the top that continuously grows for minutes, obliterating most of the soda and taking a good five minutes out of the drinking process while I scrape it off into the sink. It also seems to separate the color additive from the soda so that the leftover soda is clear (and as anyone who partook in that Crystal Pepsi debacle a decade ago can attest to, clear soda that isn’t limon in flavor is a scary thing indeed.) I was raised on Breyer’s which is about as basic as you can get (I believe the ingredients listed are milk, cream, and sugar.) Maybe I need to switch to a more ingredient filled variety, like maybe the all natural goodness of Breyer’s clashes violently with all forms of chemically derived sodas or something.

Anyway, a few years ago, I believe around the time of the first Ice Age movie, Burger King Corp. got the brilliant idea of combining two of their dessert properties into one big frozen creamy soda-y drink movie tie-in known as the BK Ice Age Float. At the time the two available flavors were cherry and some blue fruity thing that wasn’t blue raspberry. At first I thought that the drink was an abomination, that soft serve ice cream surely would do nothing but mar the perfectly fine frozen drink flavor. Boy was I wrong. Today the float seems to be a seasonal item and it’s pretty basic as far as flavors go, being the creamier version of a frozen Coke or Fanta.

I decided, as you can read in my review of the BK Frozen Coke, that since their Fanta cherry is pretty crappy that I’d just go with a basic Coke Float. Let me tell you, as watered down as the normal frozen Coke was, the addition of soft serve vanilla ice cream is exactly the kick their frozen drink needs to get it back up to mega tasty.

It might be kind of hard to see in the picture because I was gypped and was served the drink in a paper cup instead of the clear one advertised in the sign above, but the drink is basically frozen Coke layered on top of a bed of soft serve. The awesome thing is that whoever poured this monster was bright enough to mix it up a bit before handing it off to me. That makes all the difference in the world as far as this type of combo is concerned. See if they didn’t do that all you’d get when you sucked up through the straw would be soft serve. That’s how it was when I was first introduced to the drink, and it was cool, but not great.

The only drawback to this drink was that it’s best when firm, and the more it melts the less appetizing it gets. I guess melted soft serve isn’t exactly as cool as the ice cream soup I used to make as a kid.

As you can see in the gross picture above, if it takes you more than 20 minutes to down one of these bad boys then you’ll most likely be left with a watery, foamy mess of a drink that resembles that nasty homemade Coke float foam I was talking about above.

So a very similar drink, just not carbonated and a lot fruitier is the Sonic Creamslush. Basically it’s the same deal as above except Sonic blends any flavor slush with soft serve to form a rich creamy, well creamslush.

I tried my damnedest to get a grape creamslush, for one because grape cream-sicles were my favorite and two because I haven’t had a purple drink in any of these reviews. Well unfortunately they made this one heavy on the soft serve so a lot of the color was lost.

Whatever the color these are awesome frozen drinks. Whereas the Crush Frozen Orange Dream drink tried to taste like a cream-sicle but only ended up tasting suspiciously like orange flavored children’s aspirin, all of the Sonic versions of the creamslush taste awesome. The only one I haven’t tried is green apple, because creamy and sour seem like a bad combo, but I’ll bet it’s better than that Orange Dream piece of crap.

Once again, like the BK Floats, the drink is on a time limit. Because it’s made with soft serve it’s got a limited shelf life before it gets melt-y and gross. Luckily for the consumer (and unlucky for the environment) all sonic drinks are served in Styrofoam cups so they are pretty well insulated from even the hottest summer heat and therefore can last up to an hours before they get gross. If you can’t finish your frozen treat in that amount of time though maybe you should just consider drinking water.

Well we’ve made it though eight, count ’em, eight frozen drink reviews. So far we’ve covered:

Slush Puppies

Burger King Frozen Cokes

Quik Trip Freezonis

Race Trak Frozen Cokes

Sonic Slushes

Popeye’s Cajun Chiller Slushes

Crush Frozen Orange Dreams

Join us next time when we get exotic and cover Vietnamese slushes!