Why Do So Many Soft Drinks Taste Like Teletubby Blood?
I don’t drink soda very often. It’s not that I don’t like it; it’s just that after age 12 I never felt like having more than a shot of it every now and then. Soft drinks are designed for children with tiny, discerning pallets, unimpressed with the flavors provided by actual food. That said, some of the tastes in these beverages exist only inside of their cans and cannot be found anywhere else in the whole world. It’s like a Willy Wonka land of weird water, and who would be such a fool as to not sometimes dunk their tongue in the chemical concoctions and see what’s good?
I decided to veer away from the recognizable labels and see what life is like on the wild side of the soda pop biz.
15 calories per 12 fl oz/12 g sugar
Kill Cliff calls itself a “Recovery Drink,” or, rather, “THE Recovery Drink,” being conceptually healthy in that it is “naturally sweetened” and only 15 calories a can. I found it over with the Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, like maybe it’s strategically placed next to the high-end shit to make you think it’s good, a can of cola all on its own. The text on the side of the can claims that the drink was “developed by a former US Navy Seal” to “improve endurance and speed recovery.” It’s unclear who the Seal was, and why he thought “Kill Cliff” would be a good name for a revitalization beverage. They also employ the tagline “Test Positive for Awesome,” which is maybe closer to an AIDS joke than should be on a can of soda.
The first sip reminds me of if Sweet Tarts were a liquid and strained through a pair of men’s briefs after a short doubles’ tennis match in a domed arena. It’s all puckery and buzzing around the edges, and when it hits the back of the throat it immediately provides the feeling of having recently barfed. This post-barf expression kind of kneads its way back and forth across the tongue and palate like electricity. I take a second sip to cover up the first, and the buzzing strain appears again, redoubled. I kind of already have a headache.
As I get deeper into the can, my brain becomes warm. It feels like my head is flooding with acid, and I can only tolerate the sensation by drinking so fast I can’t taste anything. When I stop my head is spinning, and I feel full of gasoline.
I might recommend Kill Cliff to remove paint or to dissolve the bars on a prison cell, but as far as liquid designed to go inside my body is concerned, no.
Marley’s Mellow Mood (Berry Flavor)
165 calories per 12 fl oz/29 g sugar
Sniffing the edge of the can’s mouth before I take a swig, I get the full bouquet of chemical fruit fun, suggesting what I’m about to drink is again going to come from the “Sick Fake Candy” food group. So I’m shocked when the liquid hits my lips and the first thing I think is actually, Hey, this IS smooth! Maybe it’s the dead rock icon on the can with the marijuana colors that brainwashed me into this feeling, though more likely it’s how, compared to Kill Cliff, this shit is like white sturgeon caviar. More watered-down Hawaiian Punch than actual soda, there is also a delicate flavor similar to the air in a bong shop lurking just behind the first curve of berry. The mixture is confusing, hairy, seemingly as unsure of itself as I am of it, but at least I don’t want to do an immediate spit-take.
Seattle Has a Haunted Soda Machine
As about 45 percent of us know, ghosts are definitely real and casually walk among us. Some have a post-life agenda of stealing our socks or manifesting as apparitions on burned toast; others prefer to spend their time banging around abandoned children’s hospitals for Syfy Channel reality shows. But there’s one ghost who has taken an industrious approach, choosing to operate a creepy Coca-Cola machine on an innocuous corner in Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Like an endless Encyclopedia Brown story, the machine has been an ongoing source of curiosity and fear from locals for decades due to its weird location, outdated appearance, and reputation for being continuously and strangely stocked by a seemingly non-existent operator. It brings to mind the famous line from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that gave entire generations of children the heebie jeebies: “Nobody ever goes in, and nobody ever comes out.”
With its sun-bleached buttons and charmingly antiquated Mountain Dew logo, the Mystery Coke Machine has been spitting out sodas on the corner of John and Broadway for upwards of 15 years, but no one seems to know exactly for how long—or who re-stocks, maintains, or collects money from the thing. It’s as though it fell out of a wormhole and landed free-standing onto this lonely corner. From the get-go, its 70s appearance evoked a sense of cheery yet ominous nostalgia, as if Matthew McConaughey’s character fromDazed and Confused would fit right in with it, leaning against its side while he’s busy winking at you. Prior to encountering it, you may not consider how unusual and even intimidating a vending machine looks standing alone on a sidewalk. It’s almost as though it’s forever waiting for something, or someone in particular, to show up.
Paul Rodriguez is a skateboarding machine. Calling him a “professional” skateboarder doesn’t begin to describe how professional he really is. He is a true gentleman on a piece of wood and undeniably one of the greatest skateboarders of our generation. So when Mountain Dew offered to fly me out to LA to shoot some photos and skate with him, I said no way, nerds. JK, I cancelled all my plans and hopped on a plane as fast as I could.
Relax, Soda Isn’t Killing Anyone
Today, the left-wing blog ThinkProgress freaked out over a study that linked soda and other sugary drinks to 180,000 deaths globally each year. According to that study, “one out of every 100 obesity-related deaths around the world can be tied to sugary drinks, which directly exacerbate health conditions like diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer… the over-consumption of those beverages increased global deaths from diabetes by 133,000, from cardiovascular disease by 44,000 and from cancer by 6,000.” One of the study’s co-authors, Gitanjali Singh of the Harvard School of Public Health, said that these tens of thousands of deaths “should impel policy makers to make strong policies to reduce consumption of sugary beverages.” ThinkProgress went on to note that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to do exactly that, but the courts struck his proposal down and now, Oh God, New Yorkers will keep drinking lots of soda and, presumably, keep dying from sugary drinks. I hope you’re happy, you cranky libertarian types. The right to drink whatever you want that you cherish so much is killing innocent people.
Man, where to start?
1. 180,000 deaths worldwide per year is, like, hardly any deaths. The CIA World Factbook says that 107 people die every minute, which works out to roughly 154,000 deaths a day. If soda is killing as few people as the study says, it’s not a hugely urgent problem.
2. The American Beverage Association—a.k.a., Big Soda, so take this with a grain of salt—pointed out inBloomberg that the study’s abstract, which was published by the American Heart Association, doesn’t include a methodology and wasn’t peer-reviewed, so it’s impossible to check the researchers’ work. They say the American Heart Association “calculated the quantities of sugar-sweetened beverage intake around the world by age and sex; the effects of this consumption on obesity and diabetes; and the impact ofobesity and diabetes-related deaths,” but the raw numbers weren’t on the website so we have to take them at their word.