I don’t even know how this started. When in my basement, looking for canned pineapple chunks (we only had crushed,) I found a can of Cel-Ray soda. If you aren’t familiar with it, I will get to that soon. The point is, I decided that drinking a can of it and writing about the experience would be a good thing. That’s correct… I thought it would be a good thing.
So, I brought the can up to my room, and it sat there for a few days. I lacked the courage. I then decided that if I was going to ruin my day by drinking one horrid beverage, I may as well partake in a variety of frightening taste adventures. Luckily, this would not be difficult, since my basement contains a variety of peculiar drinks.
Armed with a not very good idea and no common sense, I headed down to the basement to gather other drinks of Cel-Ray’s caliber. I was able to find a few others, as well as a few legitimate sodas that had some extraordinary properties.
Since the idea started with Cel-Ray, I may as well start off with it. In order to get a clear idea of why Cel-Ray is such a suspicious beverage, you must understand what the can describes it as: a Celery flavored soda with other natural flavors. Celery? What are the other natural flavors, ranch dressing?
Oddly enough, Cel-Ray’s strongest flaw isn’t that it is celery flavored. The biggest drawback to Cel-Ray is that it is made by Dr. Brown’s, a company that is dedicated to producing creepy sodas like this, as well as terrible versions of good flavors. I recently was in NYC, getting dessert in a diner that was described as “great for dessert.” It turned out that the vast majority of the desserts were just slices of cheesecake the size of my head. So, I ordered what seemed like the safest bet on the menu, a root beer float. It was served in the following manner: a glass with a scoop of ice cream in it, and an unopened can of Dr. Brown’s Root Beer.
Here is a hint to any restaurant owners or potential restaurant owners: if you are going to use bargain brand sodas in your root beer floats, do not serve the soda still in its can. I don’t even know if Dr. Brown’s is a bargain brand, I just assume that from its horrid taste, that the price is fair to reasonable. Also, since I chew my fingernails off, opening soda cans can be difficult for me; I usually need the assistance of a quarter or a spoon handle. Anyway, the root beer float wound up being rather terrible, thanks in no small part to Dr. Brown’s sarsaparilla-gone-wrong flavor.
Which, somehow, brings us back to Cel-Ray soda. Given that very interesting back story of my experience with Dr. Brown’s soda, combined with the fact that it is a celery flavored soda, it goes without saying that it needed to be tried.
There is absolutely nothing that makes it appealing; even the can is the color of vomit. A good sign? Maybe, but it really depends on what you are hoping the outcome will be. If you are hoping the outcome will be me taking twice the recommended dosage of Imodium AD just to stop fluid loss, then yes, the green color is a good sign. However, if you are looking at the can in a supermarket, pondering its potential deliciousness, then no, this shade of green is not a good sign.
Luckily, if you are watching your calorie intake, but can’t shake those sweetened celery cravings, Dr. Brown’s has the answer: Diet Cel-Ray. As opposed to regular Cel-Ray’s pimento-less olive color, the diet can is a rather lovely shade of yellow, possibly canary. Unfortunately, the idea of an aspartame sweetened celery soda is about three and a half times more frightening than a regular celery soda.
And in case you might be thinking that the color of the can is the worst thing about Cel-Ray’s appearance, you would be wrong. The soda itself bears a very unsettling resemblance to another celery flavored liquid: urine.
Since dwelling on that fact was only making things worse, I bit the bullet, or swallowed the celery, whichever you prefer. Since I was bracing for the absolute worst, anything that wasn’t the worst would be good, or something along those lines. Basically, Cel-Ray wasn’t terrible, but it doesn’t even enter the realm of acceptable. It doesn’t even taste like celery, which really is a letdown. If it is going to be a gross soda, it might as well be a gross soda that tastes like a vegetable. At least then it would have the novelty factor going for it. Then it could be sold on eBay for $80 like green bean flavored Jones soda.
Instead, it is just some weird, almost citrusy (which, apparently, isn’t even a word,) piss drink. The diet is no better; in fact the diet is worse, much worse. It has the unpleasant taste of Cel-Ray, coupled with the harshness of the artificial sweetener.
End result: Cel-Ray does not taste as frightening as it appears. However, it appearance is enough to make sure it stays far, far away, where it should be.
Next up on the Carousel of Sadness is Moxie. Moxie has been a staple in my basement since I can remember. Growing up, I remember always seeing Moxie in the basement. I don’t, however, ever remember seeing Moxie anywhere in my house besides the basement. I’m barely through the first paragraph, and I am already sick of the word Moxie.
I don’t know too much about Moxie, except for the fact that it is coffee flavored, and that I never really see it for sale anywhere. Yet here it is, in both bottled and canned variety. Although the canned soda is the diet version, since even sensible drinkers need something disgusting to drink once in a while.
Despite the fact that I absolutely hate coffee and anything coffee flavored, I went ahead and tried both. And, surprisingly, neither of them tastes too much like coffee. The initial taste is very cola-ish, but then there is a fairly strong coffee aftertaste. The coffee flavor isn’t overwhelming; in fact I could probably make it through a whole can of it. I sure as hell wouldn’t be very happy about it, but I’d manage. The diet actually seems to have a better taste, although the coffee aspect is much harsher. It tastes like a good diet cola, then punches you in the face with an artificially sweetened coffee assault. The aftertaste of the regular Moxie is more of a slap across the face, but not as bad as diet’s aftertaste. The overall taste of regular Moxie is just kind of gross.
So far I have braved two frightening types of soda, in both regular and potentially disastrous diet versions. Surprisingly, they weren’t as bad as they seemed. Of course, I will never again drink any of them, unless I feel like cracking open a can of Cel-Ray so I can make the world’s most disgusting Tom Collins.
It seems that I may need to look outside the US for a truly horrifying beverage. I may need to look towards Mexico, or wherever Goya products come from. Next on the agenda is Goya Guava Nectar. I must admit that I really am cheating here, as I really enjoy some Goya nectars, and I have no problem with Guava. Goya has some much scarier flavors, including Guanabana and Tamarind, whatever the hell they are. I have tried both of those flavors, and neither was very good. In fact, one of them was downright disgusting, I just don’t remember which one.
I had to check the Goya website (whose server is probably running off a Packard Bell) in order to get the correct spelling of Guanabana. When I was there, I found out they also make a Sugar Cane flavor of nectar, which I don’t get at all. The Goya site is pretty interesting, actually. It has all the benefits of mocking those less fortunate than you, but with none of the guilt that tends to come with it.
I found out that Malta Goya, which I always thought was Mexican beer, is really just a soda made with hops and barley. That is both a let down and more than a little foul. I also learned that their “HOT PRODUCTS” include a new, light version of Adobo; which leads me to believe that Goya would be far more successful if they named all of their products after Double Dragon characters.
Except for those few that I mentioned, the Goya nectars are actually really good. They have enough sugar to give a diabetic person a halo, but are still delicious. So even though I knew ahead of time that the nectars I have had were good, I added this to the list because Goya is just creepy in general. Plus guava is a weird flavor; I think even Snapple dropped that one eventually.
If you think soda has a lot of a lot of sugar and calories, Goya laughs at you. This 12 oz. can packs 240 calories and 48 grams of sugar. Although it does have 100% of your daily RDA of vitamin C, so it evens out a little.
Tasting the nectar was difficult, because when I tried to open it, the tab broke off. Thanks to some ingenuity, and a screwdriver, I was able to get it open. The color is a very bold pink, the color of melted watermelon sorbet, or the vomit of a person with a stomach virus when the Pepto just isn’t working. The strongest aspect of the nectar is the smell. I don’t mean “strongest” like “best,” I mean it like “strongest.” And by “strongest” I mean I can smell it from over four feet away. The taste is actually pretty good, but it’s one of those “you’d never make it more than three sips into it” kinds of good.
I don’t know if the Goya is connected, but I suddenly have a pretty bad headache.
The next item on the agenda should not be bad at all. In fact, if the label is any indication, it should be awesome. I assume this, because I am about to sample Milligan’s Island AWESOME Root Beer. The label boasts that they have been “fooling the public since 1492,” and I have no idea what that even means. It is a fairly sinister claim to make on your product's packaging.
Another interesting aspect is that they give you options as to what to believe are the actual ingredients. It lists its sweetener as “cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup.” Given the fact that cane sugar costs an assload more than HFCS (the health magazines’ abbreviation for the corn syrup,) I’m going to assume that cane sugar did not come out victorious as the chosen ingredient.
As far as smell and taste goes, here’s where it gets interesting… by pulling the ol’ switcheroo and being not interesting at all. It tastes and smells like any other root beer, except Dr. Brown’s, since it wasn’t disgusting. It was fairly sweet, more A&W than Barq’s. Barq’s has bite; the hot dog vendor told me so. A&W has Snoopy, so A&W wins. Mug sucks.
I do think that their claim of “AWESOME” was rather lofty, but they do a good job of walking the talk. Which is difficult with no legs. Wow, that was dumb.
For the final beverages, there isn’t any surprise as far as brand names go. Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, nothing shocking there. The reason they are being sampled here is because their expiration dates were from last millennium. That sounds more impressive than it actually is, but they still are quite old. The Diet Pepsi's expired in January of 1998.
Even weirder is that I didn’t just find an isolated can; I found a whole 24 pack. The Diet Coke, which was by itself, passed its prime in 1996. That’s eight years ago.
The reason there are two cans of Diet Pepsi pictured is because on of the cans has mysteriously lost almost all of its contents. There are no holes or leaks anywhere on the can, and yet it barely weighs more than an empty can. WEIRD. While I could probably compile a pretty good one, drinking this will definitely go on the list of stupidest things I have ever done.
For some reason, the light can was very difficult to open. There is a distinct impression of the can’s tab in my index finger. And, not surprisingly, it didn’t even fill half the cup. It also didn’t make that thssss sound when you open a can of soda; there was no carbonation. It also didn’t pour like a soda; it was more of a brown sludge, almost like a thin Hershey’s syrup. It smelled okay, so, assuming that it couldn’t somehow turn poisonous in the can, I gulped it down.
It feels like I drank paint.
My throat is now coated with a very noticeable layer of Diet Pepsi syrup. Taste wise, it wasn’t the worst thing ever; it just tasted like really thick, bitter Diet Pepsi. The worst aspect of drinking it is the now overwhelming sense of fear that I will soon die, or develop some horrible rash in my throat. Luckily(?) I have the other can of Diet Pepsi to help wash it down.
The other can of Diet Pepsi, on the other had, had a huge rush of air when opened. It also has a really little mouth, which at first seemed quaint, then made me feel depressed for some reason. It smelled like normal soda, except maybe not as sweet. It also tasted the same way. After the first Diet Pepsi experience, this one was rather anticlimactic.
Saving the oldest for last, we now come to the Diet Coke of 1996. I tried getting a picture of the bottom of the can, but it just didn’t want to work. I have no clue how to work my camera besides pointing and shooting. I even tried changing the setting on the front of my camera to the flower icon, but it didn't help. This was another can that was a hassle to open, because for some reason the can’s tab didn’t fit in the mouth. I don’t know if some craziness was going on for the past eight years, or if it was a defect all along, but the tab was about a half inch bigger than the mouth. I’m trying to make that tidbit of information interesting, but it really just isn’t working. I’m starting to feel dizzy from the Diet Pepsi Sludge.
The Diet Coke was somehow more carbonated than a normal can of soda, but didn’t have too much taste. The most interesting thing about the can is that they are promoting the brand new “on-line” Diet Coke web site. L337.
And, finally, as a bonus addition to the beverage bonanza, is Pepsi-Cola Holiday Spice. I’m sure that by now you have all seen it and either tried it or ignored it. It’s reddish, it’s thicker than normal Pepsi, and has more than a vague aftertaste of potpourri. It is actually quite good the first sip or two, then plateaus immediately. After that, it is an exercise in sheer will, can you finish the whole can / bottle without giving up? If you do, you will be rewarded with the knowledge that you accomplished a great feat.
Instead of drinking them, I recommend buying a few twelve packs, and storing them in your basement. Then, in ten years, sell the cans on eBay. It would be like being able to sell Crystal Pepsi now. The Urban Outfitters kids would go nutty over it.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go drink a lot of Pepto Bismol and Listerine. And no, I don’t mean rinse my mouth out with it. I mean drink it.
Talk to me Now or Later