...and they visit blogs about soft drinks. This is a capture from Mixmap, the site I use to track the traffic that visits my various websites. It shows you the rough geographical location of your visitor.
Click to see a higher resolution image. If you dare.
The stuff smells like medicine, and tastes the same. It reminds me of some particularly foul cough syrup I tried once, yellow and thick. Bawls is just like that horrible stuff, but not thick and very, very carbonated. Definitely, a medicine taste combined with the flavor of cheap, store-brand soda which has gone out of date.
Whoops, I accidentally drank out of the bottle's anus.
Quick, give me some toilet paper for my tongue. On-fire toilet paper, please.
Why do energy drinks universally taste bad? I've never had one that was pleasant to drink, it's like each one is a challenge to my masculinity. I have to suffer through it or be considered weak. Because of my dislike of energy drinks I don't frequent the energy drink aisle of the store, so I didn't know that Bawls is as common as dirt and not at all "exotic". I saw an edgy hipster buying some of these same blue bottles from the 7-11, and felt less special. "Hey guy in the funny pork pie hat," I wanted to say, "hey guy, why do you drink these awful things? Do you need a hug?"
I would expect a company named "Hobarama" to be much more exciting, to make better stuff. One would think that the factory is a huge warehouse stuffed full of hobos and their bindles, each one telling stories and shooting snipe. But no. They make this drank, which I bet isn't even made of rendered hobos.
I suspect they also make delightful dildos, because the bumps on the bottle are the best part of this shit wash of a drink. It feels good to hold, and presumably good to stick inside myself and swish around. The knobs on the bottle are, overall, pretty neat.
I read something long ago that said the first glassware in Europe was covered in knobs. The knobs supposedly prevented the heavy glasses from slipping out of your greasy, feasty, Viking hands. This bottle of Bawls is going to slip out of my hand when I throw it out the window, knobby bits or no.
The boast of these drinks is the high energy aspect. I've renounced caffeine, so when I do go on a bender and drink some Mountain Dew I go berserk. We'll have to wait and see how the Guarana and high caffeine levels of Bawls affects me.
Next day: Not much to report. Didn't even have trouble sleeping, though I did get a touch of the unpleasant jitters.
Edit: A friend of mine wrote, "What do you expect something called Bawls to taste like?"
Bubble Up has been tasting like the bastard child of 7-Up and Sprite since 1921. I have no idea what to add to that first sentence. It's another lemon-lime blandinage that tastes like neither lemon nor lime and certainly not like the two mixed - but then again, NO "lemon lime" soda tastes like lemon-lime. Lemon sodas taste like lemons, and lime sodas taste like limes, so this makes no sense. I think I need to go buy a bottle of lemon soda and a bottle of lime soda and mix them, to see what real lemon lime soda tastes like.
It's hard to take a picture of yourself when your eyes are closed.
Look at me mull the taste, a real connisseur.
Bubble Up tastes like a good version of Sprite, less sweet and more carbonatey. Or maybe it tastes like a good version of 7-Up, more sweet and less carbonatey.
I just realized something about "lemon lime" sodas - the taste goes away. It doesn't linger, there's no aftertaste. Poof. It's gone. With the last bubble goes the flavor. Maybe there's a bit of taste left, but I have to smack my lips and grimace to tease it out.
Another thing about Sprite/7-Up/Sierra Mist type sodas, they give the most wicked burps. Burps that run up my nose and do donuts, burning so much my eyes water. It can't have anything to do with the carbonation, as no other carbonatey drinks are as bad.
Let's see if Bubble Up makes my eyes water...
Waiting. Waiting. Tried to make myself burp and almost threw up. Waiting. Okay, a burp. A gentle burp. Still more burn than a normal soft drink burp, but it came out the mouth and not the nose. It didn't wreak havoc.
Bubble Up is a gentle soda, a good soda. It feeds lambs in meadows and has butterflies land on its nose.
The bottle doesn't really tilt like that, it's just a poorly arranged photograph.
I think these two photos are actually about the shelves of Lovecraft books behind me. I didn't plan that, I swear it.
No hideous dye stuck to my face, no grimace of pain, this stuff must be good.
Okay, this is easily the best smelling soda I've encountered yet. It smells like a Sweettart pooped raspberries in my nose, in a good way. Smells like a pixie stick. Smells like fruity lephrachaun spit. The actual soda is pretty good, much better than my last adventure with old A.J., not nearly as sweet as it smells but with a ticklishly nice aftertaste.
Sadly, I only had the Black Cherry and Raspberry Lime Rickey flavors, after this I'm out of A.J. Stephens.
Now I had high hopes for this stuff, as I am a cherry lime rickey fan to beat the band. One of my regular going-to-town NYC trips was to go to Sassy's Sliders, when it still just above St. Marks, then go a few doors north and get a cherry lime rickey at that 80s rock star restaurant. I can't remember the name. Was it the Bendix Diner? Those were good cherry lime rickies, the best I've ever had. Sometimes I would get cold borscht from the Dairy Bar, but the rickies were a constant. Sadly, the 80s rock star restaurant is long gone. Long, long gone.
A good cherry lime rickey is hard to manage. Well meaning friends would try to get me rickies at bars, but the bars would use grenadine and lime-juice-syrup, not regular lime syrup. It was like a well-intentioned poisoning. Other places in NYC offer cherry lime rickies, but none are that great. The peanut butter restaurant skimps on the syrup, and no other place gave me one memorable enough that I can even remember.
I've made them at home with Torani syrup, and they were okay. I can see why the peanut butter place skimps and the 80s rock star restaurant went out of business, it takes a lot of syrup to make a proper cherry lime rickey.
But, back to AJ Stephans attempt. It is, of course, not a rickey. A rickey is separated into two layers of syrup, an impracticable hope for a soda. At least in my book, a rickey is defined as a layered drink. Maybe these bottles began with the proper separation, with a layer of red and a layer of green and a big orange sticker on the crate saying "Do not jostle or slosh". But I doubt it.
His is also a little too carbonatey, but again, it's a soda and not a rickey. It's a rickey flavored soda, one might say. It's also not pretending to be a cherry lime ricky, but a raspberry lime rickey (though it tastes pretty dang cherry to me). A quick aside; in Australia whenever I'd ask for a cherry Coke in a bar or restaurant, they'd give offer a Coke with raspberry syrup. I normally am not a raspberry flavoring fan, but these were good. You know, I've got to admit that I'm not sure on the actual definition of what a rickey is. I'm not sure if layers are required or not, but I've been keeping up a policy of dedicated ignorance in this blog and refuse to look it up.
The last bottle I drank had label problems, this one isn't squishing glue but it is poorly affixed. Honestly, a poorly affixed label doesn't upset me at all. In fact, it makes me feel pretty good as it means that this bottle is marginally less wasteful than one which used more glue. Glue is precious, as old horses aren't a renewable resource.
But wait! What's this? A mystery is afoot! The mailing address on this bottle is Box 5115, the other bottle was Box 666. Alas, the other bottle MUST have been something wicked. And this bottle doesn't boast "pure new england spring water". Uh oh. That first bottle must've actually been evil after all. I hope some holy water flavored soda is in this batch, or I'm a goner.
I did not know that the spelling "sasperilla" is incorrect until now. I'd thought "Sarsaparilla" some fanciful version of what I'd thought was the proper spelling. Now these collegey soda chemists come along and ruin my carefully cultivated ig-no-rance. Bah. Next time I'll believe the little red line of my spell check, no more doubting for me.
The soda is okay. Not bad, not great. It's not too sweet, but also not too flavorful. Tastes a little watery, but in a clean way. Like my wife said, "It tastes like sasperilla". Note her pitiful ignorance in spelling "sarsaparilla" wrong. Unlike some root beers, it doesn't fight back - half the bottle will be gone before you know it.
When I was a kid, an international pipeline ran through my side yard. A long, cleared strip ran across the hills for as far as you could see in either direction, supposedly all the way to Alaska or some such thing. Workers came and dug this cleared area out to add a fiber optic cable, back when I was a kid. The dig site became our playground, and one day a worker gave me a freshly dug up "sarsparillo" root. My mother and I tried to boil it into tea, but it tasted like dirty water and was all for naught.
That's a pretty fantastic idea, a trench that runs all the way from Alaska and on to who knows where.
Remembering this, I tried to go back and trace the pipeline on google maps, but quickly lost track of it as I moved from a series of maps shot in the fall to maps shot during the summer. The summer shots don't have the definition needed to be able to tell trees from meadows, alas.
While idly hunting away, I finished the bottle of soda and didn't even notice.
It's like I'm saluting an invisible ghost clinging to the ceiling. "Here's to you ghost, your scary as heck and I respect that."
I had to photoshop a booger out of my nose.
This stuff wasn't a gift from my in-laws, it was an impulse purchase made during a visit to a new Mexican restaurant. Being a fan of south-of-the-border soda, I eagerly scanned the refrigerator behind the counter for Mexican Pepsi or Coke - the imported kind made with real sugar. My eyes fell on this, the faux sangria.
I had trouble making my soda desire clear to the woman behind the counter, so I gestured and pointed until her hand came to the right bottle. I asked for my meal to go, and she took the sangria bottle and put it a paper bag, then gave it that wino twist at the top with the bottle end sticking out. She offered to open it for me, assuming I was going to drink it on the street.
I'm still not sure if she thought it had alchohol and she was hiding it for me, or if that was just part of the play acting of imitation alcoholic beverage purchases.
After a precarious bike ride I got the stuff home, put it in the fridge, and popped it open last night. Not an easy task, considering the bottle cap wasn't a twist-off. This is a hard, hard life.
It smells like sweet, carbonated red wine. The smell was so convincing that I was afraid it really WAS sangria, and I had to reread the label before continuing. As you can see from the beatific look on my face as I take my first taste, the stuff is wonderful. It's no Australian kangaroo ginger beer, but I will happily drink this in the future.
It tastes like Concord grape juice with some other fruit mixed in, go figure, but the confusing part is that no natural ingredients occupy a prominent enough place on the ingredients list to warrant this. It does use natural sugar, which is always a taste plus. I've barely ever tasted wine, but I think this is a pretty convincing substitute. (I was later assured it wasn't by a wine drinking friend).
I can't get over how pleasant this stuff is. Maybe something terrible will happen to my urine and I'll have something more exciting to write later.
Finishing up the drink, I notice a pleasant trick of the bottle shape. The long, slender neck of the bottle creates the illusion of your having much more soda when you tilt the bottle back.
Really good stuff, my second favorite soda so far.
This soda tastes more like grapes than cherry, those thick-skinned Concord grapes where you suck out the innards and then spit the seeds in a little dish. The drink tastes foamy, not carbonated, in a way that's hard to explain - like when you drink soda with a mouthful of Pixie Stick powder and everything foams up like crazy. A.J. Stephans is like that, but in a good way.
Not too sweet, but with real sugar to avoid the corn syrup nasties. This is pretty good stuff.
A curious Mi-Go gets ready to give Stephans Old Style Black Cherry a taste. I bet that jar full of brains is jealous!
You can tell from the color change of the tentacles that this Mi-Go is about to don it's man mask and go buy some more.
But wait, the ingredients list includes "Pure carbonated New England spring water". Considering that almost every scary thing about which Lovecraft wrote lived in the water in New England, this gives me pause. And wait, their address includes "PO Box 666".
No doubt by drinking the bottle I've somehow made myself susceptible to possession by The Great Race of Yith, or at least drank Deep One spawn. Nuts.
One small complaint: The label is poorly affixed to the bottle. Glue is squished out around the sides of the paper, and has collected cat hair and made my fingers sticky. Or maybe it's a poorly made imitation from China, an AJ Stephan's Old Style Black Cherry knock-off.
Cthulhu was bout to try some, then remembered its sugar free diet.
Please note: There's no photographs in this update because Mi-G0 don't photograph well. It's not because I somehow lost the photographs I took, I swear it.
Something about the illustration on that bottle makes this feel reeeeeaaaaallllll natural in my hand.
At first I couldn't place the taste. It was a very dry but still sweet faux fruit flavor, but painfully familiar. After some squints and contemplation, I think this is the taste of Crystal Pepsi. It's hard to remember a flavor from so long ago, but I'm pretty sure this is it - though my wife disagrees. But that's her job. Maybe Crystal Pepsi with a touch of bubble gum flavor. But wait, the real adventure was in getting the bottle open.
I pull of the cap... What? No soda? What sort of trick is this?
After four hours of fiddling with it, I break down and read the instructions.
I think I see...
This video is called "We need to tidy up our kitchen"
Okay, so the marble seems to be wedged into place by the pressure of the carbonation. You break apart the cap and make the little plunger which you use to push the marble loose. The cool little marble rolls around, making a pleasant glass on glass noise. It's fun to see a marble rolling in liquid, makes me feel like I'm visiting an electronic novelty store in a mall in the 80s.
Makes little pieces of wasteful plastic.
Finally, the moment of truth.
My god, what did the stuff do to my moustache?
The sickly sweet smell of fruity bubble gum betrays the passable taste of it. The stuff is very bubbly-dry, leaving a clean feeling in my mouth and on my lips. And there's no high fructose corn syrup taste to plague me.
Not bad stuff, but the real kicker is the novelty marble. Those wacky Japanese and their gimmicks. Sadly, the marble backfire towards the end of the bottle, tilting the bottle all the way back results in the marble rolling back into the mouthpiece and blocking the liquid. Duh. I'm forced to drink my own back wash in a slow drip as opposed to the quick toss back to which I am accustomed.
(Note: I picked up a second bottle of this, in the off pink flavor, and figured out that the two little dimples in the neck of the bottle are supposed to hold the marble out of the bottle of the mouth. They don't do a very good job, if you tilt it back to a comfortable degree the marble jumps loose and blocks the flow again.)
Here's another close up of the dimples in the bottle neck, for no good reason.
Look at the splattering of red goo in the divot under my nose. There's nothing wholesome about that.
Even my wife doesn't like it, and she hates everything.
Wow, this stuff is awful. It's like carbonated cough syrup without the alchohol. But in a bad way, because I like the taste of cough syrup. It tastes like a sour grimace, made incarnate. It tastes like a half-vomit, full of herbs and spices. The taste is partly cherry, but too too much cherry. I love fake cherry syrup, I never thought there could be too much of it.
Look at the picture, the bottle is actually stained red from the soda and has funky stain mark where the soda level was. Look at my tongue, that's after three swigs.
To top off the too much cherry, there is a stew of other shit in there - the generic energy drink herbs. They add lots of flavor, all bad. A burning shit flavor, the oral equivalent of an onion and jalapeno flux. And I mean it literally burns, not with just the burned wheat flavor so common in corn syrup sodas. My throat is still burning five minutes after my last drink.
I don't know how a drink with a skull on the label can go so wrong. Let's read a few of the sayings off the label:
"Gets rid of all the garbage they've been dumping in your mind"
"Helps relieve extreme mental overload"
"This may be your only way out!"
"We want you for life"
The manufacturer is Skeleteens of Los Angeles. Are teens really going to drink this crap? Won't the hokey phrases on the label chase them off? Can you get much more "square" than that? Do kids today really hate themselves this much?
I can't drink this without making that gagging cough noise, a sort of mix between a breathy "hoooo" and a "Caaa" and a "God I wish I'd died opening the bottle". Maybe something went horribly wrong with the Benzoate that added to preserve flavor. Or maybe I'm not used to drinking soda's with sage in the ingredients list.
This is easily the worst soda yet. My only hope is that Australians will occupy our country and convert the Skeleteens puke factory into a kangaroo flavored ginger beer plant.
The last third of the bottle went down the sink.
PS. The next day my poop was off-pink. It can only be because of the hideous dye content of this soda. As awesome as pink poop is, it doesn't justify the foul beverage itself.
PPS. I found out since writing this that the Skeleteens company has died. While I always support alternatives to major brands, I weep no tears in this case.
Things started out a little dicey when the fancy pull tab went awry. It's that dreaded white plastic cap liner which fascinated me when I was a child. I'd dig them out of the metal caps and play with them, enjoying the slippery plastic feeling.
But wait, the tab is just fine. It only needed a firm tug to pull it loose. Huzzah! Those clever Australians. I've never seen a pull tab like this, and wonder if it's old fashioned of new-fangled. Hate it when I'm unsure.
The taste isn't as hot as most ginger beers, but it is still very gingery. And it's sweet, a good natural sweet without the nasty burn taste of corn syrup. Maybe there's something fruity in there too, sort of hidden sideways in the sweet. Hard to tell. Here is a photo of my first taste, I'm making such an ugly face because I THINK the drink is spicy. I was expecting eye watering pain.
My head is at a ridiculous angle because I'm on my cell phone, with my wife, who insisted I drink it while she was talking to me. Or listening to me. I'm not certain there's a difference.
This is the kind of spicy that lingers but doesn't hurt. Taking a mouthful and pressing it against the roof of my mouth it stings but doesn't make my eyes water. It burps up pleasantly later, still tasting like ginger beer. I've drank ginger beers that had me staggering around choking for minutes after a sip, the Bundaberg gives a light burn and then departs. It's like the wasabi of ginger beers.
The stuff smells light and sweet and gingery (of course), I wish Bundaberg made cologne. I'd either wear it or lick other people who were. Hard decisions.
I spent a whole month in Australia and never saw this stuff, more's the pity as I'd've drunk it by the case. Maybe they don't actually sell it in Australia, it's just for export. Like "export soda crackers", whatever the heck those are. What I did find in Australia was caffeine free Mountain Dew - it's all caffeine free there. You can't get the stuff in NYC, when I found it I was ecstatic. That was at the beginning of my trip, and I didn't see another Mountain Dew the entire month. Oh cruel fate, laughing and cruel.
If you hold it up to the light you can see the bits of ginger floating in it, though my picture doesn't do it justice. You'd better hold it up the light because the side of the bottle says "It's always cloudy in a bottle of good, old-fashioned ginger beer. Hold this bottle to the light and you'll see it's full of real ginger pieces..." Always follow directions, especially the one that says to invert the bottle before opening. I didn't do so and fear I didn't get the full experience.
This is just another weblog which will dry up and float away, forgotten and ignored.
For example, see http://softdrinks.blogspot.com/. This lady set out to do the same dang thing I am, admittedly she's a bit more altruistic in her intent. Three blogs later she's gone. Hit by a truck? Fell down the basement steps? Accosted by a neo-otyugh? Probably not. She got distracted or bored, may have started sixteen other blogs in the intervening year.
I only noticed that blog because I tried "Soft Drinks" as the url for this blog. She'd already taken it. I can't say she was ignored, she has a few comments on the bits she wrote. More than I'll ever get, I'm sure.
So, I am writing this for the next guy, the guy who will try for the blogspot "Soft Drinks" and then "Soft Drink Reviews". It will be 2009, he'll look at my deserted blog and laugh to himself. But, young feller, know this: I am like you right now, full of hope and interest, digital camera at the ready. By the time you read this I'll be long gone, playing a new video game or working nights or in a diabetic coma.
And this will happen to you, you'll take "CrazysJapaneseSoftdrinkReviews", crank out a few pieces about the novelty soft drinks you bought in New York City and then move on. The great cycle continues.
So anyways, my in-laws bought me three cases of exotic sodas from the "Soda Pop Stop" in Los Angeles. I've never seen the place, but they sell exotic soft drinks over the internet and apparently keep a nice store as well. The three cases all arrived with the soda intact, the bottles and cans packed into styrofoam packaging that hung around my apartment for months because I couldn't bear to throw it out. Wasteful. The order was mostly right, excepting my having received two bottles of "China Cherry Cola" instead of one bottle of cherry and one regular cola.
I brought a bottle of China Cherry Cola to work with me and drank it with lunch. Giving a fellow employee a taste, we discussed its merits at length, not an easy thing to do without a proper vocabulary covering all the things that go into a soft drink. That's why I'm starting this blog, to try to talk about things for which I have no words. From now on, I'll be reviewing every bottle or can I drink, or trying at least.