Friday, February 25, 2011

CocoFizz Chocolate Soda

My father often talks about how he remembers drinking chocolate soda as a child and about how much he remembers liking it. I've always wanted to try it, but...seeing as it's not exactly a common commodity these days, doing so has proven difficult. There have been weird, artificial, diet versions of chocolate sodas that I have found here and there, but none of them are very good. I found this one the other day at a local World Market, and I finally understand my father's fond memories of the beverage.

CocoFizz is a delicious soda. It tastes pretty much what you would expect a chocolate soda to taste like: chocolate. Despite not knowing what exactly what to expect going into the beverage, I found upon consumption that the flavor of the drink is very honest, and I felt kind of silly for not knowing what it would taste like. At the same time, however, the flavor has a non-descript, "generic" taste and does not taste like any kind of chocolate (light, dark, etc.) in particular, but rather more just like the cacao flavor itself. The beverage is significantly sweet, but in a good way. Honestly, it would be ridiculous to expect a chocolate soda to not be sweet.

Overall, the drink is very straightforward. It is a chocolate soda. I have yet to meet someone who does not like chocolate, and I think that most people would enjoy this beverage, as well. It seems a little strange to think about carbonation and chocolate together, but I promise that once you get over that mental hump by trying the beverage, you will likely enjoy it very much.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: World Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: Somewhere in the range of $1.80 [I don't remember the exact amount]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Apologies for the delay

I would like to apologize for missing Friday's post. I hate missing updates, and I hope that the double post today will serve to accommodate for that, but I would like to explain. For those of you who do not yet know, I am currently in my senior year of earning my undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and, as I'm sure many of you have heard or experienced, it is quite rigorous. My schedule is sporadic and unpredictable yet always full, and it has become increasingly difficult to prepare reviews ahead of time as I typically do. The review as it is now (work on the new site has been suspended for the time being due to the underestimated rigors of my schedule this semester) is currently my highest second priority as far as time is concerned, but my education must come first right now, a fact that I must sadly say may imply the occasional missed or late update. I intend to do everything in my power to keep this to a minimum, but to promise 100% consistency in my updates would likely be a promise that I will, at some point, be forced to break.

Anyway, my point is, ultimately, that I very much appreciate all of those who help to make up the blog's readership. Regardless of why you are here or how often you visit, I appreciate all of you who have come to share with me in this ongoing excursion into expanding our collective beverage horizons, and I thank you in advance for bearing with me as I battle through the trials of being a student of the applied sciences.


Petey's Bing Energy Drink

When it comes to beverages, I am an absolute sucker for marketing. I picked this one up yesterday whilst grocery shopping simply because of the shocking red of the can's label. I was actually hurriedly on my way out of the beverage aisle when I noticed it out of the corner of my eye and immediately retreated the short distance to add one to my already bursting armful of items. I tried it this afternoon and the result was, to put it simply, unique. The beverage is definitely very interesting and has a very specific dark cherry taste that I have not yet encountered in a beverage. I am not positive that I have had bing cherries in their natural form before, but the taste presented in the beverage was fairly new to me. It is not highly different from a typical black cherry flavoring, but it is subtely distinct in its tartness. The coloring and flavoring of the beverage are claimed to be all natural, but while the cherry does not taste artificial, it does not taste completely natural, either. The ingredients reveal that the flavor is from concentrate, which is apparent in the taste, but I believe that the primary culprit in my questioning of the flavor is the remainder of the ingredients list.

I have found, after drinking my share of mainstream commercial energy drinks, that it is difficult to taste anything properly when a beverage contains egregious amounts of taurine. Bing is listed as containing 1000 milligrams per can, which I find, frankly, to be ridiculous. Bing also contains 100 mg of ginko biloba extract and 100 mg of ginseng root extract (just to name a few), both of which I highly enjoy. I wish that I had the opportunity to enjoy them highly in this beverage, but it saddens me to say that it is impossible to taste them over such a large dose of bitter taurine.

Another thing that I found odd about the beverage is that it is sweetened with both cane sugar and sucralose. If the beverage is going to contain actual sugar, why ruin it with the taste of sucralose? Artificial sweeteners should only be used in the abscence of more natural alternatives, and artificials only tend to overpower the other when the two are combined, particularly in larger doses. I feel that this drink would have been much better off using the same amount of natural sweetener by itself and just being less sweet. The artificial sweetener is especially noticeable when combined with the taurine, and the two act together to produce a terribly dry and stale aftertaste.

Overall, it's not a terrible drink. The cherry taste is really unique and enticing, but I feel that the excessive amounts of taurine really kind of ruin the flavor. I don't think that I would generally recommend this to others, but I feel that it is at least worth experiencing, particularly if the taurine doesn't bother you.

Verdict: Worth one try

Purchased: Publix [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355mL]
Price: $1.99

V8 V-Fusion Plus Tea

Ever since I was a child, I have always hated tomato juice. I do, on occasion, drink the occasional glass of the stuff simply because I know how good it is for me, but those occasions are always exercises in my mental capacity to manage disgust. However, I am a big fan of V8's other ventures into fruit/vegetable juice fusions, and I've been enthusiastically drinking V8 Spalsh and Fusion for several years now. Diminishing returns has been setting in recently, however, until I ran across this flavor at a local Big Lots and decided to give the stuff another (hopefully rejuvinating) try.

I am sad to say that this was not the particular rejuvination that I needed. I'm not entirely sure what this country's sudden obsession with mixing things with green tea is or where it came from, but there are some things that are better off just standing on their own. Don't get me wrong, I love green tea. But I feel like green tea is the new "last flavor resort." I imagine a lot of board meetings proceeding as follows:

"Sir, we have our new flavor finished and we've sent out samples for testing."

"How are the reactions?"

" far they've been subpar. People don't seem to like it a whole lot, but we've got two weeks before the finished product ships and we can't make any significant changes to the formula."

"Hmm...well...just mix it with some green tea. It will sell like crazy."

I understand that green tea is a wonderful beverage. It is rich in antioxidants and other nutrients, but it has a very distinct flavor and really only works well with specific types of other flavors. And yet, it is everywhere, being mixed with everything. It is the new "buzzword" in the beverage industry, and I'm not entirely sure why.

Anyway, rantings aside, this blend of V-Fusion is only okay. It is certainly not undrinkable in any way; in fact, I'd prefer it to a lot of the other casual health beverage alternatives that are out there. But it's not great. The flavors amalgomate heterogeneously into a strange pile of tastes on the palatte, and it feels as though the ingredients are fighting for dominance in one's olfactory. The strange combination of tastes also tends to accentuate the sucralose. I don't mind the taste of sucralose as much as other artificial sweeteners, but I still prefer it to be a background taste that is masked by the flavor of whatever I am drinking. In my opinion, the function of sweeteners (of any sort) is to accentuate the natural taste of the beverage and add a bit of drinkability to an otherwise bitter or acidic flavor, not to be present as its own taste.

Hence my rampaging distaste of stevia extract.

But, to get back to the point, V8 V-Fusion Raspberry Green Tea is just trying to do too many things at once. Between combining fruit and vegetable juice and trying to bring the raspberry to prominence, all while featuring the green tea, the drink just collapses into a black hole of flavors in which all flavors are contained but none of them escape. It's just...odd, really, and there are definitely better versions of the stuff out there.

Verdict: Not recommended, try another flavor

Purchased: Big Lots [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 46 fl. oz. [1.36 L]
Price: $1.50 [Discounted]

Friday, February 18, 2011

Just as a quick notification, I will not be posting a review today. Due to unexpected circumstances, I will not be able to write the review tonight, and I would hate to do a beverage injustice by not putting proper thought into its review. I will post today;s review as soon as I can tomorrow morning. I apologize for the delay, and I thank you for your understanding.

[EDIT: Due to the unexpected continuation of unexpected circumstances, I will not be able to do the review this weekend, either. I will post two reviews on Tuesday to compensate. Apologies again, and thank you.]


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Honest Tea

Honest Tea has been in beverage news a lot lately. The company's investment partnership with Coca-Cola has raised a lot of eyebrows, despite Honest Tea's efforts towards not giving in to marketing demands made by the corporate giant, and a lot of hasty accusations and assumptions have been made about Honest Tea "selling out." But, I would recommend that those who would dismiss the beverage outright because of unrelated political quandaries within the beverage industry should give Honest Tea a try. The taste will speak for itself.

I had been unintentionally avoiding picking one of these up for my own reasons. I must ashamedly admit that the packaging did not draw my attention enough to inspire me to select Honest Tea over other options during my beverage shopping trips. However, a friend of mine recently gave me one of these to review, and I was very impressed. Honest Tea is essentially exactly what is advertised: tea. The tea has a very natural, green tea taste (several other tea blends are available, as well) that is unimpeded by the added flavorings. The tea pictured above was flavored with passion fruit, and the taste was evident and distinct, but was not so strong as to mask the flavor of the tea. And the disclaimer at the bottom of the label is dead on. The beverage really is "just a tad sweet." The ingredients are balanced perfectly, and the sweetness adds just the right amount of drinkability without spoiling the "healthy beverage" motif. The sediment in the bottom of the tea also adds a bit of body to the fluid without thickening it, making this a unique and wholeheartedly recommended choice amongst pre-bottled tea options. Honest Tea is offered in a wide variety of flavors and blends (several of which I have had at this point), and I have a hard time imagining someone who could not find something to like with at least one of their products. Definitely give this one a try.

Verdict: Highly recommended

Purchased: Earth Fare [Columbia, SC]
Size: 16 fl. oz. [473 mL]
Price: $1.69

Friday, February 11, 2011

T42 Tropical Nectars

I have always had an aversion to nectars. In general, I am of the opinion that a beverage should not be viscous enough to use as a pancake topping. I picked this one up this past weekend while I was at Earth Fare trying to activate a coupon. The canned Sapparo that I had originally selected did not count towards my total due to its alcohol nature, so I swapped it out for this and an Honest Tea to push my total high enough to legitimize my coupon. I knew going into this one that I probably was not going to like it. I have yet to have a nectar that I found palatable, and T42 was no exception.

As soon as I opened the drink, I could tell that it was too thick. A few bubbles rose to the top of the liquid upon the fluid's reintroduction to the air, but they moved so slowly that I could watch each individual bubble struggle its way to the surface. The beverage even smelled thick, and had a dense, syrup-like aroma. My hypothesis was confirmed upon consumption, as the nectar was indeed of high viscosity. 

I'm not really sure as to what exactly the appeal of nectars is supposed to be. I guess they are, generally, very natural and close to their source of origin, but I don't really know that the taste is worth it. T42 is very, very sweet. It is a natural sweetness, to be sure, but it is still too sweet and sugary for my taste. The mango is also very strong, and overpowers any hint of the carrot that may be there. If you like mango, then you may like this one, as it tastes pretty much like a liquefied mango. I am not the world's biggest mango fan, so my opinion of the flavor may be slanted, but I feel that this would be much easier to consider recommending to other adventurous beverage consumers if there was something to help balance out the sweetness of the mango. The carrot is a good start; there just needs to be more of it. The product as is, however, is too heavy and sweet for me to recommend to anyone but the most die-hard mango fans.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: Earth Fare [Columbia, SC]
Size: 16 fl. oz. [473mL]
Price: $1.99

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Guru Energy Drink

I have been noticing this energy drink more and more often as of late in the beverage sections of many of the stores that I frequent. I first saw it at Earth Fare, and have officially managed to buy everything else in the store before resorting to this one, but it is becoming more popular as an organic alternative to the typical energy drink. I’m not sure why I avoided this one for so long (although, to be honest, it was probably the price tag), but I finally decided to give it a try and I have to say that it’s not too bad.

In general, I am not a fan of energy drinks, and I usually prepare for the worst during the initial sips of whatever brand I have most recently worked up the courage to try. Guru was no different, and, although I have found that I have had better luck with natural energy beverages, I still pre-loaded my wincing face. The first taste was…interesting. It started out tasting pretty good, but then suddenly switched to tasting terrible in an instant. My reaction to the switch made the friend who I was riding with chuckle, as I believe that I verbalized the event as: “Mmm…uugh!”

The sudden shift in taste disheartened me, but I continued to sip the beverage, so as to give it a fair chance. And I am glad that I did, as the shifting taste was apparently a one-time thing. The more I drank the beverage, the more it grew on me. It has a fairly unique flavor that is difficult to describe; not unlike the flavor of many other conventional energy drinks, but different and more refreshing somehow. Guru still has the same acidity and sourness of other energy drinks, but it is overall less pronounced and more natural in taste, rather than tasting blatantly of its chemical origin.

Overall, Guru was pretty good. I don’t know that I would buy it again due to its high price tag and mostly generic flavor, but it is definitely a great alternative option for those looking for a more healthy energy drink fix with a more conventional taste.

Verdict: Worth a try

Purchased: Earth Fare [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $2.49

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jim Beam pre-mixed cocktails

I have been wanting to try one of these things for a while, but have passed up every time so far for some reason. They're not very expensive, but I suppose that by the time I finish shopping I usually just don't want to add anything else to the bill during my occasional trips to the liquor store. I finally broke down and bought the ginger ale version about two weeks ago now, and went back to try the cola shortly thereafter. Aside from the difference in soda, the two drinks are exactly similar in construction. They are both 5% alcohol by volume, which gives the whiskey a less pronounced "in-the-background" taste. I do not mind the taste of whiskey at all; in fact, I enjoy it very much. But for an inexpensive pre-mixed drink that comes in a can, the more subtle taste is perfect.

Personally, I feel that beverges that hiss when they are opened should be considered more casual drinks and should, in general, not take themselves too seriously. Jim Beam seems to understand this mentality, and does not try to market this product as some sort of "supremely exquisite whiskey elixir" like many companies would. Rather, the label is direct and simple and tells you exactly what is in the can: a bit of whiskey and a bit of cola. The balance is perfect, as well. While the whiskey taste is not as powerful as a typical cocktail, it is distinct and definitely not difficult to pick up. Although both varieties are wonderful, I did like the ginger ale better, as I feel that ginger ale generally compliments whiskey better than cola. Although I couldn't help but think that adding about three drops of bitters to the cola version would have made it spectacular. Maybe I'll try that next time.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Greene's Discount Beverages
Size: 355 mL
Price: $1.99

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Crystal Light On the Go Drink Mix: Focus

I have been hearing about these water bottle drink mixers for the longest time, and I have avoided trying them until I recently picked this one up whilst grocery shopping. I have actually had Crystal Light before, but only ever on mass in a rather dilute pitcher of the stuff. I remember not being super impressed by whatever peach-flavored tea that I had tried a few years ago, but I figured it was worth giving it another try, and this time I thought that I'd just go for broke and get the portable packets.

After hesitantly ripping the pack open and shaking it into a visually homogeneous mixture within my bottle of water, I, as one would expect in the natural progression of consuming a beverage, took a sip. I was surprised; I actually liked it a lot. The citrus flavor has a very natural essence to it (although the only element that I can really pick out is orange). I say essence because it is clearly artificial, but there is something about the scent and aftertaste of the flavoring that reeks (in a good way) of fresh citrus. The flavor is good overall, although the chemical nature of the mixture does tend to have a bit of a mouth-drying quality. An extra source of easily-accessible water is a quick fix to this, and I definitely recommend it.

One thing that I was particularly hesitant about was the fact that Crystal Light is sweetened with aspartame. I do not like aspartame at all. I don't like consuming it mainly because of its expected connections to migraines and memory loss (although findings, from what I understand, are still reasonably non-conclusive), but the horrendous taste certainly doesn't help. Luckily, the aspartame is not prevalent in this flavor of Crystal Light, and the rest of the drink masks it pretty well. It is still there, to be sure, but the taste is masked well by the other elements of the beverage and is easy to overlook. 

It is worth nothing that this particular flavor of Crystal Light contains 40 mg of caffeine, for those who are looking for a quick pick-me-up during the work or school day. I do not experience caffeine as others do, so I can't speak to the effectiveness of the dosage, but 40 mg for a 16 fl. oz. serving is, from what I understand, a significant enough amount to at least perk up the consumer.

I was honestly shocked by how much I enjoyed this drink. I went in expecting to hate everything about it, but it was surprisingly satisfying despite the dry-mouth afterwards, and I would definitely recommend it for those on the go who occasionally want a little more flavor in their daily water bottle.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Food Lion [Columbia, SC]
Size: 10 packets [Mixes into 16-17 fl. oz. bottles]
Price: $3.00 [ 2 for $6.00; Discounted from $4.00]