On Sunday I found myself at 7-11 buying cat food, because that’s what happens when you forget to stock up at the grocery store and then find yourself in the throes of a Meowing Emergency State. I’ve been trying to cut way back on my soda consumption, so of course I made the mistake of looking at the beverage coolers. My eyes were drawn, as they so often are, to the most x-treme ‘90s looking stuff in the case. The black-and-white photos on the labels looked awfully familiar. Sure enough, a closer look revealed a familiar name: Jones.
Jones Soda is a smallish soda company based out of Seattle, known for unusual flavors (approach their holiday packs with caution) and featuring customer-submitted photos on their labels. In my preteen and early teen years, a bottle of Jones was a regular treat on nights my brother and I spent with our dad. I have particularly vivid memories of selecting a flavor and suitably cool label picture on our runs to the supermarket on the way home. I have Ideas about kids of divorce and our weird food attachments, but that will be for a later entry.
Anyway, Jones has been tapped by 7-11 for a line of store-brand sodas. There are five flavors, including unusual-in-the-U.S. fruits like lilikoi and rambutan. I bought them all, because I have no self-control. In my defense, I brought them to a Fiasco session that night to share with friends, thinking a group taste test would be fun. However, my friends are smarter than I am and drank almost none of the soda, leaving me to play Drink Roulette while stabbing everyone in the back and getting off almost scot-free. Jones Soda makes you a character in a Coen brothers movie; pass it on.
This past weekend was one for the ages as far as swallowing strange liquids is concerned. Top three for me, at least.
For the uninitiated (i.e. most folks outside the Chicago area, where it was formerly produced and is primarily distributed), Jeppson’s Malört is a type of bäsk, or Swedish wormwood schnapps. You may recognize wormwood as “that stuff in absinthe that’s supposed to make you trip balls,” if you’re a teenager or an ill-informed, pearl-clutching moral guardian. Neither absinthe nor Malört contain anywhere near enough thujone to make you hallucinate and/or die. The one time I tried absinthe, all I got was a mild buzz followed by a faux-consumptive cough that lasted for a week afterward. I guess you could say the experience was historically accurate in that sense.
Anyway, the worst you can say about wormwood in distilled alcohol is that it’s super gross. Not long after I first came to Chicagoland in the summer of 2005, I saw the famed Malört face for the first time. I don’t have a funny story to tell about the circumstances because my long-term memory is a sieve that strains out virtually everything that isn’t personal humiliation or obscure trivia, but suffice it to say that I was not the one making the face. My friends who were native to the area filled me in and, like the true champions they are, never tried to subject me to that particular rite of passage.
As the years passed, I started to consider it something of a point of pride to have dodged the Malört hazing for so long. Every time I missed a round of shots for the out-of-towners, I gloated a bit. I confided in others that, despite all my years in Chicago, the stuff had never crossed my lips. More than once, I was told I was tempting fate.