Things I Have Put in My Mouth Lately: 7-11’s New Jones Sodas

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.

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Things I Have Put in My Mouth Lately: Malört and Irn-Bru

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.

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Things I have put in my mouth lately: Butterfly, the Mariah Carey drink

This past week and a half has been a rough cross-section of adulthood for me. The sewage system in my apartment complex decided to back up spontaneously, with the nearest point of exit being the bathroom in my garden apartment. This required me to evacuate first to a motel where I could swear I heard violins in the shower, then out to the suburbs to stay with endlessly patient friends and spend all week panicking about landing more writing jobs and not being broke.

It was in this frame of mind, unknowingly longing for a bit of childhood regression, that I stumbled into Walgreens to buy wine they didn’t have (because Naperville), and found this treasure in the refrigerated beverage case.

it is not

Is it just a sweet, sweet fantasy?

Yes, Mariah Carey has launched her own beverage, described as “interactive” and “melodic.” The latter adjective in particular concerned me, but apparently it means you can scan the bottle with your smartphone to get access to bonus content. I didn’t bother, because the anachronism whiplash was already hurting my neck.

You see, despite its trappings of modernity, I can only describe this drink as tasting like 1998, the year I listened to its namesake album on cassette until it started to wear out. How can a drink taste like a year, you ask? As it turns out, 1998 was also a banner year for marketing perfumes and cosmetics to preteen girls, and as I turned 11 that year, I was deeply familiar with that aisle of Rite Aid. Those of you who remember, say, the Bottled Emotion perfumes Bonne Bell made will find yourselves thrown back into your awkward stage at warp speed.

To come at this with more food-appropriate vocabulary, Butterfly tastes strongly of grape and melon, but in an offputting, artificial way. Those of you who have ever eaten those lychee jelly cups that pose a delicious choking hazard may also notice a resemblance.

The commentary from the friends I roped into tasting it with me (or, in one case, didn’t) backed me up:
“It tastes like perfume! It’s so sweet.”
“It tastes like a Victoria’s Secret in 1998, yeah.” (We may have been in slightly different demographics.)
The sole man in our group, in response to being asked “Doesn’t it smell like 13-year-old girl?”: “I don’t make a habit of smelling 13-year-old girls, but sure?”

Verdict?
As an olfactory sensation, it brings back intense memories of a time when things were more carefree and potential seemed limitless.
As something to actually consume? Honey, I can’t describe how good it feels inside, because… it really doesn’t. I felt vaguely sick and found myself wondering if I would wake up in a cocoon the next morning. (I did not.)

And yes, I have been listening to the Butterfly album for the first time in probably 15 years while writing this post. Thank you, Spotify.