Absolute Dog-Shit Sodas By Decade

Shockingly, the worst of it is far more recent than you’d think
Absolute Dog-Shit Sodas By Decade

If you’re drinking a soda, there’s a pretty good chance you’re doing something inadvisable: eating fast food, staying up until 3 a.m. playing video games, or maybe, if ‘90s TV commercials are to be believed, participating in some kind of sport that theoretically requires a helmet. (If you’re drinking a pop, you’re doing all that in Minnesota.) So no one opens a can expecting gourmet shit. It’s artificial flavoring, high fructose corn syrup and carbonation. It’s going to taste like candy beer, and there’s just no way around that.

On the other hand, candy and beer are both shortcuts to the happiest parts of the brain, so cracking open a cold one with the little boys is great under the right circumstances. No one also takes a sip expecting it to taste like broccoli, and if they did, they could be forgiven for curb-stomping that can until it’s a broken mess of foam and lies. Yet history has given us some terrible soft drinks, and some of them weren’t even that long ago.

1860s: Celery Soda

Before it was the default drink option in your combo meal, soda was actually a health elixir. You know what they say: A spoonful of carbon dioxide helps the medicine go down. At least, that was the thinking of a possibly fictional doctor who added carbonation to his medicinal celery tonics in 1868 to make them easier to stomach, giving birth to Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda. Though it’s obviously fallen out of favor, you can still buy it if you’ve got a bottomless self-loathing or a really good idea for a prank.

1870s: Moxie

You know how there are people who claim to be Star Wars fans but can’t seem to name anything good about the franchise? That’s how Moxie drinkers feel about their favorite soda. One of the kindest descriptions of its flavor suggests minty and licorice-y notes, while others suggest “root beer that’s gone really funky.” It was invented in 1876 as a drink that could supposedly cure everything from nerves to crime and briefly became more popular than Coca-Cola. Today, it’s confined to New England, especially Maine, where a three-day festival is held every year in honor of an admittedly terrible beverage.

1910s: BOOST!

When BOOST! was developed by a New Jersey pharmacist, it wasn’t as a soda but a “flat, thick, weird-tasting” syrup. It could be mixed with carbonated water to create a brown beverage with a “strong, sappy, citrus flavor,” but it was also often mixed with milk or even baby formula, as it was said to somehow soothe the stomach. It never quite found a market outside the state, but plenty of Jerseyans fondly remember sucking down bottles filled with milky, caffeinated sludge.

1930s: Orangina

Have you ever taken a sip of an ice-cold Fanta and thought to yourself, “I just wish it were meatier?” No? Then the makers of Orangina have nothing for you. Despite sounding like a sex toy carved from fruit (it’s actually pronounced oran-geena), the combination of orange pulp, juice, sugar and fizz first marketed in France in 1935 became a hit in its home country, if not so much anywhere else. Its commercials were even a kind of early meme, featuring a Shake Weight-like marketing gimmick instructing consumers how to properly mix in the pulp. In their soda. It probably went great.

1980s: 7 Up Gold

The soda game was surprisingly stagnant during the otherwise culinarily grotesque mid-20th century, but the 1980s were a carbonated wild west. Chocolate sodas were popular, even a Fudgesicle soda, and people drank Hubba Bubba bubblegum-flavored soda. It seemed like you could market anything as long as people knew what it was, which was a box 7 Up Gold failed to tick. It was a dark-colored, spice-flavored caffeinated soda developed from an unused Dr Pepper recipe after the companies merged and named specifically so that people might try it without knowing what it tasted like. It turns out most people won’t do that, and it didn’t even last a year.

1990s: Orbitz

Like Orangina in the ‘30s, the ‘90s answered the crucial question, “What if there was weird shit floating around in my soft drink?” The makers of Orbitz, which was launched in 1996 and shuttered in 1999, will tell you the answer, which was, “Ew, get it out.” Orbitz were clear sodas containing mysterious edible “orbs” that came in ridiculously complicated flavors like “pineapple banana cherry coconut.” They were supposed to be reminiscent of lava lamps, see. Kids love drinking lava lamps, right?

2000s: Coca-Cola Blak

Coke has experimented with lots of different flavors since that first cocaine-and-wine concoction, but few were as gross as Coca-Cola Blak, introduced in 2006. The coffee-flavored cola ran into a number of obstacles in its preciously short 17-month lifespan, from the cost (they tried to get away with pricing it like its Starbucks) to the taste, which was described as a “double whammy of bitterness” from the coffee and the artificial sweeteners. Coca-Cola executives insisted the product was merely ahead of its time, which is why you see all those other coffee-flavored colas dominating the shelves today.

2010s: Bacon Soda

Ah, 2010, a time when everything was epic awesomesauce bling and covered with bacon. Thanks to a corporate conspiracy to get rid of pork producers’ excess pig flesh, people went bacon crazy, resulting in a bunch of products that no god ever intended to be bacon-flavored. Bacon gum? Check. Bacon lube? Check. Bacon soda? Unfortunately, check. People bought into it, too. One reporter insisted, describing a taste test of one such soda, that “it’s impossible to deny the best part of the Meat Maniac experience: bacon burps.” 

Someone wrote that in a real newspaper only 12 years ago, presumably just to keep us humble — as the media industry and as a species.

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