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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mr. Q. Cumber and Hot Lips Pear Soda

In our continuing attempt to bring Weird Soda to the masses, the Weird Soda Review Lab staff made a visit last night to the home of some dear friends. And yes, we brought some Weird stuff.

One might think, based on some of the things which we have reviewed in the Lab, that bringing Weird Soda to one's friends house would not be a very friendly act; Kombucha Wonder Drink is the sort of thing which can induce mass hysteria, rioting, and pit brother against brother in vicious Thunderdome-style battles for the right to not drink it. ("Two men enter! One man quaffs!") If you've ever seen "They Live" (a fine Weird movie), then imagine the fight over the sunglasses, except instead of sunglasses it's a bottle of Biotta.

But we've also found some Weirdness which is quirky, pleasant, or even delicious. I brought specimens which I suspected would be of this variety to our friends' home last night, hoping that by the end of the night there would be more sighs than sirens. On the menu tonight were "Mr. Q. Cumber", a cucumber flavored soda I found at Mitsuwa Marketplace, and "Hotlips Pear Soda", from Galco's. I figured that fruits and vegetables (yes, I know cucumber is a fruit) should be all right. Right?
Wait; sauerkraut is a vegetable product, too, isn't it?
Oh, crud.

This was the home of Gillhutt (an engineer) and Neighsayer (a former horse-trainer) and their son Rootin'-Tootin'-Kitten-Cabootin' (who, in Lab parlance, shall be known by his acronym RTKC). These people are very good friends; when we arrived at the door with Weird Soda, they not only let us in, but even fed us dinner.

Once the Lab staff and our friends were gathered around the table, we opened the bottles and the quaffing commenced. We began with the Mr. Q. Cumber.

Where and when: purchased April 2009 at Mitsuwa Marketplace
Color: A long look was had by all.
RTKC: "I'd say greenish-white."
Lead Assistant Tester: "Citrine green!" Yes, citrine, the gemstone. He's kind of Weird too.
Neighsayer: "That's just what I was going to say!"
Gillhutt: (looks carefully) "A clear liquid with a light green tinge."
Did I mention that Gillhutt is a materials engineer?
It's clear, with a pale green tint. About the color of light green bottle glass--you know, not clear, but not the dark green. The color that Coke bottles once were.

: Hmm. Actually, remarkably accurate. It smells a lot like cucumber, with a slightly sweet/tart tone. Faint, but not extremely so. Not overpowering.The Lab staff and guests seem intrigued.
Gillhutt: "Smells like raw cucumber when you're cutting it." At first, I thought he said "gutting", and I was going to be afraid. But he assures me he is not so violently disposed toward cucumbers.
Neighsayer: "Once I stick it up my nostrils, I can smell the cucumber!" Note: No soda was actually snorted up her nose, but we did check to make sure.
Lead Assistant Tester: (out of nowhere) "Zucchini!"

Enthusiasm is growing amongst the tasters. The smell is fairly pleasant.
Taste: Sips are taken.
Neighsayer: "Mmmm! I kind of like it!"
It's quite a bit more tart than I expected, but that's not a bad thing. Itty bitty sweet pickles are one of my favorite foods. This doesn't actually taste like those, but the combination of sweet, sour, and cucumber tastes nevertheless puts me in a good mood. The coolness of the cucumber taste combines nicely with the sweet of the cane sugar.
Kibbitzer-in-Chief: (sounding surprised) "It's really nice."
Neighsayer: "It tastes like a fuzzy cucumber. A crisp and fuzzy cucumber!"
Lead Assistant Tester: "It tastes like a sourish-sweet cucumber with a bitter aftertaste."
I don't get much of a bitter aftertaste, but I see what he means. It tastes a bit like cucumber slices with their peel, sprinkled with powdered sugar and lemon juice. Except that it tastes good, whereas that sounds icky.
Neighsayer: "Carbonated cucumber iced tea." She then proceeds to pour some tea made from crushed scented geranium leaves, which is also tasty.
Junior Assistant Tester: "Bubbly cucumber sauce!" Note: Normally, an exclamation such as this would probably be an attempt to avoid swearing (e.g. "Oh, fudge!") Such is the power of Weird Soda, though, that it is in this context an entirely reasonable statement which, in fact, conveys enthusiastic approval.

So the Mr. Q. Cumber was acclaimed a success, and provoked jubilation and merriment in the throng. But we weren't done. After some water to clear our palates, we moved on to the Hotlips Pear Soda.

Where and when: purchased April 2009 at Galco's, Los Angeles.
Color: This may present a problem. The jubilation in the crowd fades, to be replaced by a feeling of mild apprehension. It comes out of the bottle a slightly murky light yellow-green. There are bits of something floating in it. It's disturbing.
Lead Assistant Tester: "Looks like apple cider with a few drops of pond water."
That's a bit charitable. It looks like a urinary tract infection.
Neighsayer: "From someone who's an ex-veterinary assistant and who has taken a lot of horse 'samples', this is just what it looks like when it's de-foamed."
Oh, that can't be good. I wasn't even aware that horse urine had to be "de-foamed". Urk.
Gillhutt: "It looks like runoff water from the rain forest."
Junior Assistant Tester: (nods silent agreement, presumably at a loss for words)

We soldier on, hoping the scent will not resemble that of horse urine. We'll rely on Neighsayer for confirmation.
Scent: Surprisingly sweet, with a touch of tart. It does smell somewhat like pear, but not as much I might have guessed. It's sharper than I would expect pear to be.
RTKC: "Smells like pears!" Or maybe I'm wrong.
Gillhutt: "I smell ginger in this. (sighs deeply)". The sigh is very expressive, speaking of resignation to one's fate. I'm not sure if it's joyful resignation or "I'm-on-my-way-to-the-gallows-but-boy-what-a-good-ride" resignation.
Neighsayer: "You know when you get the dried pears in the fruit section? It's like that."
Gillhutt: "It smells like watered-down bad Australian ginger beer."
Apparently it was the second kind of resignation.
Lead Assistant Tester: "Smells like rotten green apple cider."
The Kibbitzer-in-Chief seems to agree; she's checking the bottle for alcohol content. Nope.

Taste: Quite a bit sharper than the smell. Very tart, with a bit of plantish taste, but oddly does not make me think of vegetable.
Kibbitzer-in-Chief: "You mean herbal." Yes, that's it. Herbal. Lemon and apple flavors, but actually not much like pear. Pleasant, but odd. No tannins.
Kibbitzer-in-Chief: "Oh, it tastes much better than it smells. What a relief."
Gillhutt: "This would go well with Harp."
At first, I think he said "heart". Combined with the gutted cucumbers earler, I am now becoming seriously afraid of Gillhutt. He never seemed murderous before. Do I blame the Weird Soda? I grab the bottle, preparing to break it and defend the Lab staff as we make our escape.
Gillhutt: "No, Harp. The beer." Oh.
Kibbitzer-in-Chief: "Tastes like mulled cider from the fridge."
Neighsayer: "Lemon verbena tea?"
Gillhutt: "A minty aftertaste."

Everyone seems happy with this one too, if somewhat nonplussed. There seems to be an attitude of surprise, but acceptance of the new order.

So we still have our friends, and Gillhutt didn't kill any vegetables or people; the Q. Cumber was a big hit, and the Hotlips Pear had a pleasant if somewhat surprising taste. Just don't look at it.

Mr. Q. Cumber:
Quaff rating: 4. I wouldn't have guessed cucumber soda would be this nice.
Cough rating: 0.5.

Hotlips Pear Soda:
Quaff rating: 3. Pleasant enough, but the taste is strong and kind of odd.
Cough rating: 1.5. The appearance is bizarre.


  1. Hot Lips soda is made here in Portland by the Hot Lips Pizza people. They started out making it just for their restaurants but now you can find it everywhere. They don't use any flavored syrups or anything, just real fruit. That's what the cloudy/chunkiness was.

  2. I tried Mr Q Cumber today with my lunch from this new mac&cheeza place in downtown LA. It was quite good and very refreshing. I liked it so much I looked it up on the internet to see if I could buy a case to have at home.

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  4. Are you saying this soda tastes like pickles?!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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