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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Red Ribbon Original Cherry Supreme

I have very mixed feelings about cherry flavor. In general, it is among my favorites. Cherry popsicles, for example, were always my primary target in summer popsicle-acquisition forays. Grape and orange? They'll do in a pinch...but cherry was really where my heart dwelt. I am also a fan of cherry Coke. Real cherries--Bing, black, or even (ohh, lovely, lovely) Rainier, are always a treat. Especially Rainier. The yellow and red ones, with firm flesh and lots of juice?
I will do a lot to get my hands on Rainier cherries.

However, cherry flavoring has its dark side, whose archetype is embodied in the cherry flavoring you find in childrens' medicine. This stuff is why children fear medicine--why they lie awake in their beds, stifling any minor coughs and with strategically placed ice-packs to mask evidence of fever. They are all too aware that at the slightest hint of sickness, crack squads of ninja parental minions will emerge from unknown recesses in the room, rappell in through skylights, crawl out of heating vents, or cut straight through the wall with their katanas. They will immobilize the child until the Parent itself arrives to administer the hideous sacrament of the Childrens' Tylenol Syrup with Easy-Swallow Cherry Flavor. None have emerged unscathed.

I was enjoying my cherry Dr. Pepper the other day, until I went into Quaffmaster mode, sniffed carefully, and realized that the cherry flavoring in it had a horrible, hideous familiarity, which made images of shining katanas, lithe black-clad minions, and a silver spoon brimming with viscous, blood-red liquid come to mind.

Anyway, this stuff is supposed to be different. The folks at Galco's said it was something quite special--a cherry soda which did not recall medicine. Oh please, let it be so.

Where and when: purchased April 2009 at Galco's, Los Angeles
Color: Bright scarlet red. Slightly on the orange side. The color of a cardinal against a snowbank in which someone peed a few days ago.
Scent: Cherry popsicle! Oh, praise be to heaven, cherry popsicle! That wonderful, sweet yet a bit tart scent. The katanas vanish, replaced by sticky red-stained hands, wooden sticks with tiny bits of crimson ice stuck to them, and a release from the misery of a hot, humid Kansas summer.
Taste: Hold on, I'm still smelling it.
mmmmmmm......
Okay, taste.
It tastes almost exactly like carbonated, melted cherry popsicle. Slightly milder than I might have guessed. It's the right stuff, though. Best taken in small sips; the taste is fainter than you might guess, and you'll want to savor it.
Oh...wait. Hmm. That's disturbing--in small sips, the popsicle-ness is adulterated by a hint of medicine. Could this be just the perverseness of the human psyche, insisting that my joyous memories be tainted by the tattered fringe of despair?
No, I think there might be two kinds of artificial cherry flavor. This is 90% the good kind, but 10% the bad kind. And that's not all bad. It reminds us, even in our moments of ecstasy, that the sweet is sweeter because of the moments of bitter.

Needless to say, it tastes nothing like actual cherries. But that's not really what you want. Unless the thing you're eating is a cherry or based on actual cherries, you know it's not going to taste like cherries. You hope it's going to taste like cherry popsicles.
This gets you most of the way there.

Quaff rating:4. Cherry popsicles!
Cough rating:0.5, for the poignant, inevitable, yet bitter memory it brings up. Can there be no unsullied childhood joy? Should there be?

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