When you think about it, it can be hard to identify what Weird Sodas have in common. In the Venn Diagram of beverages, what defines the line which separates Weird Soda from other drinks? Or is it more of a probability distribution--the more of certain characteristics a given beverage possesses, the more likely it is to be a Weird Soda?
We've been giving this a lot of thought at the Lab. At first, one might think that being sweet is an important part of being a Weird Soda. But then you get things like Abali and Arvands, and that goes right out the window (along with your breakfast). You might think it's carbonation--but some of the things we've reviewed just instinctively fall under the Weird Soda banner, even though they lack carbonation.
We thought we had it, though. They must be Weird--and they must be liquid.
Surely that is something all Weird Sodas would have in common, right?
We're scientists, and it is our job to challenge that kind of assumption. So during the Mitsuwa pilgrimage, I obtained something which is, without a doubt, Weird, and may in fact be a Weird Soda, but which is at least partially nonliquid. Tonight, we shall quaff Tsubutsubu Mikan Jelly.
Let us consider this candidate for Weird Sodaness. It comes in a can with a pop top. It claims to be a soft drink. It is orange-flavored and has sugar. So far, sounds like a Weird Beverage at least. However, check out the ingredients list:
Unshu mandarin orange, mandarin pulp, sugars (fructose, glucose, sugar), acidulant (citric acid), gelling agent (guar gum), flavor (natural and artificial), vitamin C.
It's the "gelling agent" which gets me. I thought the picture of an orange Jell-O mold on the can was some sort of metaphor. Perhaps I was wrong.
I am further intrigued by the fact that it provides--apparently--0% of your RDA of Vitamin C. It has mandarin orange pulp and extra vitamin C added. I am at a loss. Also, at the top of the can, without any further explanation, is the phrase "Miss Parlor".
It is also the only Weird Soda I have ever quaffed which has a picture on the can which seems to me to be suggesting that it be shaken vigorously prior to opening. I'll just bet that's to loosen the gel. Erk.
It's quaffing time.
Where and when: purchased April 2009 at Mitsuwa Marketplace, San Diego, CA
Color: First, I must upend it five times. At least that's what I think it says.
*does so* Sounds ike there's liquid in there.
Now, we'll pour it into a cup to see what color it is.
Oh my sweet...it's coming out in thick glops. It's half-runny, half-gelatinous. In the cup, it's orange, mostly opaque, with many little leaf-shaped bits of what I hope is fruit pulp.
Let me make this clear: I can't pour any more, because the opening of the can has become clogged with gel.
When I swirl the cup, it moves, but all together as a unit.
K-i-C: "And thus ends your sweet time with non-vomit-inducing sodas."
The bits of pulp are suspended in it--they're not falling to the bottom or floating to the top. They're held by the gel, like a nematode is held by a predatory fungus.
It's orange Shoggoth Soda.
Scent: Actually, it smells kind of good. Somewhere between Orangina and peach syrup.
Taste: as I upend the cup, it slides--slides--toward me.
I try to drink it like a soda, but it will have none of it. First, a bit of liquid--then a large chunk of gel insists on all coming in at once, followed by little gobbets. It's a slurry.
Oh, the taste? Not bad. Not very strong; a little like a watered-down version of the liquid around canned mandarin oranges. Pleasant, kind of blandly sweet, vaguely orangey.
To get the next cupful, I have to shake the can as I pour it.
This is the first Weird Soda I've ever had which made me instinctively try to chew it before swallowing.
Me: "Want to try it?"
K-i-C: "I don't drink lumpy things."
It's not bad, just not particularly interesting. The selling point must be the unusual texture. However, I'm guessing that having the texture of Jell-O which one has strained through one's teeth two or three times is only going to appeal to specialists.
I believe this definitely qualifies as a Weird Soda, despite its only semi-liquid state. The search for a unified theory of Weird Sodas continues.
Quaff rating: 3. The taste is pleasant but uninteresting.
Cough rating: 2. Although the gloppiness is not quite as bad as it seemed like it was going to be, it's still darned Weird.
Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla Soda
2 days ago