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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Virgil's Zero Cream Soda

One of the perils of being a professional consumer of concentrated sugar solutions is the resultant weight gain. Soda has a lot of calories, and as I have explained to my physiology students, your body is a magnificent engine of nanotechnological transformation. You have biochemical mechanisms evolved, via millions and millions of years of life-and-death struggle, to be able to store excess food energy (should you be lucky enough to get any) for future use. It matters little whether that excess energy comes in the form of carbohydrates, proteins, or lipids--your breathtakingly awesome biochemistry can convert extras into a dense energy storage form like triglycerides.
And then pack them into a nice toroidal shape around my midsection, which causes my pants to fall off.

Our modern society (at least for those of us with the incredible good fortune to live in a society with access to nice resources and reasonably stable government) makes food energy available in quantities which our ancient ancestors couldn't even imagine. However, our biochemistry is still adapted to an environment where access to extra calories meant we could store up enough fat to survive winters, famnines, and unsuccessful hunts. As a consequence, our bodies assure us that eating three Ultimate Cheeseburgers is, in fact, an excellent survival strategy, and we should hurry up and do it before someone else gets them!

We are now faced with a dilemma which undoubtedly makes those ancient ancestors more than a little confused--how can we make tasty food which we like to eat, yet has no food energy value at all?

This long path has led me to today's review: Virgil's Zero Cream Soda, which is sweetened with Stevia.

The power drill is there because somehow, drinking a diet soda makes me feel the need to reaffirm my manliness. Which, of course, relies on power tools.

Virgil's regular cream soda is one of the best sodas I've ever had, a magnificent achievement of balance and subtlety. I've also developed a soft spot for stevia as a sweetener--it does have an odd aftertaste, but with the right stuff to balance it out, it can be good.
I've also learned that powdered stevia is much, much sweeter than sugar, in a lesson which involved me trying to make some mildly sweet peppermint tea and ended up with a concentrated liquid York peppermint pattie.
In any case, I am very curious to find out if the good folks who make Virgil's can manage to make something with stevia which doesn't besmirch their reputation.

Where and when: Donated to the Lab by Cilious, September 2011.
Color: Darkish amber, transparent. Kind of pretty.
Scent: Interesting. A strong vanilla scent, more in the sweet vanilla than bourbon vanilla style. Interesting undertones of caramel and, oddly, something that makes me think of sandalwood. There's a faint aftersmell which is reminiscent of the slight bitterness of stevia, but it's very, very faint. The caramel is much stronger.
Nazgul: "Cream. Vanilla creamy."
K-i-C: "Smells like vanilla bubble gum."
Taste: Oddly, the vanilla is much weaker in the taste than the smell. The initial taste is sharper than I expected, but still pleasant--not biting. There is vanilla, and that interesting caramel flavor.
Unfortunately, the stevia is strong with this one. It rides just under those tastes, and like the crest of a wave breaking through the smooth swell, bursts out a few seconds into the mouth. It carries with it the nice parts of stevia (sweet, just the teensiest bit tangy) and the less lovely parts (a fairly powerful bitter/acrid). That makes it sound worse than it is--it's really not unpleasant, quite the opposite. However, I can't ignore the stevia here, like I have been able to do with the less-sophisticated but still good Zevia sodas.

Nazgul: "Hmm! That's good. But strong. But strong in a good way."

It's nice, but it doesn't rise to the same level as its cane sugar cousin.
It's smooth, pleasant, and has an interesting blend of flavors. Taking it on its own, without comparison to regular Virgil's, it would be a good cream soda of the sweet/French vanilla variety, with an odd and slightly unpleasant herbal aftertaste.

On the other hand, it's worlds better than Diet Coke. As diet sodas go, one of the best I've had. Our ancient ancestors would undoubtedly have rejoiced to have it, until they realized it could do them no good and decided instead to burn it as an offering to Crom.

Quaff rating: 3.5. Pleasant vanilla and caramel flavors.
Cough rating: 1.0. Unpleasant stevia aftertaste.
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