Saturday, October 28, 2023

It's ALIVE - Trick or Treat: Mushroom-based Sodas?

While these are not overtly Halloween-themed, in my mind, they're Trick-or-Treat-adjacent. Stick with me and you'll see.

I don't drink booze, I rarely drink coffee, and I don't do artificial sweeteners or diet beverages. What I DO drink is a lot of water, seltzers, and soda. Soda is my coffee. (Soda is a god. Soda is the breeze in my hair on the weekend.) 

Soda is my go-to caffeine boost, but we all know soda is not good for you, and I do like to make healthier choices when I can, so when I spotted these "healthy" sodas at Lidl I thought this could be a great alternative. That is, if they actually taste good. 

So, healthy mushroom-based sodas, a trick? Or a treat? 

I mean, they kind of look witchy, right? We have dark brown glass bottles, labels that are made to look like aged paper with faux tattered-edging, and illustrations of mushrooms done in red ink. All of these traits help me cram this mushroom-soda-shaped peg into my Halloween-shaped hole. (Not the best choice of words, but I think it's funny and I'm sticking with it.) I like reusing bottles when I can, and thanks to their thick glass, brown coloring, and wide mouth (that's what she said, I'm on a roll tonight), I plan on washing and reusing these this winter to make more homemade vanilla extract. An extra on-theme witchy bonus!

They look great, but what about it's execution? I've been burned by "healthy" Whole Foods sodas in the past, so my expectations are quite low. I mainly wanted the bottles.   

Let's go with Cola first. 

Classic cola, like Coke or Pepsi, is brown in color and depending on the brand, has notes of caramel, lemon, vanilla, and spices like cinnamon. 

When opened, I was immediately impressed! This smells pretty cola-like. It leans citrusy, and a little flat, kind of like cola flavored Haribo Gummy bottles, and there's a slight tangy hint of fermentation in there, but it seems...good? Perhaps these will be better than I thought they'd be. 

Taking a sip...NOPE. Nu-Uh. Bad. Like I actually shuddered a little bit after I swallowed. 

Going in for a second take to better describe this to you guys was not fun. My main descriptor would be, medicinal. It's sweet, moderately carbonated, and tangy. I can taste citrus and spices, it even leaves a ginger-like spicy tingle on to tongue, all of these descriptors make it sound great, but it's not. At least, not for me. This tastes medicinal to me, in the worst way possible. Like I'm drinking a cola-themed cleaning product. Safe to say, it's a no from me. Will root beer flavoring be better? (I doubt it.)

Root beer seems to be a divisive flavoring, you either love it or hate it. I am one of those people who like root beer, and grew up having root beer floats, so right away I find the aroma very appealing. Way more convincing than the cola. 

Taking a sip...bleh. 

It's more tolerable than the cola, that's for sure, but does it pass for actual soda? No. Root beer being a more natural occurring flavor, this does taste like root beer, but instead of a sweet syrupy soda base we have a tangy watery one. No shuddering this time, but I definitely don't want to drink the rest of this. 

Kids get sick all the time, and when I was little, I preferred the "root beer medicine," and that is what this is like. Root beer-like enough to be enjoyable compared to say, a gross non-root beer flavored medicine. This is tolerable, not enjoyable. 

Are these ALIVE drinks more cola-like than any kombucha product I've ever had? Sure! Do I want to actually drink it? No. 

Maybe if you never had actual soda ever before in your life, you'd think these were great. I can't imagine many other scenario where someone would reach for this over alternatives, or even normal kombucha, but someone must like these, right? 

Actually, let me take a moment to do a related PSA:
To all the beer and wine people out there who tell us non-boozy-drinkers that, "this tastes just like ___." Let me tell you, no. It doesn't. Are your taste buds broken? The burning alcohol flavor overpowers everything. Making things insanely sweet, does not fix the problem, or even mask it enough to make it tolerable. (I find that making things sour actually helps me tolerate the booze-y burn in social situations. But if you ever see me eating straight-up almonds and drinking a glass of wine, know that I have been replaced by a pod person.) 

If anyone ever hands you one of these drinks and says, "It tastes just like soda," they're either: lying, have never had soda, or it's been so long that they don't remember what soda tastes like. Cause this ain't it. 

Trick, not treat. I do not like them and I won't be buying them again, BUT I will be washing and reusing the bottles for vanilla extract, so it's not a total loss. 

Fans of this would also like:
 Sadness, Beer that "tastes like chocolate", and these Fentiman's Curiosity "Colas

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