You may recall my championing the greatest soft drink ever created—Coca-Cola—in a previous Taste Test installment. I stand by that statement, especially when Coke is compared to swill like Red Bull Cola. That said, I do spend the occasional sultry moment with other sodas from time to time, heading over to Dr Pepper, Diet Coke, and lately some Sprite. (Caffeine keeps me awake, because I'm a huge pussy.) On very rare occasions, when hope is in the air and things are looking bright after a long period of darkness, I will venture into the world of flavored colas. Cherry Coke passes my lips maybe once a year, usually at Hot Doug's, from the fountain, crisp and clean. I've also tried—as I'm sure many of you have—varieties like Lime, Vanilla, and Black Cherry Vanilla.
Two things I hoped for but never thought I'd live to see: orange-flavored cola and a black president. And now here they are in one well-timed package: Jones Soda's awkwardly named Orange "You Glad For Change" Cola. (For those who don't get the name, it's a play on the old knock-knock joke that ends, "Orange you glad I didn't say banana?") It's January 20, 2009, the dawn of what most of us (even you right-wingers) hope will be a new day in America. So why not kick-start the economy with some commemorative soft drinks featuring the face of Barack Obama, the so-called "Man Who Will Change Everything, Including The Way We Flavor Cola." (Okay, it's just me who calls him that.) If you still have a job and can afford to throw away $2 for 12 ounces of sugar water delivered in a limited-edition bottle, then Taste Test has the soda for you.
As a proud Hyde Parker and Obama supporter (I saw the prez leaving his gym on his last day in town!), I am predisposed to like this drink, even though the label explicitly says, "Barack Obama does not endorse Jones Soda and Jones Soda isn't affiliated with the President Elect." I understand that it's a cash-grab, but I appreciate the effort—I'd rather have a four-pack of Jones than a crappy Franklin Mint Obama coin in my house. I also very much like orange flavoring in things, though not, strangely, orange soda itself. Will Orange Cola spend four to eight years exceeding its promises, or will Orange Cola hit the ground running, only to leave America with a bad taste in its mouth and buyer's remorse in the morning? (Jones Soda does not encourage analogies comparing the taste of its new drink to the success of the Obama administration.)
The taste: Not that exciting, to be honest. They should've just fucking gone for it, these Jones Soda people. They obviously know how to go over the top: Their cream soda is so sweet it actually causes Type-2 diabetes in the glass bottles that contain it. But instead, they took the opportunity of a people's mandate and went pretty safely down the middle of the road. (Don't follow, Barack, don't do it!) Many of our testers remarked that they wouldn't even know that "Orange You Glad" soda was supposed to be orange-flavored if they hadn't been told. (And if you squint, Barack is just really tan.) It's a decent cola with a bit of a zing, but hardly a paradigm-shifter. It's not as dynamic as our new president. It doesn't even have the charisma of Coca-Cola Classic, the JFK of carbonated beverages. It does have a good-looking bottle, though. But nothing can crush this air of optimism. Nothing!
• "It's really dark for orange soda." "But is it black enough to be president? Is it too black to be president?"
• "It tastes like the Chinese Coke formula."
• "Why would Obama be orange-flavored?" "They just had leftover orange soda lying around, so they pulled this recipe out of their ass."
• "I don't taste any orange at all."
• "I just taste freedom. Pure, unadulterated freedom."
• "It just tastes like ordinary cola. Unbranded cola."
• "Does anyone taste orange at all?" [Chorus of no's.]
• "It faintly tastes of orange Tic-Tacs." "Now I won't be able to think of anything else no matter how many times I taste this."
• "It tastes like rebottled RC Cola."
• "To me it tastes like Lipton's Brisk bottled tea."
• "Hauntingly familiar, as Stevie Nicks would say. Like Jones' Cola with a hint of Tang."
• "Yes, we can distinguish a subtle orange aftertaste, but I think tasters were hoping for the change we need from what is otherwise a standard cola formula. Palin in 2012!"
• "If only McCain had won so we could taste-test High Dietary Fiber Prune Juice Jones Soda."
• "More of a collectable than a beverage, like Billy Beer or Spiro Agnew Brand Margarita Mix. Taste is secondary."
• "It tastes kind of like a flat Coke." "You say that about everything." "Use it! Use it!"
• "Ya'll are on crack. It tastes like orange soda. It's got that usual Jones Soda not-much-carbonation thing going on, so it comes across as kind of flat, but it's like flat orange soda."
• "It tastes a little like blood orange to me."
• "It has the faintest sort of orange-peel flavor to it."
• "Yeah, in a really faint way. It's like you drank a two-liter of Sunkist, then filled the bottle with Coke, and you're just tasting the residue."
• "So basically, it doesn't taste as powerful as the man on the bottle."
Where to find it: Wherever Jones Sodas are sold, from jonessoda.com to dedicated outlets like Target to a local grocery store, like the one where we found ours.