Taste Test: Jones Christmas Pack Sodas
Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at email@example.com.
Jones Holiday Sodas Christmas Pack
Back in 2003, the enterprising geniuses at Jones Soda came up with an idea that simultaneously turned heads and stomachs: carbonated turkey-and-gravy soda. They made it in a limited run for Thanksgiving 2003, as a seasonal novelty item rather than an addition to their regular lineup of products, but media attention–and public demand–was so high that they returned in 2004 with a full Thanksgiving set of sodas: Turkey & Gravy, Green Bean Casserole, Mashed Potato & Butter, Fruitcake, and Cranberry. No, these sodas generally aren't meant to taste good, per se: The novelty is in how well they mimic particular food flavors more so than how delicious they make green-bean casserole in liquid form.
And so it's gone ever since: Jones has become better-known nationwide for its once-a-year limited-edition collections of carbonated holiday weirdness than for its day-to-day products. Every year, they put out a boxed set of strange soda like Brussels Sprout with Prosciutto, Salmon Paté, Pea, and Antacid, and each year, they donate some of the proceeds to charity.
This year is a little different: Instead of a single five-bottle pack of Thanksgiving sodas, Jones is releasing two four-flavor limited-edition sets: a Christmas pack (which benefits Toys For Tots) and a Hanukkah set (which benefits Vitamin Angels). Full details can be found here. Naturally, the culinary adventurers at The A.V. Club couldn't pass up the chance to try Ham, Christmas Tree, and Latke sodas. So just before Thanksgiving, we bellied up to a conference-room table, passed out the plastic shotglasses, and treated ourselves to some carbonated holiday cheer. Today, we'll cover the Christmas set of holiday sodas; later this week, we'll post reviews of the Hanukkah set.
Side note: The Christmas pack comes with a palm-sized, flimsy Styrofoam glider piloted by a little cartoon Santa, and with peppermint candies painted on the wings. If you're feeling aggressive after all the holiday-pack-soda sugar, you can assemble it and throw it at other people. It's entirely safe: It's pretty much guaranteed to crash-dive instantly rather than striking them.
Christmas Ham Soda:
Taste: Imagine a Christmas ham, sealed in plastic and defrosting in the fridge. Imagine the cloudy ham water that leaks out of it and sits in the bottom of the plastic when you unwrap the ham. Imagine it carbonated and sweetened. Imagine putting it into your mouth and manfully fighting the automatic gag reflex. Imagine belching it and tasting it again for the next half-hour. Why are you doing this to yourself? For the love of God, stop it and return to your normal kinky sex fantasies instead. (But do take a minute to note that Ham Soda is kosher, like all Jones' holiday sodas, so practicing Jews who've never been able to taste delicious, savory ham can drink this soda in order to endure something completely unlike eating the forbidden food.)
• "I can't drink this! It smells like ham! Why would you want to drink ham?" [After sampling.] "Oh, I hate it so much! That is the worst thing I have ever tried."
• "Oh Jesus, that's incredibly terrible."
• "It's salty and smoky."
• "Imagine the worst baloney you've ever had in your entire life."
• "It's like water steeped with a teabag full of baloney."
• "Oh God, it doesn't go away if you chase it with other drinks!"
• "It tastes like somebody else's post-ham-eating backwash. With bubbles."
Taste: Eggnog is mostly notable for tasting like whatever alcohol you put into it, and for having a thick, bubbly texture. So if it was distilled down to a thin liquid with no alcohol content, it might taste like this, but it's hard to tell. It's vaguely fruity and mildly sweet, with a strong overtone of mulled spices.
• "It's crisp. It doesn't smell evil, at least."
• "It kind of just tastes like cream soda."
• "It looks like urine."
• "Hey, I've drunk urine, and it was nothing like this at all."
• "It's surprisingly good. Especially after the ham."
• "There's definitely ginger in there. And some nutmeg. More nutmeg than anything else."
• "It's kind of like Tums or Rolaids, really."
• "Like those chewy wax-candy bottles filled with fluid. It was tolerable, at least."
• "It's mostly just strange. Not unpleasant, exactly, but it tastes like some sort of mysterious, unspecified fruit-and-spice combination. Like fruit punch from Planet X."
Christmas Tree Soda:
Taste: Maybe the vivid neon-green color was influencing our tastebuds, but Christmas Tree soda seemed oddly lime-flavored, without any of the tang of citrus; there was a definite pine smell, but mostly it tasted like oversugared limeade with a distinct evergreen aftertaste.
• "Smells like Ben-Gay mixed with Christmas tree."
• "Smells like the garden section of Home Depot to me. [After sampling.] Oh, shit. Weird. At least the aftertaste isn't as bad. I'm not sure I like drinking greenery, though."
• "I don't think that's remotely piney in smell or taste. Which is fine by me, actually."
• "This tastes exactly like melted lime Otter pops."
• "It's just kind of unpleasantly sweet."
• "There's a serious Vicks VapoRub overtone to it."
• "It's really woody. Like chewing on a Yule log."
• "More like licking a pine-scented air freshener while you're trying to drink lime soda. It smells more piney than it actually tastes, but the aroma really gets into your nose."
Sugar Plum Soda:
Taste: Not so much plummy as like a light, mellow blueberry soda, with a whole lot of sugar.
• "Does anyone know what a sugar plum actually tastes like? This may be the easiest one for them to approximate."
• "At least it isn't supposed to taste like Sugar Plum Fairy."
• "It tastes like Blackberry Clearly Canadian."
• "It kind of borders on refreshing."
• "It's pretty crisp."
• "It'd be good with vodka."
• "What wouldn't be better with vodka?"
• "Like cream soda with blueberries."
• "Mmm. Very berry. It's a thin, watered-down version of fruit juice."
• "Probably the best of the batch, if only because it tastes like something you'd actually want in your body."
Where to get them: Jonessoda.com.
Special bonus level: As an experiment, I blended all four Christmas sodas together into a soda suicide and tasted them, to find out what a Jones Christmas is like overall. It was actually pleasantly fruity, with the odder nutmeg and pine flavors cancelled out by the berry and citrus notes. Overall, it would have been very tasty, except for the smoky ham overtones, and the lingering, irrepressible, and eventually nauseating ham aftertaste. Note to self: That planned line of shopping-mall ham-smoothie kiosks may not be the best idea after all.