I am, admittedly, a man of quirky obsessions. Get me interested in or hooked on something and I'm usually in for a fairly long haul.
As a kid it was KISS and anything to do with PLANET OF THE APES, to such an extent (or so my parents thought) that our house was a KISS & APES-Free Zone for awhile. Considering all the things kids I knew from school actually were doing, the comic metal and questionable sci-fi of these two pop culture landmarks seemed pretty benign to me both now and then.
The older I got the more far-ranging my obsessions became – Atari 2600 games, JFK-abilia, drive-in cinema, LPs, vintage cookbooks and pamphlets, Klaus Kinski, the list goes on.
Typically, such fascinations followed a predictable arc as I flirted with something, threw myself into it headfirst, hit a point of critical mass and then trailed off, usually dispersing the flotsam and jetsam I'd collected along the way.
When it comes to food, though, my quirky obsessions tend to stick. Hell, every year or so I still have to hop in the car and drive down to Frederick, MD to scratch the Roy Rogers Double R Bar Burger itch I've been working for 30+ years.
Which makes it that much sadder for me to admit that at some point it all went wrong with Mountain Dew and me.
The Dew was probably my earliest romance, one-sided though it was. Discovered during the 1970s when it became increasingly difficult to find Pepsi Light (the lemon-flavored cola), Dew was readily available at the club where I swam and played tennis and while I probably didn't need a jolt of caffeine to keep me going in those days it certainly provided a little extra kick after a late night of watching NIGHT GALLERY on Channel 48 or trying to descramble porn signals on my bedroom tv.
Subconsciously, I probably also liked Dew because there was no generic equivalent for my Mom to buy. When it came to colas, our house was free of both prejudice and brand loyalty... Pepsi, Coke, Triple Cola... if it was on sale and there was a double coupon to apply that's what we were having with spaghetti that week.
The Dew, on the other hand, could not be duplicated. Forget imitators like Mello Yello or Mom's attempts to get me to consider Fresca, Dew and I soon became so inseparable, so connected in the matriarchal mind that even when I visited home long after I'd stopped drinking the stuff she'd make sure the fridge was stocked.
Or they were cans that were still left from my adolescence. Which is entirely possible.
Somewhere along the line, though, The Dew and I started drifting apart. I don't know if it was the change in can design (a traumatic moment for me if this article is to be believed) or if they actually had tampered with the formula I'd come to trust to get me through late night radio shifts and all-night movie marathons.
Oh sure, I still enjoyed my Mountain Dew Wine Coolers each summer at the shore (Mountain Dew and boxed white wine over ice) and I could count on it to get me through a night when I needed to stay awake but gone were the days when I could pound can after can with reckless abandon.
Frankly, Dew had become a young person's game, as evidenced by things like Diet Mountain Dew and Mountain Dew Sport.
Recently, though, I had a chance to flirt with that first love all over again. In their infinite wisdom, the fine folks at Pepsi rolled out "throwback" versions of both Pepsi and The Dew. Replacing the high fructose corn syrup that had become the trademark sweetener in both drinks, Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback featured "natural sugar" to give the sodas the kind of sweet flavor – without that harsh chemically aftertaste – that won me over in the first place.
Frankly, this wasn't all that big a deal for Pepsi lovers. After all, if they wanted a non-fructosed version of their beloved beverage, it could be had thanks to Kosher Pepsi and Mexican Pepsi. Dew fans weren't so lucky and I was excited to try the beverage (once I found it, that is).
It's hard to imagine that a drink could instantly transport me back 30 years, but Dew Throwback did just that. One swig of that crisp citrus flavor – accompanied by the trademark kick and frisky carbonation I always loved – and I wasn't hustling around the house trying to juggle work, social life and a lovable two-year-old. Instead, I was a 12-year-old without a care in the world, downing a can in the hot sun after swim team practice, waiting for my best friend Ed so we could hit the tennis courts.
Not surprisingly, years of writing about my Dew obsession has spread the word and I recently found myself on the receiving end of not one but two packages of new Dew flavors or brand extensions.
Giddy with the recent memories of my Throwback experience but saddened by its disappearance after an all-too-brief eight-week window of availability (now I knew how Danny and Sandy felt at the outset of GREASE!), I wondered if one of these new Dews on the block would help me forget the recent past and blaze a bold, new future.
Mountain Dew Game Fuel
Given its high caffeine content and reputation for helping you stay awake, it's no surprise that Pepsi has taken the opportunity to position Dew as a drink (or "fuel" in this case) for gamers. There was a Halo 3 tie-in a couple summers ago and now Dew is available in two limited time flavors aimed at fans of World of Warcraft: Wild Fruit (Alliance Blue) and Citrus Cherry (Horde Red).
Since my own video gaming stopped the minute they added buttons to the front of the controllers, I'm not familiar with WoW. Based on the website featuring the drinks and characters from the game it looks like the blue stuff is for the good guys and orange stuff is for the bad guys. My cans (shown at right) were actually generic "test cans" featuring computer-generated labels. (talk about feeling like you've "arrived" as a product reviewer!)
Both flavors are about as brightly colored as you can possibly get for a soda, with eye-popping hues that look like somebody melted a popsicle then dropped one of those glow sticks in it.
The fine folks over at BevReview.com have confirmed that the Horde Red/Citrus Cherry flavor is actually the same formula that was used back in 2007 for the original Game Fuel/Halo 3 promotion. Given the drink's cough syrupy/crused baby aspirin flavor that's too bad. You'd think somebody would have said something or tweaked the formula in the last couple years.
The Wild Fruit/Alliance Blue, however, is – once you get past the eye-popping neon color – a far more palatable drink. Sorta like you might get if you mixed regular Dew and some kind of fruit punch. While you might be expecting a blueberry taste (I know I was) the drink is actually pleasantly fruity and quite drinkable.
Featuring 6 mg/oz of caffeine, the limited-time-only drinks feature more kick than regular Dew and – thanks to the high fructose corn syrup sweetener – a harsher, more lingering aftertaste, too. Both drinks will be available until early-to-mid August.
Mountain Dew Voltage & Mountain Dew Supernova
While getting ready to taste the WoW Mountain Dew Game Fuel flavors I remembered that I still had some cans of the "Dew Drinker Designed" flavors that were part of the election-oriented Dew-Mocracy promotion from last fall.
Mountain Dew Revolution was the third flavor but I couldn't find it in our fridge which means that I must have drunk it at some point and it left no impression on me.
Mountain Dew Supernova fared just slightly better than the drink I couldn't remember at all. The aroma – that of stale laundry – didn't call to mind the Strawberry Melon and Ginseng that the can promised, but the taste actually wasn't bad. Not great but not like stale laundry, either.
Not surprisingly, Mountain Dew Voltage turned out to be the people's choice when the balloting was finished this spring. Touting Raspberry Citrus with Ginseng flavors on the can, it actually tastes like a milder, slightly weaker version of the Wild Fruit/Alliance Blue Game Fuel Flavor described above.
I can say with some conviction that none of these new flavors is going to make me a regular Dew drinker again. In fact, the taste test gave me a little bit of a belly ache and I had to go sit down.
What they did, do, though is reinforce just how good the recent Mountain Dew Throwback was and how sad I am that the promotion is over and the product has disappeared from store shelves.
I thought about stocking up – okay, hoarding it – when it was on the shelves but feared that I'd be doling out cans to Ryan when she came home for a visit in 2034.