Here’s a thing: I was a tremendously full-bodied teenager. And I loved soda.
From a steady diet of Monster Burgers from Hardees, to large pizzas and French fries I was a real boy with curves. Doubling down on lunch in the cafeteria each day of high school was a real trip. And after consuming 5,000 (or more) of the unhealthiest calories I could find in the form of “food,” I needed to wash it down with something awesome.
Yeah, chocolate milk never goes out of style and apple juice is a classic kids jam and Mountain Dew was the most radical of all beverage options, but there are a whole bunch of killer sodas that I sucked down faster than jet fuel through an F-15 fighter jet at full throttle.
Basically, there were so many cool things from the music to listen to, movies to watch, food to eat, clothing styles to fully endorse and express in absurdity that soda was just the cherry on top. Given the fashion and music revivals of the 90s that we are experiencing right here in 2016, I figured it was a great time to look back on my favorite cans of righteous.
I don’t know man, maybe the formula changed or something. Perhaps, I was just a horrid trash compactor of fast food, Little Debbies and sugar water. Squirt was great. I drank it a lot. Why Squirt? Well, it was easily the least cool soda ever. My mom used to own a small restaurant and they carried like two or three types of soda and Squirt was one of them. We’ve all seen shows like The Wire or movies like Requiem for a Dream. You’ve seen what addicts can do. What do you think I was going to do when I could slam Squirt at will in a restaurant where 13-year-old, 300-pound me had free reign!?
As far as I can remember, Jolt was the poseur soda of the alternative world of bodaciousness. Like, you totally wanted a Jolt and you thought the label on the bottle was edgy. Plus, as a kid, you had NO IDEA what caffeine is supposed to do or even how much is “twice” the amount that would normally be in a soda. To this day, as a grown man, I still have no idea how much caffeine is in ANY kind of soda. Jolt only gets in here because of the marketing. This stuff was so gnarly to a lot of trends, but the trues always knew that you only drink Jolt if the other three options ahead of them on this list weren’t available. Also, it wasn’t THAT cool because it was actually created in the mid-1980s and if you remember much about the 1990s, the grit and rawness of the 90s alternative and subculture boom was all about revolting against their baby-boomer overlords of the 1970s and the commercialization of pop culture on crazy amounts of cocaine that is the 80s. So Jolt definitely took a cred hit because of the 80s association. Also, Pepsi did the most genius thing in the history of soda during the 90s by introducing Pepsi Points and those things were useless, but gave a huge edge to the mainstream soda over the similar tasting, uninspired 80s leftover that is Jolt. I still slammed a lot of it.
With trigger words like “bodaciousness” and “rad” and “righteous,” you probably thought I was heading to the ultimate conclusion that Surge was king of 90s sodas that shred. Sadly, you are mistaken. Look, Surge was definitely awesome. Like, probably one of the best sodas I ever had. And it wasn’t just me, the stuff was so popular that it somehow managed to go the way of Air Jordan retros and vinyl. It blew my mind that they were bringing it back in micro batches. Even more astounding was that there was a secondary market for the stuff, people paying obscene amounts of money for the right to drink a can of what can only be described as “fake” Surge. Yeah, I said it. You were thinking it. Surge killed in the 90s. Best soda logo ever, killer branding combined with impeccable marketing to tweens and teens alike. Today, if you drink a surge, people just judge you. In the 90s, it was a stone cold lock that it would net you at least one high-five. I’ve got four cans of Surge sitting in my apartment. They are for 2017. I’m not drinking soda in 2016, but when the clock strikes midnight, I am shotgunning at least two of those tall boys while listening to this jam as loud as it will go.
If you don’t remember the social impact of Sprite, you’re probably a lot younger than me. What can I say? Grant Hill and “Obey Your Thirst.” Basketball was absolutely exploding during the 90s. The reign of Michael Jordan, the rise of hip-hop as a cultural force, and the 1992 Team USA Dream Team propelled basketball and urban culture into the foreground. Somehow, this didn’t clash at all with the world of the angry white teenagers in flannel. Instead, they sort of melded together into an unstoppable force of awesome. Example: Wu-Tang Clan and Rage Against the Machine touring together. Nothing that amazing could happen now. What would it be? Travis Scott and Disturbed? People today have it all messed up. A lot of noise is canceling out the anger that was the backbone of the best rap and alternative bands of the 90s, an anger that was shared by their audience. An audience that just wanted to be free to be themselves and obey their thirst, not some image. The 90s had better music and better soda because people obeyed their thirst. Thanks, Sprite.
Also, Sprite used to give you free soda! You had like a 1-in-5 chance of getting a free soda when you bought a bottle. And, here is the best truth I can give you on the subject of Sprite: take a journey with me back to 1996. It’s summer. We’re in Kansas, at a truck stop. I’m there with my dad, who I traveled with during summer vacation when I was a kid. He had a load to pick up at a meat packing plant. We’re full on in the middle of Dust Bowl weather in the Dust Bowl. Hot, dusty. Just waiting for hours for the load to be ready so we can get back to civilization somewhere on the East Coast or in the upper Midwest aka home. So, given my goal as a kid was apparently, in retrospect, to get as fat and unhealthy as possible to make the rest of my life a challenge on that front, I decided I would spend the entire afternoon drinking a bottle of Spire. But the cap was a winner. So I got another one. And the cap was a winner, so I drink another one. The next cap was also a winner. I promise that I am not lying, I drank it and got another one. And then, in the words of DJ Khaled, “ANOTHER ONE.” I hit on like five of those in a row for a free soda. And more remarkable than that, I drank ALL OF THEM in a single afternoon. On my sixth trip, I hit again. But not for a free soda. I won a fancy leather-brimmed Team USA basketball hat. That, my friends, is something you simply cannot make up. So again, thank you, Sprite. And thank you, Kansas. You kind of suck, but you did hook up all that free Sprite one afternoon in 1996.
I kind of said it all about Sprite, didn’t I? Josta was the greatest. It has a crazy panther on the label. A black panther. The best panther. This is straight up Bagheera level soda. And they marketed it as being the only soda with guarana. Guarana? Yeah, I don’t care what it is. It didn’t kill me and it was delicious. Plus, they pulled this stuff from the U.S. market for no known reason. I was drinking it all the time so I know that it wasn’t an issue of making money off of it (me). Plus, you know, back to the whole imagery thing. 90s, hip-hop, anger, blank panther soda with some type of exotic South American berries in it. This is what it is all about. You can’t deny the power of Josta.
Speaking of that South American angle, this stuff is supposedly still in production and being sold in various places around the globe, just not in the United States. I’d have to say this is a conspiracy. Is guarana the cure for cancer? Does it help you pay off college loans faster? There must be a reason that it isn’t still here and whatever the reason is, it clearly has nothing to do with being filled with dangerous chemicals, the amount of sugar or any potential “energy” component of caffeine, ephedrine or some similar stimulant because America doesn’t care about those things at all. Also, we don’t care about most drugs or pollutants. I guess I’m kind of losing my way here because I haven’t had copious amounts of sugar this morning so I give up. Josta, you were the best and I hope I never drink you ever again.
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)