Bubly Cranberry wasn’t really on our radar the way, say, Pamplemousse, or any AHA is. Maybe it’s the combo of feeling like Cranberry should be a seasonal offering only, and within the realm of seasonal offerings, should be relegated to a brand that can deftly execute subtly and seasonality. Like Ugly did with their epic Candy Cane. Or maybe it’s because we willfully try and ignore bubly most of the time. 🤷🏻♀️
But inevitably, we’ve rotated the usual Commodity Brands in and out of our fridge for a few months, and we’re looking for something different, something we’ve overlooked, and our eyeballs settle upon a box of bubly Cranberry. We sigh in resignation. Fine, we say. Hop on in the cart.
And that cran-can is eager. “aw hi” it proclaims on the pop tab. Adorable how PepsiCo is trying to get all cutesy after it just steamrolled a small AAPI functional beverage company by leveraging its infinite budget for lawyering up. We see you, Pepsi.
We can’t say we’re entirely eager to give our money to Pepsi’s waterchild, bubly. In fact, the whole bullying small businesses thing kinda made us want to not have bubly on our hallowed homepage ever again, but when you have such a Massive Platform like the Bubbleverse (lol), it’s your duty to talk sh*t about them, and shade their mediocre sparkling waters every chance you can get. 🗣🖕🏻
So here we are.
When we first pop the “aw hi”, something candied wafts up, almost like a scented holiday potpourri. Exactly the kind of “cranberry” note we’d expect from bubly, but with the loudness of an AHA flavor. It’s dumb and intriguing at the same time. We don’t hate it.
Okay here’s the deal: Pepsi, also-ran to Coke, purveyor of Super Bowl Halftime shows, passable sparkling waters, and all-around Evil Empire, somehow managed to pull off something elegant and festive here. Something refreshing enough to be a year round drink, yet also something specific enough to capture the feeling of glooping a can-shaped wiggling mass of cranberry sauce onto a plate festooned with autumn leaves.
It’s light. It’s not like drinking an Ocean Spray or anything (who, btw, has their own sparkling cranberry beverage). The bubly cranberry has just enough flavor to evoke the cran, without feeling like you’ve committed yourself to wading through a cranberry bog for the duration of the can. It’s also not as holiday-esque as Good & Gather’s Cranberry Citrus or as flavorful as the LaCroix CranRazz. Bubly sticks to the subtle, straight-up cranberry, instead of trying to get fancy with other flavors. Or really, much of any flavor at all, in true bubly fashion.
But whereas most bublies come across as weak and under-flavored, the level of cranberry in this one is pretty much perfect. This may or may not be intentional: cranberry is such a potent flavor (have you ever tried drinking pure cranberry juice??) that bubly’s traditional under-flavoring technique actually works in their favor with this one.
Now when we say that this is good, we’re still grading on the bubly curve. It’s not like Aura Bora levels of thoughtfulness and artistry. It’s not a deep dive into the nuances of a single fruit, like the waters of Waterloo. But for a brand that all too often tastes like the dregs of creativity and tapped-out syrup canisters, this actually demonstrates thoughtfulness and a modicum of flavor prowess.
And the finish captures the light bitterness of the cranberry, but we’re once again not entirely sure that’s a credit to bubly and not just an accident. All bublies seem to carry that bitter, citric acid finish, perhaps a literal expression of Pepsi’s bitter, corporate heart.
“Joined at the sip,” the cran can whispers to us.
“No thank you,” we reply.
Just because you pleasantly surprised us doesn’t mean we trust you and your shady corporate tactics. 🤨 bubly’s adorable greetings feel a bit like little Trojan horses, trying to lower our defenses in order to plunder our hearts and wallets.
We’ll see if we’ll still be “joined at the sip” if Ugly ever offers their own seasonal Cranberry.
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