Ugly’s latest limited-edition drop is a time-honored, nostalgia-fueled flavor unicorn: the mysterious and enchanting flavor known as Blue Raspberry.
A flavor both familiar as our own names, and yet as apocryphal as the Gospel of Thomas. We can conjure it in our minds instantly, and yet what even is it?
After all our time on this earth we still can’t really say from whence it came. We just know Blue Raspberry as a pervasive truth, echoing its neon blue zing through the annals of time.
Since its existence is both deeply, cellularly known, and yet its provenance inexplicably unknown, let’s examine the origins of this Magic Flavor before we begin, shall we?
What is a Blue Raspberry?
If you’ve made it into adulthood, you’re probably aware that Blue Raspberries aren’t an actual fruit. Although can you imagine rolling into your local Whole Foods and spotting a clamshell packed with juicy electric blue raspberries? We’d die.
There’s some schools of thought that say that Blue Raspberries do “exist” under the guise of the real life Whitebark Raspberry or Blackcap Raspberry, which are indeed both berries, but no, that’s just wrong. Blue Raspberries aren’t real, although this flavor may be inspired by these rarer raspberries.
Kind of like how “Frozen” was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”, but they’re really nothing alike except for the fact that it’s cold and there’s a queen who lives in an ice castle.
The Snow Cone
Like all great American Creations, Blue Raspberry emerged in the 1950s, embroiled in the Food Additives Movement. (Deep down, we all knew it).
In the midst of the dawning public awareness that artificial colors & preservatives might deserve scrutiny, FD&C Red No. 2 became an object of especially intense fixation.
At the time, the infamous Red No. 2 was the color that signified “raspberry flavor,” but there were concerns that it might be carcinogenic. An industry-funded study said otherwise, but the public was unconvinced.
In 1958, congress passed the Food Additives Amendment, which required that any food additive be proven safe before it could be added to food. Also in 1958, Gold Medal Sno-Kones apparently debuted a “blue-raspberry” flavor, a mainstay of Snow Cone shacks this day.
In 1970, both ICEE and Otter Pops launched Blue Raspberry flavors, featuring the brilliant FD&C Blue No. 1 color, with ICEE explaining that they wanted to do something raspberry but needed to distinguish it from their existent Cherry flavor.
Both lay claim to being the genius between the beloved Blue Raspberry, but we’ll probably never know which sugar-fueled product is the real progenitor. Just know that it definitely came from American Corporate Capitalism and the miracles and perils of food coloring. Don’t say it never did anything for you.
So now that we know we’re imbibing some red-blooded (blue-blooded?) American greatness, let’s dive in.
The nose on this one is airy and light, the reticence of the Blue Raspberry scent already letting you know this is not going to be coating your mouth in neon blue.
There is a light note of Flintstone Vitamin, which, depending on your relationship to Flintstone vitamins, can be a totally good thing.
But we mostly get the scent of a real, red raspberry more than anything distinctively blue.
Despite the oversized blue raspberry on the can (and what a pretty blue it is! True navy?), this is an undersized flavor experience.
It’s extremely subtle. Which is a little alarming, since we consider Blue Raspberry to be a technicolor all-caps flavor. We want and are ready to be beaten over the head with Blue Razzmatazz, but no.
There’s no Icee-induced brain freeze, nor is this a humid summer afternoon indulging in a Mr. Misty sugar high at the local Dairy Queen. We assume Ugly wanted to give us an adult, refined experience, which definitely goes against their branding, but perhaps is in line with their continually thoughtful flavor creations.
But what we do get is…good, once it grows on you a little.
It’s an etheric, holographic rendering of the intoxicating candy we couldn’t get enough of as children. It’s like the ghost of a Hawaiian Shaved Ice.
But, as in our Root Beer review, here’s where things get really weird: technically speaking, artificial Raspberry flavors are “mostly esters of the banana, cherry, and pineapple variety.” Huh.
Although, it kinda makes sense. We can envision raspberries that contain each of those fruit notes: sharp and tart, mellow and ripe, the dreaded overly sweet: there’s definitely an alchemical amalgam that might evoke raspberry.
But once you learn this while you’re sipping, once you get the phrase “banana esters” in your brain, that’s when you realize that Blue Raspberry tastes eerily similar to a Banana Runt!
And then you can’t untaste it and your brain melts, having been unprepared to have your world upended like you’ve just taken an intense psychedelic. How is this real? What is anything? Blue Raspberry tastes like a BANANA?!?!?!
This one is both a Pounder and a Contemplator: it goes down so light and easy, and yet each sip is perplexing and confounding. It’s easy to down a can without even noticing.
I guess this is where we share we ordered more than one case, in order to get to the bottom of things.
We wish it was at least a little stronger — blue raspberry is intense, take us there, Ugly! — but this unexpectedly ethereally sophisticated, homeopathic Blue Raspberry actually really works in its own way, somehow. We already went through case #1 🙊.
Sparkling Water, Natural Flavor
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