At this point, we basically imagine the masterminds behind Ugly’s Ltd Edition Flavor Drops in some Charlie Kaufman-esque “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” room, technicians furiously observing the minds of seltzer addicts, trying to pinpoint that sweet spot between Childhood Nostalgia and Guilty Pleasure, in order enthrall us to their products forever and ever.
Although enthralling us forever doesn’t totallllly make sense from a business standpoint, because they’re typically sold out before we can even get a review up. Alas. It does create quite the frenzy around each one, and we’re already awaiting the email alerts for their next drop.
It’s cruel quite frankly. The capricious Clementine to our tortured and sensitive Joel.
Either way, there has to be some wizardry involved for them to create drop after drop that pricks at the deepest cravings of youth and the forgotten memories of summertime freedom and joy.
So how did they hook us with their latest drop? (And yes, it’s already sold out.) Let’s unpack this like the sensory scientists we are.
The fragrance wafting up from the can is light and delicate, as if the nostalgia fairies sprinkled some Captain Crunch dust in there. As usual, they’re going straight for the childhood jugular. It smells distinctly pink. Somehow they’ve managed to conjure a color in our mind’s eye, too.
Black seltzer magic, we tell ye.
Once the gentle carbonation floods your mouth, the flavor opens up into a deep, pastel pink Cereal Milk.
It captures the whimsy of a Frankenberry rounded out with the more mature milk notes of Berry Kix. Because come on, this isn’t totally juvenile. Don’t let the tacky tongue logo fool you. Ugly is nobody’s fool.
And if pink milk didn’t tug at your lizard brain already, swirling around somewhere in the can is a strong note of actual Strawberry Shortcake. As if the bonneted cartoon character of yore suddenly came prancing across your tongue dropping morsels of the spongy and sweet summertime dessert into the nooks and crannies of your fondest memories/taste buds.
The strawberry in here is relatively subtle but fresh and bright, nicely balancing the milky vibes that our brain wants to feel from the cream soda. They nail the creaminess so well that every sip brings a little jolt of cognitive dissonance when we remember that we’re drinking a sparkling water and not some kind of Lucky Charms Shortcake Smoothie whipped up in a Minnesota State Fair fever dream.
We honestly don’t know how Ugly does it. It doesn’t make sense. When they first revealed the flavor was Strawberry Cream Soda, we didn’t really have a sense of what it would be like. “Strawberry Cream Soda” wasn’t exactly at the local convenience store growing up. Did Coke even make one? Honestly, it was a reach for us to see how this would evoke the indulgent delight of soda the way Root Beer or Dr. Ugly does.
And yet still, even never having had a “Strawberry Cream Soda” in our lives, Ugly still managed to create something instantly recognizable, something indulgent, something we’ve known our entire lives. Certainly something that invokes simpler, more optimistic times.
It’s like Ugly is trying to infiltrate our actual memories and rewrite them with way less sugar and toxic chemicals. We appreciate the Lord’s Work that they’re doing here. Guiding our sugar-scorched tongues into the sweet meadows of beloved childhood treats without the granular poison.
If you didn’t manage to score some of this Strawberry Cream Soda, we’re genuinely sorry. It’s delicious, delicate. It’s another point for column Halcyon Summer Memories.
Sparkling Water, Natural Flavor
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