Raspberry flavored sodas might seem like using a cheat code when it comes to adding a new dimension to any old tried-and-true favorite. The only problem with this simple change is that is that most companies would rather go the route of using XTREME BLUE RASPBERRY FLAVOR instead of utilizing a more subtle and natural approach. This is how Pepsi Blue or Mtn Dew Voltage approaches raspberry flavoring: they taste absolutely nothing like freshly picked raspberries, and instead taste like Willy Wonka’s dick (or the same formula as that lickable lead-based wallpaper).
Just so we’re on front street, I’d like to mention that I LOVE everything about raspberries. As a child, I would eat them off directly off the wild bushes just outside of our 23 room luxury yurt nestled deep inside the Rocky Mountains. This flavor also pervades my choice in alcoholic beverages as I go crazy for a Lindeman’s Framboise (a thick lambic beer brewed using only naturally floating yeast), and raspberry infused mead is a definitive holiday staple. The last time I went up gambling in Blackhawk, I (may have) lost a sizable amount of money playing that new Full House slot machine. I may have lost my ass up there, but as a silver lining, I also found a rare Pepsi Freestyle machine in the wild. I discovered that a blast of raspberry syrup added to basic Dew takes an old classic to an entirely new level of soda bliss that can make the clouds part and the angels sing.
…and it also takes a bit of the sting off handing over $440 in small bills to mullet sporting Dave Coulier.
I was told recently about a batch of new Coke flavors that were hitting the streets around the same time that we were hustling online trying to get our hands on some limited edition New Coke. While the other flavor seemed tasty, I was really only intrigued by the raspberry edition. I put the idea of trying these on the back burner as I tried to convince myself that I would be missing out on a pulp culture cash-in if I didn’t spring for two cans of New Coke for twenty bucks.
Fast forward to the present day, when I was on the hunt for the newest holiday craze, Cinnamon Coke. As hard as I’ve tried, I could only find these bastards in 8 ounce cans like they were cheap pasta sauce.
Despite never finding non child-sized Cinnamon Coke anywhere, I finally took the plunge and finally bought some California Raspberry Coca Cola instead.
I had to try it. I had to rate it. I had to add it to the annals of America’s Favorite Soda Blog(tm). For ease of reading, I’ve decided to break my review into easily digestible categories.
I love the look and simplistic art direction they chose to go with on the sides of the bottle pack. It’s a woodcutting style that is a throwback to early 20’s style artwork and advertising. This four pack of bottled soda looks it was pulled right off an old delivery truck that had wood paneling for a bed. The combination of the colors of weathered parchment and bright fuchsia really grabs the eye and makes you really start the mental debate as to why it belongs inside your shopping cart instead of that case of Coronas.
After failing to find a bottle opener anywhere, I resorted to using an Amazon box opening tool to unlock the mysteries contained within the bottle. Upon first whiff, this particular Coke concoction smells faintly of homeopathic medicine mixed with cheap cough syrup. Despite this odd smell, it really delivers the goods. The raspberry flavoring is subtle and complimentary, and cancels out almost all of the Coke battery acid harshness. The raspberry notes are in absolute harmony with the cola component, lifting it far higher on my rating scale than my favorite Coke flavor, Orange Vanilla. It is slightly sweeter than normal Coke, but is something that must be tried to be believed. I looked over the ingredients list to make sure this California Raspberry is legit, I don’t see any mention of castoreum. Castoreum can still fall under the umbrella of “natural ingredients” since beaver buttholes exist in nature.
REFRESHABILITY FACTOR: 8/10
This would be a wonderful drink to treat yourself to after a long morning of sun-soaked lawn work or other strenuous activity. The fizz factor is diminished a bit from normal Coke, which improves it’s overall smoothness and drinkability. It’s a lot like taking non-lethal swigs of Bath and Body Work’s Sun Ripened Raspberry lotion, (which is a good thing) and really hits the spot.
It’s really hard to picture a proper spirit to pair with a unique soda of this caliber. I tried a little rum with it, and it tasted “off”. My standard go-to mixer of Jim Beam Honey did not wow the voters either. I suppose you could just cheat and add a splash of vodka to California Raspberry Coke, but that would end up being the most uninspired cocktail I can imagine. I don’t feel like attempting a mix with the vodka flavors I have available in the house as I doubt that anything will mix with S’mores infused vodka or buffalo grass vodka (my bar ingredients are based on cartoon villains). Just do us all a favor and keep this drink virgin. Maybe a scoop of vanilla ice cream might be something to try….
FINAL VERDICT: 9.8/10
California Raspberry Coke is a pleasant surprise that is a bountiful feast for the senses (except smell). It’s smooth, refreshing, balanced, and for a lack of better descriptors, bottled happiness. This absolutely is the best of any of the fruit-infused colas that I’ve ever tried, but what keeps this from being a no-look slam dunk is the price point. For $4.99, you get four 12 oz bottles (the equivalent of four cans) at the same store you can buy four twelve packs for ten bucks. I understand this is specialized and “artisanal”, but these prices may keep some folks from giving this a chance since this four pack of sodas hold the same monetary value as 20 liters of Pineapple Faygo.
In short, this soda is one of my favorites, and it’s definitely something that should be tried (and hoarded) before it gets discontinued from being overpriced. As the Beach Boys once said, “California girls are spectacular, but their raspberries really got it where it counts”.
Teh Ben is a party dude who will wrestle strangers for money and can play dubstep covers on a single-stringed dulcimer. Be sure to follow his hot takes on Kid Rock, his foolish photography and even his wonky-ass YouTube channel.