Benjamin Franklin famously said: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” A lovely sentiment, but if we are to extrapolate existential meaning from the existence of our beverages, what then must we take from the fact that Buffalo Wing and Ranch Dressing flavored sodas are things that exist? Have been abandoned by all that was good and right in the universe, left to float helplessly through a meaningless cosmos until we ultimately return to the ash from whence we came? Is it troubling that two bottles of soda can reduce me to a state of profound existential angst? And yet – Buffalo Wing and Ranch Dressing sodas, people. Everything is ruined forever.
So anyway, yes, these sodas are real, and yes, I really tasted them. Not only that, I subjected my family and friends to them as well. (Why any of these people continue to tolerate me is a question you can ponder for yourself.)
These monstrosities were birthed into this world by a company named “Lester’s Fixins,” and the labels feature an image of old man Lester himself leering out at the viewer, accompanied by the winsome slogan, “Ya’ll Get Yer Fixins.” It should be noted that old man Lester looks like Orrin Hatch, only creepier.
Buffalo Wing Soda
This soda is electric orange, shining out from a clear glass bottle. With much trepidation, my tasters and I pour shots of this into miniature red Solo cups, which we have procured specifically for this occasion. It seems fitting, since these cups are intended as novelty shot glasses, and we fear this as much as the rawest frat-bar tequila. It has very little aroma, but what it does have is suggestive of chemicals, unsurprisingly, with a slight sweetness and just the faintest hint of spice at the end of the nose. The flavor takes us by surprise. There is no suggestion of Buffalo Sauce, nor chicken, nor savoriness in any way. It is sweet, reminiscent of a flat orange soda mixed with a Dr. Pepper. As one swallows, there is a faint suggestion of the flavor of hot sauce, but without any actual burn. The effervescence is faint, resulting in a mouthfeel more suggestive of the world’s cruelest Kool-Aid, as opposed to a soda.
No one likes this. Some dislike it because it simply is not tasty, while more demented souls (like myself) dislike it because it under-delivers on its gruesome promise – it is offensive, but simply not offensive enough. It seems to have backed away from the challenge.
Ranch Dressing Soda
The fluid in this bottle is a white, but only semi-opaque. The effect is that of looking at a glass of Alka-Seltzer, or of dirty dishwater, the hue that results when a glass of milk is rinsed out.
We uncap the bottle and pass it around to sniff – and everyone yelps in turn. After the Buffalo Wing disappointment, we thought that Ranch Dressing too would pull its punches and phone in a disconnected flavor over a benign sweetish soft drink. Not so. The aroma from the bottle is sharp and distinct – of buttermilk far past its prime, forming a twisted chord with heavy notes of dried dill, concluding with a whiff of dusty garlic powder. Everyone instinctively turns their heads after sniffing it, composing themselves so as not to gag.
We distribute the shots in clean mini Solo cups. There is a moment of silence as we collectively contemplate our mortality, then knock back the fluid in unison.
Then there is screaming. There is so much screaming.
One taster runs for the sink, taking deep, shuddering breaths. The rest of us get it down, but immediately wonder if it will stay there. If it should stay there. The flavor is true to the aroma – sour buttermilk, garlic and onion powders, herby-yet-dusty dried dill. Yet it is still attempting to be a soft drink: it is hideously sweet, as though ancient ranch dressing has been mixed with a cream soda. In most circumstances, I am a fan of the contrast between savory and sweet, but here the sweetness exponentially intensifies the wrong. Although the ranch flavor signature is unmistakable, the luscious qualities of ranch dressing – its smooth creaminess, its fresh zestiness – are nowhere to be found. What remains is a cruel caricature of ranch dressing, with its rough features blown all out of proportion, stripped of its mitigating charms.
Like the Buffalo Wing soda, this liquid has almost no fizz, tipping the scales away from Alka-Seltzer and towards dishwater. The mouth feels dirty, violated. The flavor coats the tongue, clings to the back of the throat, and refuses to let go.
One taster pointed out that if you took a dish that had once held ranch dressing, filled it with water, and left it out on the counter for a couple of weeks, this beverage is what would result. My Parisian taster seized the bottle, and in his thick French accent, implored of Lester’s visage: “Monsieur Les-stair! Why do you hate us?” A valid question, but, Lester is not the only one to blame. Blame the cruel and capricious universe for allowing this beverage to exist. Blame the wanton sadist who purchased the bottle, and inflicted it on her hapless friends. What kind of monster would do such a thing? [Whistles innocently.]
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P.S. Yes, we tried blending them, to theoretically create the experience of a Buffalo Wing dipped into Ranch Dressing. Since we’d already tasted the Ranch once at this point, it was nearly impossible to force our gag reflexes to allow another taste down the hatch. But this is what we do for you, dear friends. Unsurprisingly, the Ranch dominated the weaker flavor of the Buffalo Wing, resulting in an orange-colored shot that was slightly watered down from the horrifying pure Ranch experience, but not nearly enough.