Sunday, March 20, 2011

Diet Soda Taste Test: Citrus Blast, Mountain Dew Supernova & Voltage

I've been a big soda pop (back in Ohio, just "pop") drinker since I have been old enough to buy it. Somewhere in the late 80s, I had to switch to diet soda (damn that metabolism!). This was a little distressing, because I mostly hated artificial sweetener, and particularly diet colas. Luckily for me, the soda companies began branching out from colas and lemon/limes with their diet versions about the time my metabolism crashed. It didn't hurt that NutraSweet and other artificial sweeteners began their debut around about the same time.

I started my love affair with Diet Mountain Dew, and tried many and varied diet sodas along the way. Eventually, I could even tolerate Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke, Tab and the many other cola varieties. Of them all, the only ones I outright avoid are the diet sodas with faux vanilla flavoring. Invariably, I find them nearly undrinkable. Most of the rest make their way into my regular rotation of diet drinks. I'm one of the lucky ones who doesn't care if it is Coke, Pepsi or 7-Up/Dr. Pepper brands that are on sale. 

But I do get restless. When Pepsi's Mountain Dew came out with Diet Code Red, I was very pleased. Not only was it something new, I also really liked it. But then I watched as they released flavor after tantalizing flavor of the sugary (corn syrupy?) Dews, with no diet version. I was very jealous of the full-calorie soda drinkers, cavities and pot bellies or not. But I find full-calorie Mountain Dew varieties insufferably sweet anyway.  In the mean time, Coke's Fresca came out with some varieties like peach and cherry. Pepsi started making Diet Orange Crush again. Coke made Diet Squirt. Somebody or other came out with Diet Sun Drop. All worthy additions.

But today at Von's, I spied three new diet sodas, all from Pepsi (and all on sale). I bought them all, and decided to do a taste test. Each of the sodas was poured over ice, and allowed to sit in the glass for only a few minutes. I ate a piece of cheddar cheese before each, so that I'd start at the same relative state. Below are my findings.

Diet Citrus Blast: This soda is apparently Pepsi's attempt to rival Fresca or Squirt in the citrus/grapefruit soda realm. It's a worthy entry, certainly better than store brands of grapefruit soda. It has slightly more bite than Fresca, but less overt fizziness than Squirt. There is no discernible "diet" aftertaste, and it is quite quenching. It doesn't set itself apart, and won't be a "top 5" favorite, but it's good.

Diet Mountain Dew Supernova: Supernova is reddish purple, and is billed as a "strawberry/melon" flavored soda. It's very sweet, if a bit less so than the Code Red version of Mountain Dew. I could taste the strawberry. . .ish. Any "melon" flavor would be of the Jolly Rancher faux watermelon variety. It actually reminded me of the flavors you might find in a melted freezer pop. . .which brings me to. . .

Diet Mountain Dew Voltage: Voltage--which might get them into trouble because of Coca-Cola's sub-par Volt beverage (nope, I was confused, that's Vault soda)--is light blue in color. It is billed as a raspberry/citrus flavor (blue raspberries?). While the drink is quenching, it has an indistinct, vague flavor problem. Again, it reminds me of the freeze pop example, with a hard to pinpoint "fruit" flavor. It's a fruit, but what's the fruit?

Supernova Voltage Blast "Suicide": Since I had three cans of soda opened, I finished them off as a "suicide" mixture of all three. You know what? It only suffers in comparison to Citrus Blast. As a combination, it is still a mixture of indistinct flavors.

None of the sodas is bad. In fact, should they stick around, I'll probably continue to buy them if they're on sale, if for no other reason than to give me options when I want a soda. Of the three, only Diet Citrus Blast will make it into regular rotation. But even it suffers from the Pepsi Syndrome: sodas named so generically, they could be store brands (see: Sierra Mist, Slice, Storm, Teem). 

Anyway, log story short, enjoy them while they last, I doubt that the Dew varieties will last long, and I wouldn't get attached to the generically named Citrus Blast either. But any or all of them would mix just fine with vodka. But then again, what doesn't?

The best diet drinks for me are in this order:

- Diet Mountain Dew (and if in a pinch, most store brand version like Kroger's Diet Citrus Drop)
- Diet Mountain Dew Code Red
- Diet Orange Crush (and Diet Orange Sunkist, though it has caffeine)
- Coke Zero (tastes very much like Coca-Cola Classic)
- Fresca (original and peach)
- These new Mountain Dews will slot right here in the middle, for novelty value alone
- Tab
- Diet Coke with Lime (or slightly less so, Diet Pepsi Lime)
- Lemon/Limes, like 7-Up, Sprite Zero (pretty good), Diet Sierra Mist (several varieties)
- Assorted oddballs like Diet Rite White Grape, Tangerine, Raspberry, etc.
- Assorted flavors like diet root beers, diet ginger ales, diet cream sodas, many brands
- The rest of the diet colas, regular or with cherry round up the lower end of my scale
- Just say "no" to any variety with vanilla


  1. have you ever tried pepsi max?

  2. Not impressed with Pepsi Max. Though I've always been partial to Pepsi brands, Coke Zero is immesurably better than any diet Pepsi cola. Diet Pepsis also have a tendency to go flat here in Las Vegas, maybe due to the elevation, I don't know.


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