Well, I knew it was coming, and I was first in line to get it. Pepsi Holiday Spice, the second of the company’s new hip flavors for this quarter (Mountain Dew Pitch Black was the previous), offers Pepsi some small minute chance of doing what it never could before: competing with Coca Cola during the Christmas season. Everyone has their favorite brand, but no one can deny Coke’s authority over Everything Santa. For many decades, the Coca Cola Company went the extra mile to always make sure they had some Christmas-centric ad campaign going down during the holiday season, and to this day, I can’t let a single December slip by without sipping from one of the classic glass Coke bottles at least once. So strong have my associations between Christmas and Coca Cola grown, I’d even go balls out blasphemous in saying that this particular soda is more closely related to the holiday than movie legend Jesus Christ.
Pepsi seeks to contend by not only altering the wrapper around their top seller, but the beverage itself. What was once normal Pepsi has now been tinged with red dye and beefed up with a suspiciously undefined bevy of spices. Even the ingredients label fails to identify which spices are included, though it only takes one taste to finger the culprits as cinnamon and an awful concentrated pine essence. Honestly, all holiday biases for Coke aside, I’m just not digging the stuff at all. It’s not easy to describe the taste (a thought shared by several who’ve e-mailed in recently), but it definitely doesn’t seem like regular Pepsi with a few additions. Pepsi Holiday Spice is an entity all its own, and though I can’t say I’ll be buying a second bottle (partly untrue, because I’m lame and still want to keep a sealed one for decorative purposes), I’ll admit that it’s probably well suited for mixed drinks. You’re one shot glass of rum away from a cocktail worth patenting.
All that said, I’m glad Pepsi gave it a shot. The bottle is nice, celebrating Holiday Spice’s limited availability, and adhering to the hot new politically correct fad of making something look more Christmassy than Father Christmas himself without ever using the totally denominational C-word. Worth trying once just so you can say you remember the flavor ten years down the road in a sappy trip down memory lane with friends during a drunken binge, but don’t expect to be too terribly disappointed when the shit disappears in a few months. I give it Three French Hens.