11 Discontinued Beverages from Your Youth

Image credit: 
StrangeKidsClub.com

Unless you want to risk a bacterial infection by buying a case of soda from some unknown seller on eBay, there are certain beverages from your past that will remain as firmly there as your ill-fitting Sasson jeans. Considering all that science (and logic) has taught us about saccharin in the intervening decades, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Still, it’s time we raise a glass to the gone-but-not-forgotten nectar of our youth.

1. Original New York Seltzer, 1981-1993

Considering that it was conceived and produced in Walnut Creek, California, Original New York Seltzer was probably doomed from the get-go. Still, the carbonated soft drink line, which was more soda than seltzer (flavors included root beer and vanilla creme), managed to hide its true west coast roots for more than a decade.

2. Ecto Cooler, 1987-2001

Just as the popularity of Ghostbusters has endured, so too did the super-sweet drink it inspired: Ecto Cooler. Though it was intended as a limited-time beverage—one that would last as long as The Real Ghostbusters animated series—Slimer persevered long after the show’s 1991 demise. While production technically ceased in 2001, the beverage itself was really just re-branded: first as Shoutin’ Orange Tangergreen in 2001, then as Crazy Citrus Cooler in 2006. In 2007, the recipe was laid to rest completely—at least for mass consumption. Google the term “Ecto Cooler recipe” and you’ll get more than 40,000 hits on how to brew the legendary green stuff at home. 

3. Squeezit, 1985-2001

Squeezit set out to solve a problem that plagued many a consumer in the mid-1980s: How can we guzzle down a sugary soft drink even faster? As the name indicates, there was some science behind its consumption; in order to drink it you must first squeeze it. Perhaps the instructions provided too tricky for some, as the drink—which came in such fun flavors as Chucklin' Cherry, Berry B. Wild and Smarty Arty Orange—was discontinued in 2001. Fans of the fruit-flavored swill didn’t let it go quietly though; more than 6300 people have actually taken two minutes out of their day to petition General Mills to bring Squeezit back!

4. BoKu, 1990-2003

Everything about BoKu was sophisticated—from its gigantic size (at least compared to other juice boxes) and lack of straw to its use of addict/comedian Richard Lewis as a pitchman and the way it capitalized the K in “BoKu.” Yet in the end, all of the upscale marketing may have proved too “adult” for fans of white grape juice, as the drink disappeared in 2003.

5. Crystal Pepsi, 1992-1994

In 1992, PepsiCo hopped aboard the “if it’s clear it must be healthy” philosophy that swept through corporate America. Their offering? This caffeine-free soda, which they marketed as the “clear alternative” to cola. While sales of the beverage were initially impressive—approximately $474 million in sales quickly accumulated—the fad was a short-lived one; why drink something that sort of tastes like Pepsi when you can just drink Pepsi? The item’s brief time on the market is considered one of the beverage-maker’s biggest branding disasters.

6. Tab Clear, 1992-1994

Oh, Tab! If The Cola Wars hadn’t been raging, the Coca-Cola Company’s braintrust may have waited and watched Crystal Pepsi fail before launching their own see-through soda. But in late 1992 they unleashed Tab Clear … and watched it disappear from shelves as quickly as its competitor. The most interesting part of the story might be that Tab actually still exists! Yes, even in the U.S.

7. Surge, 1996-2003

The Cola Wars strike again! Sick and tired of seeing so many Mountain Dew-addicted kids, the Coca-Cola Company launched its own action-packed citrus soda, Surge, in 1996. In the planning stages, the company called it MDK, or Mountain Dew Killer. That was wishful thinking. Though Surge had its fair share of fans, the beverage could never catch its iridescent green competitor. But it wasn’t a total failure for Coke; The Surge Movement is a Facebook group of more than 18,000 consumers aimed at reviving discontinued products. 

8. Orbitz, 1997-1998

If you’ve ever had a cup of bubble tea, you understand the textural consistency of Orbitz, the non-carbonated fruit drink filled with tiny edible balls. Which means you know all too well why this drink, from the makers of Clearly Canadian, didn’t last a full year on the market. (It didn’t help that the beverage used the word “bowels” in its marketing materials.) 

9. Maxwell House Ready-to-Drink Coffee, 1990-1991

The popularity of the microwave made us all sorts of lazy back in the day, with everything from cakes to French fries coming in microwavable packs. In 1990, the makers of Maxwell House coffee decided to up the ante with this “ready-to-drink” jug of java. The problem was twofold, but ultimately boiled down to confusion: Maxwell House intended its customers to nuke their coffee before drinking, but the container itself was too large to fit inside a microwave, leading customers to drink it cold. Maybe that unintended consequence was just a bit ahead of its time.

10. Zima, 1993-2008

Male or female, over 21 years of age or otherwise, you know you tried Zima at least once. And—like most of the world—hated it instantly. Again, blame it on the Great Clear Beverage Fad of the 1990s. But Zima has always worked better as a punch line than as one’s beverage of choice for a fun night out. For fans of the “alcopop,” the good news is that it’s still actually sold in Japan. 

11. Mountain Dew Pitch Black, 2004 and 2011

As if Mountain Dew’s ghost-like green color wasn’t disturbing enough, in 2004 the company decided to launch a dark purple, grape-flavored soda—Pitch Black—to coincide with Halloween. Like the McRib before it, customers clamored to get some more. In 2011, the company briefly re-released the soda as part of its “Back by Popular DEWmand” initiative. No word yet on whether lightning will strike a third time. 

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May 13, 2013 - 1:11pm
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