Thanksgiving in a bottle

Andrew Hampp

Jones Soda launches nationwide line of drinkable holiday foods

Jones Soda recently released a Thanksgiving-themed line of sodas with flavors such as brussels sprouts, pumpkin pie, turkey and gravy, wild herb stuffing, and cranberry.

Credit: Steve Schirra

If you’ve ever wondered what brussels sprouts coated in butter would taste like as a carbonated beverage, Jones Soda Co. already has made that dream a reality.

The Seattle-based soda and candy company just launched its first national line of Thanksgiving-themed sodas in an exclusive deal with Target stores across the country. The holiday pack contains five sodas whose flavors encompass each course of a Turkey Day meal – brussels sprouts for vegetables, cranberry sauce as a palette cleanser, white herb stuffing as a side, turkey and gravy as a main dish and pumpkin pie with whipped cream flavoring as a dessert.

Are you grossed out by the thought of drinking your Thanksgiving dinner?

Frankly, so is Aaron Reed, project manager for the new Jones sodas.

Reed said he and his team brainstormed 25 to 30 ideas for flavors for the new collection, very few of which were rejected.

“There were certain things you couldn’t do flavor-wise, and there were a few we decided we shouldn’t do, and that’s why we chose brussels sprouts.

“That was one of those ones that threw itself into the mix. It was disgusting.”

Reed did, however, agree that the forest green soda makes for a great hangover cure.

“Crack a raw egg in that thing, throw it in a blender and call it a day,” he joked.

Diana Turner, a marketing assistant for Jones, shared her co-worker’s reticence toward tasting certain flavors.

“I think we toned down the stuffing,” she said. “I actually gagged a little bit. I was like, ‘Oh God, why do we do this?’

“I’m just happy that I got to try the final versions. They went through five different tries on brussels sprouts.”

But in spite of some of the distasteful flavors, the sodas have proven to be big successes for the company. Based on an idea by company founder and CEO Peter van Stolk, the holiday sodas were first launched with just a turkey and gravy flavor in 2003. After quickly selling out quantities so limited they were hand-capped by Jones employees, the company released a full-fledged five-course meal last fall in select grocery stores.

“E-mails were flooding in,” Turner said. “Last year it was pretty nuts. We weren’t sure consumers would want this ’cause it’s pretty gross. As soon as we were able to sell them on the Web store, there were so many people hitting up the Web site that the server crashed.”

This year, not one but two five-flavor packages are being released as a result of last year’s sell-out success. In addition to the Target pack, there is also a special edition box available in select stores throughout the country with new stomach-churning flavors such as broccoli casserole, corn on the cob and smoked salmon pate. The collection is available at all Acme, Heinen’s and Buehler’s stores in Akron and Cleveland as well as select Kroger and Speedway locations.

With twice the opportunities for soda sippers to test their stomachs’ strength this holiday season, how do the folks at Jones Soda justify themselves?

“We were trying to stay true to the food product as much as we possibly could, just let our creativity run with it,” Reed said. “Instead of just being pumpkin-flavored (for example), we were trying to turn it into food. Mind you, it’s liquid food with carbonation and sucralose, but it’s food just the same.”

Contact features editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].



Putting this year’s holiday pack to the (taste) test

As soon as I heard that Jones Soda was coming back with an all-new line of holiday-flavored sodas, I was perversely excited to try each flavor without hesitation. I even recruited a few of my co-workers to help me partake in a liquid, five-course meal. Little did I know what I was getting myself – or my friends – into …


Rating: zero (out of four)

Since I was drinking the sodas in order of the way I would normally eat my Thanksgiving dinner, I figured it was only right that I get my vegetable out of the way first. That ended up being the smartest decision I made throughout the taste-testing experience.

As I opened the cap of the puke-green soda, even my friends could smell the torture that awaited my taste buds. Only one other soul was brave enough to even try it, and I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such a violent reaction to a soft drink.

I decided the only way to drink brussels sprouts was to take it like a shot – hold my breath and just knock it back.

“This must be what evil tastes like!” I howled, echoing Phoebe from an episode of “Friends” where she tastes Monica’s alternative form of chocolate.

I threw my tasting cup away, knowing full well that I would never want that taste to come near my lips again. My gag reflex has never been tested as much as it was when I drank a vegetable I wouldn’t even touch in solid form.



Rating: ƒ^s ƒ^s ƒ^s ƒ^s

In desperate need of any kind of palette cleanser, I elected cranberry to be my next dish. I poured four sips worth into my cup, knowing that any fruit-flavored drink had to be a million times better than putrid green vegetables.

Not only was cranberry refreshing, it tasted like actual cranberry sauce rather than cranberry juice, which earned the Jones Soda people major points for culinary accuracy. I swished the cranberry goodness around in my mouth a few times to make sure all the evil was gone from the sprouts.




Rating: ƒ^s ƒ^s (1/2)


Having braved the horror of Brussels sprouts, I was prepared for the worst with turkey and gravy but ended up being pleasantly surprised. It tasted like actual turkey, which wasn’t such a bad thing in carbonated soda form. The worst part, however, was the aftertaste – it was like I just drank Styrofoam. I began burping some of the sodas up at this point and the grossest flavor combinations imaginable were forming in my esophagus.




Rating:ƒ^s (1/2)

While the turkey was mildly palatable, the stuffing tasted like cardboard. It was like drinking really flat tonic water. Granted, I’m not normally a fan of regular stuffing, so I wasn’t surprised by my dislike for the soda, but I was sufficiently grossed out by this particular drink. At least I had the pumpkin pie to look forward to, right?



Rating: ƒ^s


Wrong. What first smelled like a promisingly pleasant drinking experience turned out to be an unsettling nightmare. The pumpkin pie also included nutmeg, pie crust and whipped cream flavors in one surprisingly unappetizing concoction – coming after the other unsavory sodas, it gave me an especially weird feeling in my stomach.


After the taste test, I ran to Main Street Coney’s with some friends to eat a hot dog that would erase the painful aftertaste of Jones Sodas’ 2005 Holiday Pack. Even though I am one of two people on the Stater staff who can proudly say they’ve tried all five flavors, it’s an experience my taste buds will forever hate me for.

– Andrew Hampp