The Pooj keeps his distance.(Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner – Yermo, November 2011)
Red flags should be going up in every consumer’s mind when the producer of a foodstuff has the words “lab” and “technology” in its name, but that somehow didn’t stop me from picking up some of Amerilab Technologies’ Fizzies – affectionately referred to as “America’s Original Candy Beverage” (which should be another red flag, but who’s counting…?). Apparently, “effervescent drink tablets” were quite the rage back in the 50s and 60s, what with the mid-Century push towards modernization and space-aged gadgets and all. Though they were first developed as a headache remedy, producers soon added fruit flavored tablets to their repertoires to better appeal to the masses without headaches. Now if that isn’t enough to keep you away, I don’t know what is. Call it dedication to the cause of root beer or stupid curiosity, I picked up a box of these throwbacks to a bygone era during the return leg of our Vegas road trip at a quaint little place called Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner – a place deserving of more exposition in and of itself, but for the sake of time I’ll summarize by simply stating that it is owned by a former starlet, the entrance is built to look like a juke box, and they’ve got dinosaurs in the back. Given the vintage of the original Fizzies, I thought the venue of their purchase apropos (or probably more accurately, given the vintage of venue’s desired atmosphere, its owners felt it apropos to carry items of the era, e.g., Fizzies) (except, hopefully not Fizzes actually circa that era, because that would be rather…um…unsanitary…).
What were we talking about again?
That’s right – Fizzies.
According to the Fizzies website, production of the tablets ceased in 1968 because the integral artificial sweetener was banned by the FDA in that year. I’m not sure why you would volunteer that information to the people that you’re trying to sell your product to, but I can at least appreciate their transparency. Thanks to a new formulation using sucralose, Fizzies are now back on the market, fortified with 100% of your daily recommended value of Vitamin C, and available in seven flavors, including a seasonally appropriate hot cocoa tablet that you’re supposed to dissolve in warm milk (…!?!).
If all that isn’t already enough to send you running in the opposite direction, one look at the finished product should. One tablet, dissolved in 8 fluid ounces of cold water, per the instructions, yields this:
I think I’ve seen more appetizing coloration in the Los Angeles River...
Needless to say, it doesn't even taste like root beer. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is the main ingredient, so we know where that 100% daily allowance comes from, and what makes the whole formulation taste rather sour, almost like I threw up root beer... Otherwise it’s kind of watery, like I drank some lemon juice that I had previously used to rinse out a bottle that just recently contained root beer. There’s a very faint smell of root beer, like it blew in from the next table over, but it still smells overwhelmingly acidic. Everything else about this supposed “beverage” is exactly what you’d expect from other effervescent drink tablets on the market – by which I mean Alka Seltzer and Airborne – even down to that weirdly thick texture and slightly mucky floating stuff at the top that Airborne produces (though to its credit, the Fizzies tablet dissolves better than Airborne). Ironically, the finished product isn’t actually fizzy.
But why stop there, right? Since we’ve got 12 tablets per box, there’s some freedom for experimentation. We’ve established that a single tablet in 8 oz. of water doesn’t really produce anything noticeably root beer-ish, so you’re probably asking what adjustments could be made to the proportion of water to tablet to potentially create a more root beer-like beverage.
You were asking, right? Because regardless of whether or not you asked, I did it anyway.
Take precautions, as necessary.
Behold: Here they are in action (sorry, the animated gif I made wouldn't load...):
Sample 1, on the far left, is prepared per the instructions: 1 tablet added to 8 oz of water.
Sample 2, in the center, is 2 tablets added to 12 oz. of water, resulting in a slightly more root beer-ish smell, less like real root beer and more like the Missus’ root beer lip balm (yes, the Missus has root beer flavored chap stick – she’s a keeper), only as if smelled from a distance. It tastes a little more like it has root beer flavoring in it, but mostly it just tastes sourer - not quite as unpleasantly sour as the previous iteration, possibly even a little sweeter, but still nothing resembling real root beer. The “carbonation” is a little more evident, not like Sample 1, but it still gives off the overall impression that I was rinsing out a glass and decided to drink the rinse-water.
Sample 3, at the far right, is 2 tablets added to 8 oz. of water – a full double dose of Fizzies. This results in the most visible bubbles on the side of the glass. Whatever that smell is, it's stronger, but I still wouldn't call it a root beer smell. Now for a tas–OH DEAR GOODNESS THAT’S AWFUL… It’s so sour that any possibility of root beer flavor gets overpowered, and I am literally shuddering after each sip. Forget what I said about Sample 1 tasting like I threw up root beer – Sample 3 just tastes like I threw up, and if I drink any more of it, I just might... Even the aftertaste is making me cringe, and I can't get the taste out of my mouth, so I'm still cringing as I type this. Seriously, I can't stop cringing – the muscles in my face will not physically let me stop cringing. I need a chaser but there’s nothing here but I need to find something quickly will that work oh crap it’s worse now I need something else somebody help me please ehhhhhhhhh…
So… apparently, being a human guinea pig for root beer isn't always fun and games. Be thankful I tried the Fizzies, and that you don't have to. In fact, just don't. If my efforts do not prevent you from ever even dreaming of touching this stuff, then my suffering will have been in vain.
Root Beer PSA: For the love of all that is holy, run far away from Root Beer Fizzies.
Actually, just saying so is not action enough. We need a more targeted approach. You’ll notice that the Fizzies packaging looks rather benign, inviting even, with its cartoon kiddie ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the Fizzies in action.
“How interesting. Perchance I shall have some.”
I propose we revise the pictured instructions to one of the following:
How's this for transparency?
Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to be sick... Be thankful that I consume this abomination to the legacy of root beer now, so that you won’t have to later. For besmirching root beer’s good name, Fizzies really deserves a -1,000,000,000,000,000, but since I don’t think that will fit on the tag index to the left, I’ll have to settle for giving it a 0.