I’ve occasionally wondered how some food items can bring people of a given age or generation together better than…most other things, really. Especially to people around my/our/your age, the mention of a specific defunct fast food item tends to conjure up really specific memories of the sort that maybe you don’t experience by seeing the box art to a long forgotten game, or re-watching a beloved movie. Go ahead – ask someone about the Arch Deluxe or a personal pan pizza and see how it goes.
For people in my age group who had access to it, though, there’s probably one specific consumable that reigns supreme as far as triggering that latent “OH SHIT IT’S YOUR FUCKING CHILDHOOD BRO” impulse that exclusively powers Buzzfeed articles: Coca-Cola’s XTREME Mountain Dew competitor, Surge.
Oddly enough? It’s back!
I won’t waste a lot of time on history, but it’s important to place it in context. Surge came about in those hazy mid-to-late-’90s days of pre-energy drink supercharged sodas such as the likes of Jolt and Kick, one of which actually tasted pretty good and the other of which was promoted by a Doom mod wherein you fight zombified snowboarders inside a Mountain Dew bottling facility (mildly exaggerated for comedic effect, but not by much). These were the days before everyone you know started telling you how they can drink two cans of Monster and not feel anything, where we still expected our energetic beverages to have taste (or at least a taste different than “crushed up Flintstones chewables”), and they were good times. Sure, in hindsight, the constant in-your-face “FUCK HOMEWORK LET’S GO SKATEBOARDING AND NOT COME BACK UNTIL 10:30″ imagery they promoted is both amazing and laughable, but the various soda companies understood their target demographic with an eerie clarity: dumb 13-16 year olds who do dumb things and the even dumber 10-12 year olds who wanted to be exactly like them.
I fell into that second pile, at the time. Surge seemed like the coolest thing I could be ingesting at any given moment – other than maybe Pizza Hut, which I remember seeming to have a lot of in those days. The can design looked like a cross between a cartoon explosion, Nickelodeon Gak, and the world’s most radical warning sign, and it tasted like a much better Mountain Dew. I’ve never been a big fan of standard Mountain Dew and this may be why. Specifically, Surge always felt like a “good times” drink to me the way I’d gravitate to some beers when I got older – two-liters and 12-packs were a frequent staple of birthday parties and get-togethers of the time, and I’ve always associated it primarily with staying up way too goddamn late playing Perfect Dark and listening to Americana at a friend’s house.
There had been plenty of movements to bring it back, but they all just kind of looked like the crazy people who get way too into the McRib (do those people exist or is that some elaborate joke I’m not in on?) and not much came of it – until one day it was back. Without warning, Coca-Cola and The Surge Movement posted a Facebook video about how Surge was back…on Amazon, of all places. Thanks to the diligent eye of a co-worker, I would have a 12-pack within the week (and have several more en route to me as of this writing). So I threw one in the fridge at work, turned up some Limp Bizkit, and cracked it open. My first thought?
“Holy shit you guys, this tastes almost EXACTLY like Mello Yello.“
Now, bear with me. I’m not complaining at all – Mello Yello is my favorite citrus soda ever and I’ll always welcome a chance to have some. But after years of waiting for Surge it was a bit…anti-climactic? Mello Yello was a pretty regional soda at first, and I can attest that I myself never drank some until high school, a few years after Surge was taken off shelves. A retaliatory strike by Coca-Cola to make sure Surge fans could still sort of get their fix? Maybe, but they did a bad job plugging it.
Has this ruined Surge at all for me? God no. The taste, the smell, even the color of the damn can brings me back to better days when I wasn’t worried about things like “crippling caffeine addiction” or “getting fat due to sweet sodas”, and I’ve already made sure to only ration it out to times that truly deserve a Surge can. And yet my stunning revelation about the origin of my beloved Surge has both affected my perception and proven weirdly soothing. Yes, all those beloved childhood soda memories were nothing more than me drinking extra-corn-syrupy Mello Yello…but then when Surge inevitably leaves us again, I’ll still be able to drink Mello Yello and remember the good times.
Welcome back, Surge. If only I had a dumb bucket hat to wear while drinking it…