Vintage Mountain Berry Punch Kool-Aid!

I’m gonna drink really old Kool-Aid, but first I gotta preamble your ass.

I enjoyed Kool-Aid all through childhood, of course, but I’ve been collecting Kool-Aid all through adulthood. The “collecting” part was spurred by the Kool-Aid FAQ, a late ‘90s web doc that opened my eyes to how personally enriching a life spent hunting old Kool-Aid packets could be.

Well, maybe that’s overstating the case, but it did make me gaga for old Kool-Aid.

I’ve been hunting vintage Kool-Aid since the early 2000s. It’s a surprisingly workable hobby, too. As with any good collectible, there are commons, rares and ultra rares. Like any addictive game, you can play it slow-and-steady on the cheap, or pay too much money to get ahead quickly.

There are enough Kool-Aid flavors to keep even the most dedicated collectors busy for years, yet not so many that someone with a completist attitude would wonder what the point is.

I’ve gotten some blowback about my Kool-Aid obsession, as if it’s outside even the rubber band borders of geekdom. Then I watch people collect those Funko things or whatever, and I’m like, shit, Kool-Aid makes way more sense.

…and that brings me to Mountain Berry Punch, my most recent acquisition. The flavor was introduced in 1985, though this particular packet is probably from ‘89 or ‘90.

Several Kool-Aid flavors are only vaguely defined, but calling one of them “Mountain Berry Punch” was almost cruelly perplexing. (Only through an educated guess may we surmise that it was intended to be a strawberry/raspberry hybrid.)

Mountain Berry Punch debuted as part of the “Punch Bunch,” which was a subset of tantalizing Kool-Aid punches with no-help names.

First there was Tropical Punch. Then came Rainbow Punch and Sunshine Punch. Next, as evidenced here, was Mountain Berry Punch. Later, they tossed in Strawberry Falls Punch AND Surfin’ Berry Punch. By the time the stable concluded, Kraft was completely out of words. I mean, it got to the point where they were naming Kool-Aid flavors after beach activities.

Certain print ads suggested that each punch had its own Kool-Aid Man. The television commercials were more of the mind that one Kool-Aid Man just switched liquids as required, but I much prefer the idea of several Kool-Aid Men. Like maybe one of them could be funny, and another serious, and we’ll work through the cliches until there’s a nerdy Kool-Aid Man who invents gadgets.

Okay, time to drink this crud:

For the record, drinking old Kool-Aid isn’t typically a part of the collecting festivities. Most people are fine with just framing the old packets and hanging them as they would their family photos. I’m going the extra mile for three reasons:

1) So I can say with 99.9% certainty that I’m the very last person who got to taste Mountain Berry Punch. I can’t prove it, but good luck disproving it.

2) Because these articles about old Kool-Aid wouldn’t sail if I didn’t drink it. 95% of you have no interest in Kool-Aid, but you do love the idea of misguided strangers eating 25-year-old food.

3) I don’t need to live a crazy long life — just one that’s long enough for me to see Gremlins 3.

Onward I marched. The powder looked like a smooshed rock, and also kind of metallic. Those would normally be warning signs, but I took ’em as a way to pay off that weird “mountain” theme. (Indeed, on a stretch, it does sort of look like powdered mountain!)

The Kool-Aid smelled, looked and tasted like unsettled strawberry Jell-O. And I mean specifically that — not just “strawberry,” and not even just “strawberry Kool-Aid.” UNSETTLED. STRAWBERRY. JELL-O.

The Mountain Berry Punch didn’t have too much tartness or acidity. I’m guessing it was meant to be Kool-Aid’s “dark and sophisticated” flavor, because nothing moves posh foodies like an image of the Kool-Aid Man scaling mountains to fetch cartoon strawberries.

It’s tasty enough, but I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites. I generally prefer the Kool-Aid flavors that make my lips smack like I’m blowing kisses under protest. This was more like a strawberry apple juice, if that makes sense. Good, but just good.

Anyway, when then becomes now and they’re doing the Matt doc, remember to tell them that I literally poisoned myself for you.