I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a collector of old soda cans, even though I’ve accumulated over a hundred of them. I prefer to think of myself as an extreme dabbler. That sounds like something a guy who badly cuts his own hair would be, at least.
Below: Five of my favorite soda cans, pulled from the groaning shelves in what I call an office but is really a subconscious recreation of my childhood bedroom.
Strawberry Burst Pepsi! (1991)
In 1991, Pepsi introduced the Wild Bunch, a trio of funky flavors including Raging Razzberry, Tropical Chill and — most strikingly — Strawberry Burst. While such flavors wouldn’t inspire mass faintings in 2019, they were downright provocative by early ‘90s standards.
Though the Wild Bunch did score a high-budget TV commercial, the flavors weren’t available everywhere, and were only around for a short time. Assuming Pepsi viewed the endeavor as a form of test marketing, it doesn’t look like the Wild Bunch inspired enough interest to warrant a full-scale rollout.
It’s a shame, too. Strawberry Burst had one of my all-time favorite can designs, and if we’re strictly talking about Pepsi, it’s easily in my Top 3. I love how the supposed strawberries look like Hostess cupcakes.
Besides that, doesn’t strawberry Pepsi just sound delicious? My heart will forever belong to cherry cola, but strawberry cola is right up there. It’s the timesaving version of drinking soda while eating fruit snacks.
Mountain Dew Pitch Black II! (2005)
Mountain Dew Pitch Black debuted in 2004 as a limited edition Halloween flavor. In 2005, we got this amazing sequel, Mountain Dew Pitch Black II, which “improved” upon the formula with a sour bite.
(I’m putting “improved” in quotes because not everyone preferred Pitch Black with the extra sting. For what it’s worth, I did!)
Like the original, Pitch Black II arrived during the Halloween season. Sadly, Mountain Dew didn’t really market it as a “spooky soda” in 2005, instead relying on dopey frat house ads that had nothing to do with black cats or thunderstorms.
I still weep for what could’ve been. Doing a soda sequel with Roman numerals felt like a nod to slasher films, so even if Pitch Black II wasn’t presented as a Halloween beverage, I gotta believe that it was conceived as one.
Really wish they’d kept the series going. We’d be up to Mountain Dew Pitch Black XVI by now, likely sold in cans that slowly revealed holographic zombie eyes as they warmed up.
Given that we didn’t see Pitch Black for years after 2005, I guess the sequel wasn’t terribly popular. The original flavor is now back in stores, of course, as a permanent member of the Dew lineup. Its Halloween roots are completely ignored these days, but I’ll never forget.
Crystal from Pepsi! (1994)
And there it is, the can that represents one of my favorite bits of soda trivia.
For those unaware, that is NOT a can of Crystal Pepsi. It’s very specifically Crystal from the makers of Pepsi, which acted as a sort of sequel soda after the original puttered out.
Crystal *from* Pepsi had a more pronounced citrus edge. I think it’s fair to say that the flavor was much closer to what people expected Crystal Pepsi to taste like. We’d already spent decades abiding by the unwritten law that “clear soda = lemon-lime,” so it wasn’t strange to see Pepsi lean into that a bit harder.
Alas, it was too little, too late. Crystal *from* Pepsi ceased production in its debut year. (Interestingly, it seems that the residual stock of original Crystal Pepsi actually managed to outlive the sequel on store shelves!)
Hi-C Ecto Cooler! (1990s)
This wasn’t a soda exactly, but yeah, Ecto Cooler was sold in cans, even during its original run. It’s for sure the rarest Ecto Cooler packaging variation of ‘em all. (Even if you’re a major Ecto head, I’m betting that you didn’t know these cans existed until right now.)
Coca-Cola dusted off the can concept for Ecto Cooler’s 2016 revival, which IMO only confirmed that Hi-C… doesn’t really work in cans. No matter the temperature, I just couldn’t wrap my head around Ecto Cooler from a can, even while I was downing the traditional juice boxes at record speed.
I don’t think that was just my juice box nostalgia talking, either. The vessel shouldn’t impart much of a taste, but it sure seemed to. The canned varieties tasted almost medicinal, and felt like they were born stale. Was it just me?
In any event, this was a badass design, and the can now serves as a hella rare Ecto Cooler collectible. I snagged it on the cheap from one of those soda can mixed lots that are littered across eBay. Had the seller plucked out the Ecto can and sold it individually, he might’ve gotten ten times what I paid for the whole lot!
Cherry 7UP! (1980s)
Cherry 7UP in still in production, but not in a can that looks like that. I love that design so much. It looks like the entrance to a casino arcade.
It’s the Cherry 7UP can that I grew up with, and that got me to thinking. As a kid, I certainly applied pressure when it came to which cereals and junk foods Mom brought home from the supermarket. With soda, not so much. I’m not sure if I spaced or if my kid brain just didn’t consider “soda” something I had much of a say in, but on that front, I drank whatever I was offered.
So while I probably would’ve picked Cherry 7UP five times out of ten, we only got bottles of that shit once or twice a year. Maybe that’s why I’m still so fascinated by cherry-flavored sodas. They were such rare treats back then, and drinking one was in of itself a special occasion.
Thanks for reading about old soda cans! Back to the shelves they go. Maybe I’ll dust them first. (I won’t.)