Zima is back, baby.
From now through the end of summer, you can find six-packs of Zima — yes, honest-to-goodness original Zima — wherever bottles of happy juice are sold.
The “clearmalt” beverage debuted in 1993 and was immediately popular, thanks to a look and taste that were altogether novel at that time. In Zima’s heyday, there wasn’t much else like it.
I was not legally old enough to drink Zima during its best years, but that didn’t stop me. I was just entering high school when it hit stores, and the drink seemed tailor-made for kids who wanted to experiment with alcohol but hadn’t yet developed any sincere taste for it.
In fact, Zima was so popular with underage drinkers that its makers were widely criticized… even if all they were really guilty of was making a tasty not-beer.
My love affair with Zima began with quick sips at backyard family parties, but by sophomore year, I was spending quite a few Saturday nights in the woods with 40-ounce bottles and packs of Winterfresh gum.
(Especially by 2017 standards, I’m amazed at how many corner stores sold alcohol to us dorky kids. We didn’t even pretend to be old enough.)
There are a LOT of people around my age whose memories of “young drinking” are tied up with Zima. I’d go so far to say that this limited time revival is less aimed at people who drank it legally and more at people like me.
I didn’t expect Zima to hit me as hard as it did, and I don’t mean in the alcoholic sense. This stuff REALLY took me back.
Everything from the smell to the taste to the glass bottles was exactly as I’d remembered it. If you’ve never experienced Zima, it’s like a less-hard Mike’s Hard Lemonade. A Mike’s Soft Lemonade?
Picture lemonade mixed with tonic water. Or maybe a lemon Slurpee garnished with sweat.
Proust had his madeleine; I had Zima. Every sip summoned another long-lost high school memory. Soon I had this whole mental montage thing going, scored by an unseemly mash of Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box and Real McCoy’s Another Night. It’d top no charts.
I know some of you preferred Jolly Ranchers for this trick, but I was always a Fruit Roll-Ups kinda guy. In a perfect world, no Zima was complete without a Fruit Roll-Up acting as the vegetarian mezcal worm.
The first time I ever got actually truly drunk, it was off of Zima with Fruit Roll-Ups. Not only do the snacks tint the Zima and make it taste more like cherries, but they also serve as a sort of dessert course.
Embedded above is one of Zima’s first TV commercials, from 1994. It aired during a late night broadcast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Which is perfect.
I won’t pretend that I’m gonna be buying this all summer long, but I’m super happy that I got to experience Zima one last time. I know it became kind of a joke near the end of its run, but it really was — and yay, still is — a pretty enjoyable way to laugh harder at Full House.
PS: I wouldn’t normally write about underage drinking so freely, but in Zima’s case that aspect is essential to the story. Please don’t take any of the above as an endorsement. Virtually everything I did between birth and last week could be categorized as dumb.