As a preface to this article, I don't particularly enjoy Gatorade as a beverage.
As many of you likely reading know, I have a peculiar hobby. Ever since I was a boy I've had just one simple, humble dream: to rank every drink available on the world market. While this may seem a daunting task, it becomes much more manageable when you break it down by brand. My last adventure had me stumbling through the hell that is Mt Dew Kickstart and the even worse hell of Mt Dew Kickstart Refresh. A line of soda so convoluted that it is twice removed from the original line. I mean, why even make it a Mt Dew at that point? Why not make Kickstart its own brand?! But I digress. This time around I am working through the world of electrolytes (what plants crave) and colorful sweat inducing elixir that is Gatorade. So I gave up drinking a gallon of water a day and went to find what was out there.
Some of you may ask "Why Stefan? Why do this?" To which I would have to say "I don't know. Because it's kind of funny to me, I guess."
At my local grocery store there were 13 available flavors to choose from. Being an asshole, I bought them all. The cashier who rung me up enabled me the same way he would an alcoholic and gave me two wine carriers to take my $13 worth of shame as far from his life as possible. Science demands an answer and these Gatorade must be ranked.
Before I get into my eventual rankings by explaining why I rejected one data point. That being how well each flavor would pair with food. My logic behind abandoning this was that if you are the type of person who enjoys a Gatorade while you are eating, you probably don't care much how things taste to begin with.
The 13 flavors on hand in predicted order from worst to best were Icy Charge, Arctic Blitz, Glacier Freeze, Glacier Cherry, Grape, Melon, Lemon-Lime, Blue Cherry, Fruit Punch and Berry, Orange, Fruit Punch, Watermelon-Citrus, and Cucumber-Lime.
There are 28 total flavors of Gatorade according to their site. My group of 13 are what I would consider the most widely available since they were the ones available to me and I am a narcissist.
As an aside, only one of the 3 Frost flavors I purchased is still officially recognized on Gatorade's website. How old are these?
Lemon-Lime is acting as my control for this series of experiments. It is the most common and widely accepted flavor of Gatorade. The bottom of the predicted ranking was made up with the "Frost" line. Admittedly, I had never had any of these due to a prejudice held against the Cool Blue flavor. All of them seem like they would be the same and how is Blue a flavor? Get your shit together Gatorade. I placed these rather haphazardly since I assumed the differences would be minimal. From there I worked up with fruit flavors that are generally disappointing regardless of the medium, Grape and Melon.
Sitting in the middle is Lemon-Lime. The baseline. A perfect 3 out of 5. Not great, not bad. Blue Cherry got a favorable spot due to my weakness for weird bullshit flavors. Fruit Punch with Berry ranked lower in my predictions than Fruit Punch because it's all to easy to mess up a good thing. The top two spots are for two seemingly regional flavors. Watermelon-Citrus and Cucumber-Lime. These are the tier 1 flavors.
Let's start at the start. The first of these concoctions I tested was part of the dreaded Frost line, Icy Charge. It was actually not nearly as bad as I was bracing myself for. Maybe because I had such low expectations it ended up impressing me more than it should have, but chalk this one up to a good start. It gave me hope that maybe the entire line was better than I was anticipating. That hope would not hold up to science.
Next was Artic Blitz. Lacking much personality and being largely forgettable, this is officially a watermelon honeydew flavor. Being modeled after terrible fruits might be an easy target for criticism if it bared any resemblance to them.
Moving through the Frost line brought me to Glacier Freeze. It has an unoffensive taste. I wish I could say more for or against it, but it just kind of exists. I don't hate it. I don't mind it being there. I wouldn't mind if it didn't exist. It's kind of the Squid from Rocket Power of the Frost Gatorades. This might be someone's favorite, but they're wrong.
Glacier Cherry is respectable for being incredibly straightforward. It looks bad and it is bad. I was told that it's great if you are actually in a position where you are working hard and sweating, but I live a life that affords me time to write a paper about Gatorade flavors, so I can't verify that. It was my least favorite of the first batch.
As you may have remembered from Arctic Blitz, melons are on my shit list of garbage fruits. Melon Gatorade has a pungent smell and not much else going for it. It's overly sweet and leaves your mouth feeling like a Wizard traded you the power of flight in exchange for blowing a guy without any of the satisfaction of being able to fly at the end. (Don't pretend you wouldn't do it Scott. You're either lying or repressed.)
Grape is ok. Like Glacier Cherry, I had one person say it was theirfavorite. This one I could see I guess if it was the only Gatorade you've ever had.
I'll make an admission. I tend to like weird flavors and I'll drink just about anything. What the hell is a blue cherry? Who cares? I'll drink that ish. The bad thing is that it has a bad first sip and only goes downhill from there. Science does not favor this bastard example of the hubris of man. You can't just invent fruit, Gatorade. You're not God.
What can you say about your oldest friend. They're always been there for you. You may hate them sometimes, but you always forgive it in the end. You may ditch them to hang with the cool kids, but you're always down to come back and chill with them. That is how the science translates on Lemon-Lime. You keep doing you LL.
As of this first writing I have worked through Blue Cherry. The Rankings are as follows:
#13: Glacier Cherry
#12: Arctic Blitz
#10: Blue Cherry
#9: Glacier Freeze
#8: Icy Charge
#5: Fruit Punch w/ Berry
#3: Fruit Punch
These standings are not yet final as science needs time to work. Thanks anyone and everyone who is following along with this nonsense. This caught more attention than I thought it would. Soon I'll get into the good stuff.
The discovery of 6 more local flavors has delayed the final standings on my study. The new flavors, Cool Blue, Summit Storm, Strawberry, Strawberry Lemonade, Citrus Cooler, and Green Apple, had to each be carefully considered and added into the formula. The same processes of me randomly guessing spots based on my personal biases was used to place these. Summit Storm fit in nicely with the other frost flavors. Cool Blue sat at the lowest possible spot. The rest sat somewhere around the middle of the pack.
In order to stay on schedule I moved from a two a day sample to a 3 a day one. A brutal schedule that had innumerable effects on my body. I had never been so hydrated in my life, but the subsequent bladder fillings took a toll on my productivity at work. A worthwhile trade in my opinion. I set a goal to be done by Sunday September 18th 2016 and not even an inconsiderate Russell Wilson could stop me. My first set of 3 saw Fruit Punch - Berry, Orange, and Cool Blue into the cold, uncaring mouth of science.
In my initial power rankings I had FP+B lower than straight Fruit Punch. I tend to like Fruit Punch for false nostalgic reasons. FP+B tastes like someone who has heard of Fruit Punch before, but has only ever had Capri Sun to drink and now has to replicate it. It somehow tastes like it has been in a metal lined pouch. It fails in every way to improve on the original and mainly just get thrown down some stairs in the process..
Orange was a flavor that I told myself that I liked. I had fond memories of me and Orange playing in the park on a hot day. It had been there for me and I had always had its back. In my power rankings I had Orange all the way up in the #4 slot. Science had other ideas. It's not Orange is bad. Orange is the person who thinks is acceptable to go out in public in sweatpants. It's just like an old friend that you've spent time apart from and now that you've grown and reconnected, you realize that you really don't have much in common anymore. "Haven't you done anything since High School, Orange? Are you still living with your parents?" And as you struggle to find what you once saw in it, you'll get the slightest glimmers of hope, a slight citrus tone, a floral aroma, but it's fleeting and you soon treat it like all old friends you're not stoked to see anymore. "Hey Orange. It's been great catching up. We should really hang out sometime. This weekend? Oh man. I'm totally slammed this weekend, but soon for sure!" And then you never respond to their texts.
Next was Cool Blue... I hate Cool Blue and everything it stands for. Cool Blue is a perfect example of how dumb marketing teams believe consumers are. "Let's put out a generically citrus-y flavor." "What would we call this? It doesn't taste like anything that occurs in nature." "Just dye it and name it after whatever color you use. Put something like radical or cool in front of it so it resonates with the kids." It set a precedent that you could name your drink after whatever bullshit and get away with it. (See Gatorade Frost line)The only thing I hate more than Cool Blue flavor Gatorade is myself for how much I like Cool Blue flavor Gatorade.
Starting off a new batch of 3 was Strawberry. What can I say about this roller-coaster of a flavor. Strawberry flavor Gatorade follows the trend of tasting similar to Jolly Ranchers, but, in a bizarre twist of fate, ends up tasting like the watermelon Jolly Rancher. This just leaves me desperate for answers. Who let this through quality control? How did it even pass the test phases? Sadly, until a Gatorade tell all novel is written, we'll never know. Not terrible if you're wondering how it tastes. No, if you're wondering if you should buy one.
Next in my hit list was Summit Storm. I was still reeling from self loathing for the Cool Blue incident when I came to Summit Storm. Marked as a limited edition frost flavor I didn't have high hopes and was looking for a punching bag. Summit Storm is nobody's punching bag. This is a drink for champions. It is everything that a Gatorade should be. It falls into the Frost trap of being named after catchy nonsense, but truly is a pleasure to drink. It rises above it station and brings a storm to the summit of the rankings.
Green Apple is... not great. It's, like many Gatorade flavors, alright. I have a weakness for green apple flavored things. It's better than you would think and worse than you would hope. The color is off putting and scent is surprisingly strong for how mellow the flavor is in comparison. Is it the worst Gatorade? no. You should probably just go with another flavor if you have the choice.
In a move to establish some kind of reverse dominance, Strawberry-Lemonade busts into the scene to prove just how mediocre it is. I won't even write up some elaborate story to illustrate how below average it is. It tastes like a watered down version of an already not great lemonade variant (list forthcoming). It is in every way unpleasant and still manages to be so forgettable that it probably won't even rank at the bottom of the list.
Citrus Cooler is not good or bad. Just sort of is.
Fruit Punch is good. I don't care what anyone else says. Fruit Punch Gatorade tastes just like fruit punch you would make from the frozen concentrate inside a cardboard tube mixed with just a little bit too much water. Just right.
Watermelon Citrus is at times a bit sweet, I'll admit it, but there is something about it that I'll never be able to truly capture in words. It is a high water mark in the flavored sugar "performance" drink world.
Truly mankind has no greater achievement than the symphony of flavors that is Lime Cucumber. The magnum opus of Jonas T Gatorade. What Gatorade should have been all along. It reminds you that man has traveled to space to wipe their boots on the doormat of God, walked on the moon in defiance of the universe itself and shouted "I am here! I exist! I matter!"
I've only ever seen Ice Punch in tiny bottle six packs. Maybe that is where it belongs. It can't overstay its welcome and become unpleasant like so many of its brothers. If you see one of these in the wild, I say go for it. It is totally fine. JUST FINE.
Strawberry Watermelon is pretty passable. Its only notable trait is being another in a line of products that only exist to satisfy Terrance G Gatorade's apparent fetish for combining dumb fruit flavors together.
Orange Strawberry somehow manages to combine the worst traits of Orange and Strawberry.
Tropical Cooler tastes pretty strongly of pineapple. Not entirely unpleasant, but also not pleasant either. I bought a follow up 6 pack of this when I was back in Texas and it was a little better than I had initially judged it as. Basically like a less shitty Hawaiian Punch.
Tangerine is tart and pretty off putting. Better than orange for the pure fact it has more personality and didn't break my heart.
Mango Xtremo tastes very strongly like mango nectar. Pretty impressive in that regard. A little sweet for my taste, but not bad overall. Maybe better suited as a casual beverage instead of a workout drink.
Tropical Mango is in every way worse than Mango Xtremo. Tastes watered down in the way you would expect the white person version of a Spanish flavor would be. Sure, it's dancing the same steps, but none of the passion is there. No fire.
Mixed Berry actually has a nice starting flavor, but it can't escape the curse of low calorie sweetener. It has an acrid aftertaste. It's kind of a shame really. This could have been a really nice flavor if it had used some other source of sweetener.
Blueberry Pomegranate is honestly just bizarre. It tastes of pool water and abandoned dreams. Like a failed marriage. Like graduating from college only to find out that your chosen degree is worthless and there are no jobs for you so you work a dead end job in an office you hate surrounded by people who don't know the real you, hoping that one day you'll have the guts to finally ask out that person you've been crushing on or failing that, like everything else you've failed at, at least have the strength to end it all. There is nothing for you in this universe. There is no god. There is no meaning to anything that happens. The world doesn't care if you disappear... Still better than Glacier Cherry.
Raspberry Lemonade has taken over as my least favorite. Al was right. Glacier Cherry isn't the worst. I guess that was what I was signing up for by choosing a low calorie option to take part in this string of tests, but good grief. Can you bottle disappointment mixed with Splenda? The only redeeming thing about this was I drank it in proximity to a dog and even the dog was worse for it. That is the worst thing I can say about this flavor. It made me enjoy the company of a dog less.
Lemonade manages to be worse in every way than Lemon-Lime and Lemon ice. It's almost impressive that they can get away with making three flavors that should be basically identical and somehow make one way worse. Some real engineering had to go into this one. I would say it should be studied more closely, but I never want to drink one of these again. I don't know why Gatorade continues to make multiple variants of flavors and have one be decidedly worse. They did this with Mango as well. Who runs their flavor lab? Do they have some kind of plan to confuse the market and ruin five minutes of some poor stranger's life by making them choose the wrong flavor? I don't see the long term plan here, but I guess that's why I'm not a sports drink titan like Gatorade.
Rain Berry doesn't have a strong taste. Solid middle of the pack Gatorade. I know that's not a terribly exciting note to end on, but science isn't always about being exciting. It's about finding out how the world works and our place in it and what Gatorades taste good and junk.
So here we stand at the end of a long road. Much like the band 'All that Remains,' all that remains is the final tally. Science is at times cruel, but it is always just. This list will go from worst to best. It will be a bumpy ride, but we'll make it through together.