Tonight’s Night Water is an extra special carbonated drink review from writer Peter Scobas. You can find more from Peter at his newsletter, This is bullshit and so can you.
The first time I drank Coca-Cola was at my cousin's rehearsal dinner when I was nine. The fizz, the tang, the delight—the Coke took hold of my nine-year-old taste buds in a way no other beverage had done before.
Since that day, I've always loved Coke. It became my vice. My one blemish in an otherwise stellar dental hygiene career.
Coke is timeless. Coke is America. Coke is a cool summer evening in 2004, surrounded by your boisterous family, all ready for a boisterous wedding.
Last year, Coca-Cola introduced a new flavor specifically designed for Gen Z. The flavor is supposed to encompass "Gen Z's passion for the infinite potential of the mind by exploring what a dream tastes like." I didn't write that. Coca-Cola's creative and shopper program director wrote that.
Coke calls this new flavor Dreamworld.
A few months ago, my wife and I got a free 10-pack of Cola-Cola's Dreamworld as some sort of promotional gift in a pick-up order from our local grocery store. Now, I try really, really hard to not drink Coke anymore (because sugar and cavities and stuff) but I was instantly curious. What does the 33rd largest company in the world think dreams taste like?, I wondered aloud to my wife.
However, a cursory Google search of Cola-Cola's Dreamworld quickly convinced us that we would not be fans. "More like Coca-Cola Nightmare-world!" said one reviewer. "I thought I'd gotten my fingers into an old perfume bottle," said another. "It has an overwhelming fruit aroma... the taste is not dissimilar to yellow Tic Tacs," said a third. Coca-Cola Dreamworld has 2.8 stars from 32 reviews—not capital B bad, but clearly more delusion than dream.
So instead of drinking it, we put it on a local "buy nothing" Facebook group—a group that's basically a suburban mom version of Free Stuff from Craigslist. The kicker, though, is that the "buy nothing" Facebook group doesn't operate with a first come, first served approach. Rather, the gifting of items is governed by "who has the best reason for wanting or needing this specific item." This has created an environment of locals writing essays about why they most deserve things like a bag of potatoes, a collection of expired food seasonings, or in this case, a 10-pack of Cola-Cola's fruit-adjacent Dreamworld beverage. But how do you decide who deserves a $6 pack of limited-edition soda with a 2.8 star rating on Google? Does anyone deserve that?
As it turns out, a lot of people think they do. A flock of dream seekers fluttered into the comments, but one particular message stood out: "My kid would like to try it, thanks." It was honest. Candid. Blunt. I instantly thought of nine-year-old me, absolutely fizzing through my cousin's rehearsal dinner.
After giving that woman and her kid the Dreamworld, I thought it'd be over. Back to reality for me. But I... I dunno. Something just gnawed at me. There was this insomniatic desire to know what Coca-Cola Dreamworld tasted like. This nagging thought that I was missing out. MAYBE IT REALLY DOES TASTE LIKE DREAMS!! I shouted at my wife, wide-eyed and hysterical.
I had to try it.
So a week later, I went to the grocery store and came home with a ten-pack of Coca-Cola Dreamworld. Dreams, apparently, are not sold separately.
Each Dreamworld can is a gentle shade of light blue. The iconic Coca-Cola script is bone white, but pink and mango-colored accents caress and outline the letters. "Dream Flavored," it states beneath, presumably for emphasis.
Upon opening the can, notes of fruit and citrus dance past my nose hairs, tickling my sinuses. The aroma isn't overwhelming, but it is persuasive. Orange sherbet and ginger ale come to mind. Memories of family road trips and gas station soda fountains flutter about.
But, unfortunately, the promise of the infinite ends as soon as the Dreamworld touches my lips. The flavor is just a probability—a conjecture. The dream is there, but it's unrealized. Unfinished. As I take my second and third sips of Dreamworld, I absentmindedly bat away a loitering fruit fly. The fly dodges my swiping hand and continues on, dancing about my head. Dreamworld's fruit flavor is like that fly—buzzing about, just out of reach. It's like a single Smarties wafer in your mouth, overwhelmed by an undercurrent of classic Coke flavor. It's aloof.
I finish the can and turn to my wife. Dreams can be inspiring, I whisper. Dreams can be lonely.
I sigh. Maybe it's because I'm too old. Too jaded. Too cynical.
Maybe my dreams have changed.
Maybe I've changed.
Twenty years have passed since my first sip of Coca-Cola at my cousin's rehearsal dinner. Sadly, Dreamworld did not captivate me in the same way its predecessor did, all those years ago.
I'm sorry, Coca-Cola. But I must give your Dreamworld exactly 2.8 stars.