Remember when you were in high school and, on occasion, you’d find those fancy Italian-ish San Pellegrino fruit sodas? They weren’t as prolific as they are today so drinking one meant that you might have been to Europe or, better yet, you had a taste beyond Coca-Cola.
Those Pellegrino sodas are everywhere now, likely what current high school kids actually drink because of the health hullaballoo surrounding actual sodas. The variety of these drinks have also expanded quite a bit, bloating out from the original, classic orange to seven total flavors. In addition to non-pulpy, non-Orangina orange pop, there is now a tarty lemon, the terribly sweet blood orange, the yummer yummer grapefruit, the baby orange clementine, and the candied pomegranate. There is one new entry which is a bizarre trend piece that is as confusing as it is attractive: there is now a prickly pear soda.
In adorable pale pink cans, this year old sparkling beverage is one of the strangest mass produced sodas (“sodas”) out there. Prickly pears are barely having a moment yet they are being given a big Italo-Mexico celebration so people can get in on drinking. It’s super weird and, to be real with you, prickly pear is very OK to begin with. It’s a hallow sweet knotted around fucking annoying seeds that make you wish you were eating something more straightforwardly fruity like strawberries or—Um.—pears.
The prickly pear soda—or “Ficodindia E Arancia,” if you fancy—is a combo attack, the “pear” mixed with orange to make it a more memorable, palatable experience. The drink is surprisingly bright red, a shade that is a little bit duller than the abnormally bright blood orange Pellegrino. The nose of this is a bit like melon and orange which, really, doesn’t sound like a bad gig. The drink itself? It’s fine. It is so extremely fine. It’s sugary and diet tasting, like you had an orange Pellegrino that was made with Sweet’N Low. Melony perfume lingers around but isn’t quite matched for the overwhelming orange. You’re left with a grassy melon aftertaste though, which is interesting. Good? Eh. Interesting, yes.
With such an odd beverage (And six cans of it, too.), I had to figure out something to do with it sooooooooooo I made a cocktail. Unfortunately, it didn’t really do that much except add an alcohol bite to something that I was already fighting to drink. “But it’s so pretty!” we think, sipping through pursed lips. I took a third of prickly pear can, juice of half a lime, and an ounce-ish pour of gin and ended up with a refreshing gin drink that makes you frustrated that it isn’t a gin and tonic or gin and Orangina or gin and something that isn’t prickly pear.
However, while hate-sipping this, I did wonder: would this be better with tequila? I would say yes. Would it be a revelation? Fuck no. It would be cutesy and bright and you’d feel like a little bumblebee on a rose but, no, it would not be delicious. I’d give it a try. Maybe? It took me four hours to near the bottom of this cocktail and the dregs ended up going into a plant. This is coming from someone who never met a cocktail he didn’t suck.
So. If you like being trendy and pink, you will like this because literal taste does not matter to you. This has all the charms of an Instagram filter but, clearly, there ain’t nothing going on beyond that. It’s too sweet, too flavorless, but will look great as you mood board things you find in the “New Age Beverage” section of your local Kroger. Some advice: stick to La Croix.