I spent a significant portion of my senior year of high school — a mythical time when Debbie Gibson electrified the nation’s youth and acid wash jeans were the height of fashion — tooling around Boston’s northwestern suburbs with my buddy Damian in his dinged-up subcompact beater. Most of these trips were videogame-related, made with the intent of seeking out and sampling the latest home console and coin-op offerings. One of our regular stops was a baseball and “non-sports” card shop in North Woburn that did a brisk side business selling and renting game cartridges.
Not only did the card store have a Magic Sword arcade cabinet, it also had an ample stock of the high fructose comestibles favored by the establishment’s regular clientele. These preludes to pancreatic failure ranged from familiar favorites to more enticingly exotic fare…
..like Hubba-Bubba Bubble Gum Soda.
It was exactly what its name suggested — a carbonated soft drink that vaguely approximated the taste and color of its hyper-sugary chewing gum namesake — and I embraced its dubious charms with the earnest vigor of a true afficionado of trash cuisine. (My teenage drift into punk rockerdom merely reinforced and validated my long-held bottomfeeding habits.)
This love between man and beverage was not meant to last, however. Within the space of a few short months, the card shop closed down, I lost touch with Damian after he became a LARPer, and Wrigley’s discontinued production of Hubba-Bubba Bubble Gum Soda. Despite the wistful realization that I would never again partake of the magical pink elixir’s unique combination of artificial flavors, I kept its memory alive in my heart…mostly as an anecdotal smart bomb guaranteed to nauseate weaker stomachs than my own.
Long after I had resigned myself to a world free of bubblegum-flavored sugar water, I happened to stumble across something unexpected in the “healthy” (read: “same shit, higher price”) section of my local supermarket’s soft drink aisle…
…a sale display well-stocked with bottles of Jones Soda Company’s “bubble gum soda.”
“Blue bubble gum soda,” to be precise, and the beverage does sport a striking shade of azure that falls somewhere between the Blue Devil and the metallic finish of a 1971 Plymouth GTX. While the soda’s hue adds a nice level of visual pizzazz, it may create conflicts with the imbiber’s deeply embedded parental instructions concerning the important differences between Windex and Zyrex.
So how does Jones’s product stack up against my hazy and overfond memories of Hubba-Bubba Bubble Gum Soda? Terms like “better” or “worse” tend to become pointless when nostalgic versimillitude is the standard. Jones’s bubble gum soda is certainly of a higher quality than Hubba Bubba ever was, but it’s also a very different beverage which just happens to share a similar flavor.
Hubba Bubba was carbonated to a fault, to the point where imbibing more than a sip at a time could lead to pulling a painfully caustic noser. It was also fairly dry in nature, an experience akin to guzzling a lukewarm can of store brand ginger ale. In contrast, Jones’s blue stuff is milder in terms of fizziness and richer (i.e. “more syrupy”) in terms of flavor.
The ardent fan of chewing gum flavored soft drinks (a demographic of one) really isn’t in a position to be picky. Jones’s Blue Bubble Gum Soda does a pretty good job in delivering the “if only Dubble Bubble came in liquid form” goods, even if it falls — through no fault of its own — slightly short of my rose-tinted mark.
My memories of drinking Hubba-Bubba Bubble Gum Soda involve being seventeen years old and playing co-op River City Ransom with Damian on his NES. My (much more recent) memories of drinking Jones’s Blue Bubble Gum Soda involve taking a long pull from an ice cold bottle and painfully realizing there was going to be a root canal in my near future. That’s pretty much the definition of a “no contest” decision…
…even if the latter was a direct consequence of the former.