By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
Out of 13 tasters, four liked regular Dr Pepper with HFCS better, seven liked the Dublin Dr Pepper and two couldn't tell any difference. Three of the seven tasters who liked Dublin Dr Pepper were older than 40—old enough to remember the flavor of cane sugar-sweetened soda from their childhood.
"This is what Dr Pepper used to taste like," one remarked.
"It reminds me of the flavor of the grape soda I used to guzzle at the store," said another.
I never noticed the HFCS flavor in my Dr Pepper before. But as I realized standing in front of McCain's Market, cane sugar-sweetened soda tastes better to some people because of the taste memory it evokes.
For tasters younger than 30, who grew up with HFCS in their soft drinks, cane sugar didn't evoke any memories or have any special appeal. On the contrary, they thought that HFCS tasted normal.
"This is Dr Pepper," said one holding up the HFCS sample. "And this is something different," he said, indicating the Dublin Dr Pepper. Another thought the cane sugar-sweetened version tasted "spicier" but preferred the standard issue. Among the younger tasters who liked the cane sugar version, one was a natural food enthusiast who said he also drank Mexican Cokes and preferred cane sugar-flavored soft drinks.
"They've got Dublin Dr Pepper at Central Market now," Bobette Riner told me over the phone. And even though they were charging $7.89 plus tax for a six-pack of tiny 8-ounce bottles, she figured it was a bargain, considering all the gas she was saving.
The bottles that are now on sale at Central Market and Kroger stores are actually made at the Dr Pepper bottling plant in Temple, Texas. The Temple plant and one other Texas bottler, in Abilene, have decided to get in on this lucrative market. Both now make limited amounts of cane sugar-sweetened Dr Pepper along with the regular HFCS version. The bottles from Temple have an Imperial Cane Sugar logo but don't have the word "Dublin" above the Dr Pepper logo.
Reselling soft drinks outside of the bottler's franchise area certainly isn't illegal. And it seems a safe bet that sooner or later, Dr Pepper's new owners will find a way to cash in on the cane sugar soda market. But until it becomes a mainstream product offering, specialty markets and bootleggers will continue to make a killing on the stuff.
"I wish I could get more of it," Phil Myers, the general manager at Central Market, told me at the store. "They make about enough to fill an eyedropper."
"If they made lots of it, you wouldn't be getting $8 for a six-pack," I observed.
"I guess that's true," he said with a smile.
DR PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
According to books on the Beatles, Paul McCartney originally named the Beatles' song and groundbreaking concept album Dr. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The name was changed when McCartney was informed that Dr Pepper was the name of an American soft drink.
The Beatles evidently became fans of the stuff after discovering the coincidence. In Instamatic Karma, the new book by May Pang, John Lennon's former personal assistant and girlfriend writes that during the Imagine sessions, Lennon requested that she ship cases of Dr Pepper to him in England.
DR. FINE & MR. PIG
Several Dr Pepper trivia buffs have put together Web sites documenting the many imitations of Dr Pepper. The most complete I've seen includes photos of 90 different cans of Dr Pepper knockoffs.
Some of my favorites include Shur Fine's homage to the Three Stooges, "Dr. Fine" (paging Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine, Doctor Howard); Adirondack Beverage Corp.'s "Dr. Radical"; Wild Oats Market's "Dr. Wild"; and Piggly Wiggly's takeoff of a takeoff "Mr. Pig" (after Coca-Cola's Dr Pepper imitator "Mr. Pibb").