Ugly’s Limited Editions have long been the bane of the Bubbleverse: fleeting gems that disappear like a carbonated wave upon the shores of our dreams.
Crashing on our tongues one minute, sucked back into the big blue void the next.
And they’ve been dogged about this approach for a while now, selling out of their latest Limited Edition drops within days and then flaunting it with an email letting us know we’ll never see them again. It’s a wonder we like Ugly so much after all this.
So we were surprised and delighted when Ugly announced that they were going to bring back four of their Limited Editions, FOREVER.
The first one announced was Dr. Ugly. Sparkling Water, MD (or PhD?), here to cure what ails you.
It’s Ugly’s ode to Doctor Pepper, that sugary quack who should have been sued out of existence for malpractice the moment he injected our younger selves with a syringe full of fructose.
We’ve been fans of Kroger’s “The Doctor” flavor, but we missed Dr. Ugly the first time around. So we ordered a case within minutes as soon as it re-dropped, super excited to see what Ugly can do with this learned sodapop of legend.
But before we dive in to Dr. Ugly, it’s important that we first unpack what flavor Dr. Pepper even is, a question which has stood for decades as one of the quintessential American mysteries.
I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper,
She’s a Pepper, we’re a Pepper,
Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?
Be a Pepper. Drink Dr Pepper.
Which is it, Doctor? Are we unique or just like everyone else? We can’t all be Peppers, can we?
Here’s what flavor Dr. Pepper is:
Just kidding. Sadly, we’ll never know exactly what Dr. Pepper is, because Dr. Pepper’s IP is apparently so secret, so deeply under lock and key, that the recipe is divided in half, entombed in separate safety deposit boxes at two different Dallas banks.
Maybe that’s some apocrypha, but we hope not. We live for that kind of solipsistic flair for the dramatic.
So we turn to the internet.
Wikipedia says the flavor is “Pepper-style carbonated soft drink,” which is…unhelpful.
We do know that Dr. Pepper supposedly is made of 23 different flavors. Here’s a comprehensive list of every flavor that people claim to have detected in this mystery brew:
Root Beer (which is itself about a billion different flavors)
Some of those ingredients make it sound like we’re drinking some All Spice Sangria, which is not exactly a phrase we associate with Dr. Pepper, but we do understand that like Coca-Cola, top secret soda ingredients usually contain some alchemical mix of fruit & spice.
We’re assuming that Ugly didn’t break into two separate Dallas banks to find the recipe, so their sendup must have involved some guesswork.
And Ugly has a wide range of possible ingredients to use in conjuring the Doctor. Did they make a carrot and juniper sparkling water? Or a prune tomato?
Let us finally crack the can and find out.
The nose on this is the distinctive and familiar Dr. Pepper nose. Ugly’s nailing it so far.
We actually get a strong cherry flavor on first sip. Alongside something dark and rich. Maybe a little cola spice?
It’s earthy and decadent, like the now discontinued AHA Black Cherry + Coffee. (Which we sadly never around to reviewing. Gone too soon.)
There are little flavor digressions here and there, as the sips progress, that take us on a journey.
We get a flash of root beer, but it’s not wintergreeny enough to be the dominant impression. Here’s a hint of vanilla!
We can taste a nod to amaretto, a nod to rum, but overall this is cherry through and through, with a slight finish of syrupy cola.
We wish we got something a little more peppery or clove-ish. If there is any spice at play in here, it hovers amongst the sweeter nutmeg realms.
Thankfully, we don’t detect any carrot.
But every time we think we think we’re getting another piece of insight into the Pepper pie, it gets washed over by another crest of Cherry wave. We didn’t expect so much cherry! If this is Dr. Ugly, what is Ugly’s Cherry Cola?! (Stay tuned, that one is next on our list.)
This doctor got his PhD in Cherries, it appears.
We should emphasize that this is delicious. While cherry can often get wildly out of hand, don’t worry: Ugly serves up a nicely spiced, cherry-forward, sophisticated Dr. Pepperesque sparkling water.
We’re merrily working our way through our case of this lickety split.
No word on if we’ll get a snazzy commercial where we can all sing about being Uglies, but we sure do hope so.
Sparkling Water, Natural Flavor
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