Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ecto-Cooler Comparison: Re-released Classic vs. Homebrewed Concoction

By: Patrick Hawes-DeFrias

Ecto-Cooler is beloved by many children of the ‘80’s. I never had the opportunity to try it though, which is a shame because according to the Ghostbusters Wiki, the formula has actually existed in some form up until 2007, though under different names and brandings. However, as a promotion for the new Ghostbusters film, Hi-C released the classic flavor again! But as it so happens, a recipe for homebrew equivalent has been floating around for quite a while- originally invented by the Ghostbusters: Chicago Division fan site, it aims to recreate the classic drink as closely as possible. I recently got ahold of a case of the newly re-released, official Ecto-Cooler, in the very same week that I was planning on whipping up some of the homebrewed version for a party. So, why not take the opportunity to try a little taste test- how does the homebrewed version of Ecto-Cooler hold up when compared with the Hi-C version? Will it be a suitable replacement for when real Ecto-Cooler is inevitably gone once more, like a spirit on the wind?
Oh, and full disclosure- the recipe I used is a modified version made by FWx, which I found to be an easier mix.

The Real Ecto-Cooler

So as a first-time drinker of Ecto-Cooler, hearing about it now and then as a fan-favorite soft drink, I was very excited for this little project of mine. And did Ecto-Cooler live up to the hype?
Not really, truth be told. Don’t get me wrong, it is DELICIOUS. Definitely the best flavor of Hi-C in my opinion. But…

Listen, Ecto-Cooler was first released in 1989, that means that the drink has had 27 years of hype. Anyone who’s ever played Duke Nukem Forever knows that nothing can live up to that much hype. But hey, it’s still a fantastic drink, and I’m going to savor every last box of the stuff I have.
But enough about that- you want to know how it tastes, right? That way newbies to the drink like myself can get an idea of its flavor, and so that fans of the drink from ’89 can tell if the classic taste has been faithfully recreated, in case you can’t get any yourself. Well, it’s…
Citrusy. VERY citrusy, in a general sense, like you’d expect a “citrus fruit drink” to be, though it’s clear that the predominant flavor is tangerine. And if you like citrus as much as I do, you’re going to fall in love with this. It’s easy to see how it got so popular back in the day. HOWEVER- I understand that some people react very poorly to citrus, in which case STAY AWAY. Other than that, it’s very sweet, in the typical artificial way that Hi-C products tend to be.
And, of course, you can’t talk about Ecto-Cooler without mentioning the color. It’s a neon transparent green, clearly trying to mirror the ectoplasm effect from the classic Ghostbusters movies. The closest thing to the color I can think of would be the G2 version of lemon-lime Gatorade, but perhaps a bit darker.
The Fan-made Blend
The fan-concocted Ecto-Cooler is noticeably… less sweet? Or perhaps sweet in a different way? Allow me to explain- the recipe I used contains the following: tangerine juice, orange juice, Country Time Lemonade, sugar, water, and… well, the recipe called for orange drink mix, but unfortunately there was none at the time, so I replaced it for an equivalent amount of Tang-brand liquid flavoring. So, there’s actually very little artificial sweetener (compared with real, factory-made Ecto-Cooler, anyway). That makes the real version seem a bit sweeter, because artificial sweeteners tend to have a bit more kick to them. This can have mixed results for whoever’s drinking, but more on that later.
In terms of fruit flavor, I think it’s spot-on. The various citrusy flavorings added, especially the tangerine juice, definitely recreate that uppercut of tangy sweetness to the face that the Hi-C version provides.
But, the color… There’s not a chance in hell that you will be able to recreate that Slimer green with this mix. You can get it green, sure, but the problem with the coloring is, ironically, the strong point in its fruit flavoring- the juice. The simple fact is that natural juice is, by its nature, cloudy. I have no idea what Hi-C has to put into the drink to get that kind of flavor and still keep it transparent, but the average Joe just doesn’t have access to that. Instead, it comes out as… well, have you ever seen one of those green health drinks, full of wheatgrass and so forth? It looks a bit like that.
The Verdict:

Is the homemade Ecto-Cooler a suitable replacement? Will it keep the memory of Hi-C’s classic formula going on for years to come, like a specter taking residence in an old New York building?
Yeah, I think so! It’s not as sweet as the real stuff, but unless you own a food product factory, you’re not going to be able to do so anyway, at least not without making it overpoweringly sugary. In fact, during my taste testing, I came across something quite interesting indeed- some of my friends actually PREFERRED the batch that I made over the official version! Some mentioned it as being “watered down”, but in a sense that the sweetness wasn’t too strong for them, and that they could better taste the fruit flavor. Personally, I prefer Hi-C’s Ecto-Cooler, but I can see where they’re coming from. Ecto-Cooler is QUITE sweet, and I imagine that if I could go and get a jug of the stuff at the store, some of my friends would throw some ice in it just to kill the sweetness a bit.
So there you have it- not only is Ecto-Cooler easily recreated fairly well with a trip to the local grocery store, it actually can be BETTER than the classic, depending on your personal taste!
And you know, the fact that the homebrew looks gross actually works, thematically speaking.

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