Skip to content

Kentucky Sports Radio

University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.

Zima: Don’t Call it a Comeback

Have you ever wanted to taste the 90’s?  If so, you may be in luck, assuming you’re over the age of 21 of course.  That’s because Zima, a faddish alcoholic beverage from that cherished era, is being resurrected by MillerCoors for a limited time beginning June 12th.  However, before you start grabbing 6-packs off the shelves and lacing them with your favorite flavored Jolly Rancher, do yourself a favor and reacquaint yourself with the memorable yet polarizing drink.

When you live long enough, you begin to see the same patterns in pop culture emerge.  A rebottling of forgone ideas–unearthed, dusted off, repackaged and sold to unsuspecting younger generations or folks simply too drunk on the schmaltz of the past.  It’s fitting really: the word nostalgia actually derives from two Greek words, nostos, meaning return and algos, meaning suffering.  In case you’re naively curious or consigned the memory of the once bygone beverage to oblivion– Zima is taste bud torture.  I know from experience dude!  Now, you probably won’t believe this, but over a year ago, I pitched a piece about the seemingly abrupt fad of cider drinks, like Redd’s Apple Ale and Angry Orchard, that were being marketed ad nauseam, that eerily paralleled the rise and fall of Zima, and how given time–probably within the next three years–we would eventually witness Zima’s inevitable return from a nearly nine year exile.

Conceived in the late 80’s during the “clear craze”, Zima, preceded by Smirnoff Ice, also birthed Bacardi Breezers, Hooper’s Hooch, as well as a number of hard lemonades.  Zima ushered in a new wave of Frankensteinian alt-beers, coined alcopop, malted beverages spliced with fermented fruit juices that pack somewhere between 3 to 7% alcohol per volume.  Mmm, mmm, it’ll get ya drunk!  Zima which contains close to 5% apv was part semi-carbonated soda, part wine cooler, and all around, well, not something you’d write home about, but one your palette would surely never forget.  Their marketing was equally banal, featuring an unremarkable schmuck coined The Zima Guy, known less for his floppy hat, and more for the way he substituted his S’s for Z’s like when he would utter the malternative’s tag line: “Try Zomething Different!”

Zima peaked in the pop culture zeitgeist in 1994 for a couple of reasons.  Their marketing was effective, especially when you’re heavily targeting a younger (under 21) demographic–something it was later accused of doing–looking for a quick buzz, who shunned beer, and also didn’t want to get caught pillaging their parents liquor cabinet.  There was also an urban legend that began circulating too, falsely claiming Zima was virtually undetectable to breathalyzers.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Despite its meteoric rise, Zima began losing ground, and no more than two years later faced a dramatic drop in sales.  Some attribute this to Zima foolishly being stereotyped as a girly drink–whatever that means.  While this can’t be disputed, the fact that it tasted obnoxiously dreadful is the more logical conclusion, and Zima finally fizzled out and disappeared altogether in 2008.

Zima is to beer as Chuck E. Cheese is to Pizza.  An afterthought, and a regrettable one at that.  It’s the alcohol equivalent to wearing socks with Crocs.  Zima is the Real Housewives of {insert whatever town} –you’ll watch it every once in a while, maybe even enjoying an entire season, but you’d never admit that you do in front of a group of respectable people.  Catch my drift?  When I saw the news that it was returning, the reaction I received when I asked people about it was mostly mixed. Everybody remembers it, but when asked if they would try it again, the responses were more tight-lipped.  I assume this is because of Zima’s unforgettably a-meh-zing taste, or perhaps some skeletons in the closets of those I polled.  I predict newcomers, devotees, and thrill seekers will agree, once they resample it.  Twisting off the cap, their nostrils will detect a faint whiff of an oddly metallic smell reminiscent of Alka Seltzer.  When the glass bottle finally reaches their lips the fight or flight responses kick in and if it’s not immediately spit out, they’ll taste a sweetened liquid akin to mineral water mixed with 7-Up, which has leechings of silicone plastic, and an aftertaste comparable to Juicy Fruit chewing gum.  A taste so vile–similar to sucking on a stainless-steel screw–someone somewhere suggested that dropping a Jolly Rancher into the drink, would thereby alter (but not improve) the overall flavor.

Despite how I feel about it, Zima is worth the try, for sentimental reasons if nothing else.  You participated in martini mania, had a fetish for oyster shooters, fell for lower calorie suds, and partook in the moonshine revival after all.  And hey, summer is here right?!?  Will Zima ever achieve its time in the sun like back in ’94?  Probably not, and I imagine this is why MillerCoors is only doing a limited release.  And if we’re doing this, why not rerelease Red Dog beer while you’re at it?  And why now?  Wait, Zima means “winter” in Russian…is it the Russia thing?!?  Oh, it’s 2017, that’s right.  So predictable. Nothing makes sense or matters anymore.  Or maybe Zima is a sign, and this is truly the End of Days.  Was this foretold?  Somebody look that up.  Oh well.  Regardless, after you’ve pounded a few Zimas and the buzz suddenly hits you like a freight train, just remember who anticipated all this, and therefore when you’re bursting with nostalgia, don’t expect me to hold your hair back.

Article written by Matthew Mahone

Follow me on Twitter @M_E_Mahone