Mountain Dew is the people’s beverage. Not only does its historical association with “hillbillies” solidify it as a drink of the rural working class, its other branding endeavors with groups like gamers and extreme sports fans — as well as its cult following with Baja Blast at Taco Bell — have given the drink a fun, everyman status. This is something Mountain Dew leans directly into — even its font and color scheme are “edgy” and boisterous. Therefore, in envisioning a “hard” version of the substance, one would hope for some excitement. Perhaps it keeps the caffeine of the original beverage, or at least boasts a higher ABV than the modest five percent we’ve come to expect from other players in the hard seltzer game?
Sadly, the recently released and much anticipated “Hard Mtn Dew” offers neither of these things. With its lack of caffeine and low ABV — it’s also five percent — the boozy beverage is almost imperceptible from the original, and frankly, I’m wondering why it exists at all.
Mountain Dew has long been known as a whiskey mixer. In fact, that’s how it was originally marketed back in 1940, and allegedly the reason for its creation. With that in mind, it’s almost surprising that it’s taken this long — 82 years, to be exact — for Mountain Dew to skip the middleman and serve us an alcoholic version directly. Last summer, Mountain Dew began teasing a “Hard Mtn Dew” on Twitter, sharing pictures of Ed Hardy-like cans and ominously stating that “something” was coming. Then, in mid-February, Mountain Dew delivered upon its promise in three states — Iowa, Tennessee and Florida. In New York, I was one of the lucky few to be sent a sampling of the flavors to try.
Currently, there are four flavors of Hard Mtn Dew: Black cherry, watermelon, Baja Blast (a tropical lime flavor) and the original Mountain Dew. There isn’t much to say about their taste except that they all taste exactly like diet non-alcoholic sodas. You could easily pass them off to a child, which I’m sure is why the cans repetitively label the fact that they’re alcoholic and only for people ages 21 and up. The “diet” taste likely comes from the fact that all of the sodas have zero grams of sugar, something that I find frightening considering that the Hard Mtn Dews are by far the sweetest of any of hard beverage I’ve tasted in recent years (this includes Bud Light’s numerous seltzers and iced teas).
As one might anticipate, then, Hard Mtn Dew is best suited for those who already love Mountain Dew. The ideal consumer would be a person for whom nothing but Mountain Dew will do, and for whom adding liquor to the beverage would lessen that signature taste they can’t get enough of. I, however, can totally get enough Mountain Dew. I can really only stomach one before ditching it for something less cloying, so my sampling only included a single can. From this, I yielded a mild buzz, but in order to get properly drunk, I’d need to drink at least three in quick succession, something I can’t imagine doing without getting a migraine.
Still, there’s nothing to be disappointed about, as the product is as advertised. It touts itself as a sugar-free, five-percent ABV version of Mountain Dew, and that’s exactly what it is. But I can’t help but yearn for something with a bit more creativity and edge. We have enough ready-to-drink five-percent ABV products. Give me something a little more interesting! Give me a higher ABV! Give me caffeine! Give me the original Four Loko! Maybe it doesn’t need to be 14 percent ABV, and maybe it doesn’t need to have 150 milligrams of caffeine (three times as much as in a can of Mountain Dew), but c’mon — give us something here. I crave excitement, and I would have liked Mountain Dew to be the brand to deliver. Instead, all we get from Hard Mtn Dew is a reduced vowel-count in the word “Mountain,” a weird, tepid attempt at a supposedly raucous rebrand.
But that’s just me, and I realize this isn’t really about me. Hard Mtn Dew is a product more for die-hard Mountain Dew fans than for people who love to drink, and if that’s your thing, I can definitely still raise a can to that.