As we grind toward a summer of pandemic uncertainty and discord, we cannot help but want the creature comforts of the season. And because the landscape of the American imagination is littered with brands, many of our material, emotional cravings have an explicitly corporate dimension. So it is with Mountain Dew Baja Blast, a lime-tropical PepsiCo soda flavor that debuted in 2004, exclusively in Taco Bell restaurants.
While Mountain Dew and some of its other variants, like Code Red, have long been associated with gamer culture — fuel for playing Xbox till your eyes crust over — Baja Blast is more like the People’s Dew. Yet it’s also a special occasion treat: Until 2014, it never even saw limited release in stores. Supposedly formulated to complement the fare at Taco Bell, its cool refreshment is forever tied to the memory of after-school feasts with your childhood friends (and the 2 a.m. stoner equivalent with your college buddies) in the comforting glow of a greasy fast-food franchise. Even the aquamarine hue is a vacation for your senses. Baja Blast teleports you into a crystal ocean of the sublime.
Why now, with the country falling apart, would we thirst anew for the most elite form of Mountain Dew? It could be that we worship its regenerative essence; home-brewed coffee isn’t hitting anymore, and shocking one’s brain into a period of clarity is difficult. There’s the yearning to congregate in casual spaces once more — yes, you can still get a Baja Blast at the drive-thru, but there’s greater guilt around low-wage restaurant workers during a massive public health crisis, and there’s no substitute for filling the cup from the soda fountain yourself.
Most of all, it must be the precise chemistry of beverage (a close DIY approximation is 8 ounces of Mountain Dew plus 3 ounces of Powerade Berry Blast) that seems appropriately miraculous. Forget about splitting the atom and putting men on the moon: If we came up with this drink, we can master any challenge.
We’d be lying to ourselves, however, if we did not admit that an appetite for intensity is part of the Baja Blast fandom. Once you get past the Mexican element of the name, it is a blast that greets you — a geyser, a wave or a hurricane of colorful, carbonated, high-fructose lifeblood. It’s possible that we feel pushed to extremes by the times we live in, and only a Baja Blast will capture that mood. Whether it whets our revolutionary zeal or placates us with milder forms of rebellion remains to be seen. And maybe that’s the point: One never knows for whom the Baja blasts… until it finally blasts for thee.
Be wary then, for the Baja Blast, like any great human innovation, is a double-edged sword, only to be wielded by consummate students of the Dew, lest it escape the unsure grip of a mere dilettante. The streets would run teal with wasted soda, a sticky shadow clinging to every surface. Pepsi always knew to limit our access to this potent elixir, which threatens to overwhelm the mind with chemical ecstasy. The growing demand for some kind of Baja Blastissance means we no longer accept that check on consumption. We’re ready to drink it from a hose. We will become as blue-tinted gods.
Or we will die satisfied.