In the 50 years since Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was released, no one has been able to tell me what that chocolate river tasted like. Michael Bollner, who played Augustus Gloop, hinted that the water was cold and/or stinky, full of coffee cup dregs and all manner of movie set detritus. But did he ever take a Gloop-sized gulp? If not, he missed the chance of a lifetime.
Personally, I’ve always imagined the Wonka river tasting like Yoo-hoo. Yoo-hoo is undoubtedly my least favorite chocolate drink, largely due to its thin yet unsettlingly creamy texture. Outside of chocolate milk, Yoo-hoo is my only frame of reference for cold chocolate beverages—that is, until today, when I got to sample Dr. Pepper’s new FANtastic Chocolate flavor. Boy, was it Gloop-worthy.
Dr. Pepper officially unveiled the limited-edition flavor on August 15. The good news is that it’s quite tasty (see below). The bad news is that it’s only available through Pepper Perks, the brand’s new rewards program, and it’s loosely NFL-affiliated (hence the “FAN” in “FANtastic”). While you won’t have to enter one of those weird, vague brand giveaways to try the stuff, the new flavor isn’t all that easy to track down. Here are the rules, per a press release sent to The Takeout:
“To access the limited time offering, consumers must scan the proof of purchase QR code on Dr Pepper purchases where they’ll be prompted to create a ‘Pepper Perks’ account. Once fans earn a qualifying amount of points, they can redeem their purchase to receive the exclusive new flavor as long as it is available. Fans can also enter for a chance to win a trip to the College Football Playoff National Championship and redeem other Dr Pepper branded gear designed to enhance game day and cheer on our favorite college teams.”
Too much, too much. I will not be joining Pepper Perks because the only reward I’m working toward is DEATH—but I am a member of the media, which means I got to try the new flavor without all the hullabaloo. In the end, I employed all five of my senses in an effort to best communicate this experience, which ended up being less “Augustus Gloop chokes on chocolate river” and more “slightly chocolatey, perfectly lovely Dr. Pepper experience appropriate for day or night.”
Ah, yes, a can of vaguely brownish soda! A sight I know well. I could’ve done without the illustrated brown sludge dripping over the side of the can, but I understand that there aren’t many other ways to communicate that a beverage is full of chocolatey goodness.
To engage my sense of sound, I opened the can and held it up to my ear. There they were: countless tiny, chocolatey bubbles popping up to say “hey.” An overall satisfying audio experience.
Crack open a classic Dr. Pepper, and you’re met with sharp cherry notes, a touch of zingy cinnamon, and wafts of approximately 21 other mysterious flavors. But when you jam your sniffer into an open can of FANtastic Chocolate, you’re getting pure chocolate. It’s soft and sweet, almost like Dr. Pepper–scented Lip Smackers, or those bank teller Dum-Dum suckers that are technically cola-flavored, but actually taste like chocolate. Or maybe they’re technically chocolate-flavored, but actually taste like cola? Either way, this FANtastic Chocolate Dr. Pepper smells like the candy man mixed it with love on his way to make the world taste good. Exquisite.
Touch is not usually a sense we apply to soft drinks, because it entails getting your hands wet and sticky. In lieu of sticking my finger into the can, I swished a mouthful of FANtastic Chocolate around for about 10 seconds. I will say, the general mouthfeel was noticeably different—less intense, maybe—than a standard DP. Less Pepper, more Doctor, if you will. An overall softer, gentler experience.
When I took my first swig, I noticed that the classic Dr. Pepper taste hits you up front, with the chocolate following softly behind as if to say, “Don’t forget about dessert, baby.” I took a few more sips and decided that I like the stuff. “This tastes NOTHING like Yoo-hoo!” I screamed, triumphant, out of my office window at a man picking up a large pile of dog poop.
I must say, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this flavor. When I read the front of the can—“artificially flavored chocolate soda,” it says—I expected a thicker, wintrier product, almost like the soda equivalent of a stout beer. But FANtastic Chocolate seems more like the result of one mischievous factory employee tinkering with the formula just a bit, amping up the chocolate and subduing the other flavors on some sort of proprietary flavor lever.
With just a tad less bite than standard Dr. Pepper, I don’t know that I’d replace my customary DP stash with FANtastic Chocolate. Still, it’d be nice to keep a few cans of the new flavor around as an option. I still don’t really get the flavor’s tie-in to football, as I never think of beefy football players when I think of delicious desserts—but I do appreciate the product and plan to keep both of my sample cans all to myself. It’s what Augustus Gloop would do.