Let’s imagine ourselves at Kettle Brand potato chips headquarters in Salem, Oregon. The end of the fiscal year approaches, and Kettle knows it needs a big hit to meet its annual sales goals. One eager marketing associate, just a few years out of college—let’s call him “Miles”—speaks up, his young, confident voice echoing in the vast boardroom filled with veteran potato chips executives. “All my millennial friends are into craft cocktails,” Miles says. “Can’t we turn that into a Kettle Brand potato chip?” “Miles, my son,” bellows fourth-generation chip magnate Olaf Kettleson IV, a Cohiba cigar dangling from the side of his lips. “If there’s anything you’ll learn at Kettle Brand potato chips, it’s that you can make a goddamn chip out of anything!”
Whether or not this scene actually took place, here we are at its conclusion: After lengthy market research, recipe development, and presumably, many PowerPoint presentations, Kettle Brand has released its newest chip flavor, Moscow mule. It’s the classic cocktail of vodka, ginger beer, and lime traditionally served in a copper mug. One of those three flavors is missing in these chips; I’ll let you guess which one.
Breathe deeply from the copper-colored bag (nice touch) and there’s a heady lime aroma that’s more sweet than sour. Once you bite in, the flavors arrive in four waves: First, a citric tang. Then a syrupy sweetness. Then a hit of salt. Finally, there is the lingering bite of ginger. It seems to always happen in this order.
When I offered these chips to my A.V. Club colleagues to sample, no one found them abjectly terrible, and no one deemed them mind-blowingly delicious. Their reactions sat comfortably within the mid-range between “Huh, that’s interesting” and “I kinda like this!”
In the opinions of one reviewer, calling it “Moscow mule” was more appealing than “ginger beer/Sprite chips, which is what it really tastes like.” Another found it impressive that Kettle Brand had somehow replicated the carbonation from ginger beer in a potato chip—though really, this was likely psychosomatic, and any “fizziness” probably comes from the ginger burn. The most interesting descriptor used might have been “refreshing,” a word that is not often applied to potato chips. Though of course, the same can be said for the words “Moscow mule.”
Based on such a shrugging response, I’m not sure who the market for these chips will be. Cocktail enthusiasts? Food writers looking to fill a daily quota? Perhaps novelty will be enough to drive at least one sale, but I’m not sure it’s a flavor that will yield repeat customers. Back when The A.V. Club taste-tested margarita and Bloody Mary-flavored chips, at least the reactions there were strong enough to stir a sort of morbid curiosity. Miles is really going to have to step it up if he wants to make his mark in this business.