Revisiting the sickly-sweet specter of Boone’s Farm

Can Boone's Farm transcend the sticky memories of late adolescence? Should it?

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Photo of Boone's Farm Sunshine Pink flavor
Photo: Lillian Stone

The last time I quaffed the sugary tang of Boone’s Farm, I wound up trashing the front yard of some vile fraternity house while wearing a giant foam cowboy hat. Afterward, I cried to my freshman year roommate. She soothed me with a common refrain: “Blame it on the Boone’s.”

Boone’s was always to blame. Boone’s made me steal a value bucket of Tide Pods out of a star soccer player’s bedroom. Boone’s made me streak past my high school vice principal’s house wearing nothing but a pair of hot pink rain boots. Boone’s made me attend a “Sexy Animals”-themed Halloween party dressed as magician Roy Horn (partner of Siegfried) and run laps around the keg begging someone to maul me.

If your brain on drugs looks like a fried egg, your brain on Boone’s Farm must look like the remains of an egg that someone chucked out of a moving vehicle. Boone’s is not a high-proof beverage: most of the flavors sit around 4% ABV. But to a lightweight like me with a vicious sweet tooth, Boone’s spelled disaster again and again. When that first gleaming pink droplet quivered on the tip of my tongue, one thing was certain: I was about to go hog wild.

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If you’re somehow unfamiliar, Boone’s Farm is a so-called “wine” produced by the E. & J. Gallo Winery. Reference.com explains that the product started as an apple wine in 1961. The brand has since expanded into a full line of fruit-flavored wines and malt beverages. The ethos, however, remains roughly the same: as the E. & J. Gallo website explains, Boone’s Farm offers an “uncomplicated, refreshing fruit taste.” Perfect for 17-year-old me, a Missouri gal whose idea of a classy tipple often involved the words “Screamin’ Blue Razz.”

When I was a freshman in college, Boone’s was easy to find. It was cheap—a bottle went for about $4—and available at all of the run-down gas stations near campus, fake ID or no fake ID. If you drank it fast enough, you could score a pretty solid buzz, albeit one with consequences (see examples listed above).

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But now, I’m almost 30. I pay taxes. I own a hatchback. And the idea of my other collegiate beverages of choice—Aristocrat vodka, Pink Lemonade Burnett’s, 12-packs of Rolling Rock—all seem pretty stomach-churning in hindsight. I still have a sweet tooth, but I like to think my sensibilities are at least a smidge more refined. With this in mind, I asked myself: what would Boone’s Farm taste like to my adult palate? I pitched the idea to my team, eliciting a series of gags. That sealed the deal: I had to pay a visit to my old friend Boone’s.

The quest

Weirdly, I had a hell of a time finding a bottle of Boone’s. (I should point out that my boyfriend hasn’t heard of Boone’s Farm and keeps calling it “Daniel Boone,” which makes me think the product might not as ubiquitous as I assumed.) Still, I tried two grocery stores, a Walgreens, and a gas station before I found a single bottle of Fuzzy Navel (my youthful flavor of choice) at a liquor store near my neighborhood. Unfortunately, I dropped the Fuzzy Navel on my kitchen floor and shattered the bottle before I could conduct my taste test. I ultimately had to order another flavor—Sunshine Pink, a viable alternative—via Drizly, a booze delivery app.

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The prize

Bottle of Boone's Farm next to glass full of pink liquid
See? Quite pink
Photo: Lillian Stone
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Upon receiving my Boone’s, I took a good look at the bottle. I cleared my throat nervously, eyeing the deceptively tasteful serif label. “BOONE’S FARM SUNSHINE PINK,” I read aloud. “Sure to get you twisty enough to tongue-kiss a stranger on the sidewalk.”

Sunshine Pink is billed as a “flavored malt beverage” that “combines the smooth, sweet taste of Boone’s Farm with grapefruit and bright lemon notes to create the experience of sipping pink lemonade on a hot summer day.” And it is very pink—probably a few shades darker than Millennial Pink. I’d describe the color as Chipped Tooth While Dancing On Ping-Pong Table Pink. It’s Millennial Pink’s troubled cousin.

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The scent

After my preliminary inspection, I dove into the sensory realm. Once I opened the bottle, my kitchen filled with a startlingly familiar scent. I expected the smell of Boone’s Farm to transport me back to a sticky-floored dorm room, but that wasn’t quite right. After further consideration, I realized Boone’s Farm Sunshine Pink didn’t smell like college—it smelled exactly like Sunny D. It took me a while to figure out the scent, probably because the liquid is pink, not Sunny D yellow. Like Sunny D, Boone’s Farm contains approximately zero percent juice. Unlike Sunny D, Boone’s Farm is not allowed at youth soccer games. Keep this in mind.

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The taste

At this point, I told myself that if I went ahead and took a swig, I could have a Fudgsicle after. I started out by pouring myself a single shot of the stuff, decanting it into a spotty wine glass before pouring a few millimeters into a shot glass (fitting, I thought). I scrunched my nose up, held my breath, and tossed about one-eighth of a cup of Boone’s Farm into my waiting maw. I braced myself, waiting for the Ghost of Debauchery Past to appear and whisk me back to the night I sat drunk in my dorm parking lot, wildly honking my “La Cucaracha” car horn until a campus cop told me to scram.

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Turns out, not only does Boone’s Farm Sunshine Pink smell exactly like Sunny D—it also tastes like Sunny D, just a bit more astringent. It’s sweet as hell, but the flavor didn’t linger. It was, like the label promised, uncomplicated. Was it refreshing? No, not really. As a malt beverage, Boone’s is best served cold, but it’s not something I’d want to knock back on a sweaty day. I’d compare the effect to Smirnoff Ice: sticky-sweet and wildly hangover-inducing, yes, but it’s not going to make you gag. I looked around, screwed the shitty plastic top back onto the bottle, and chucked the thing in my fridge before someone could see me.

The verdict

Frankly, I was prepared to spiral after revisiting my Boone’s days. I anticipated an absolutely brutal concoction that would leave me on the floor clutching my head and mourning the time I got dumped by a young man who had Animal from The Muppet Show tattooed across his lower back. But like that breakup, Boone’s Farm didn’t sting nearly as bad as I expected. I spent so much time building it up in my head, equating it with my 17-year-old dirtbag persona, that I imagined it tasting much worse than it actually did.

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Will I buy it again? No, especially since I ended up having to spend $40 on a booze delivery order to get my hands on it. Is it good? Also no, maybe because I can now legally drink better, less syrupy concoctions in public. But was it the foulest thing I’ve ever tasted? No. In fact, after my initial sip, I mixed it with some coconut La Croix and had a fabulous time.

Like many other relics of college—the food, the stained twin XL mattress, the startling maturation of your prefrontal cortex—Boone’s Farm isn’t great, but it also won’t kill you. While revisiting Boone’s didn’t exactly knock me on my beige adult ass, it did provoke a bit of introspection. Quite simply, I can’t blame stuff on the Boone’s anymore—and that’s fine. I’m an adult now, and I’m responsible for my own actions. Which is why I’ll blame any future misdeeds on an $8 glass of Costco Ménage à Trois, thank you very much.