Hell is empty, all the #DewGaritas are here
On the liquified marketing gimmicks being hustled down our willing gullets by The Brands™
Please sustain independent journalism about drinking in America with a subscription:
I depend on readers to underwrite the labor that goes into producing this newsletter. Thanks for your support!—Dave.
Both of my brothers used to be on Twitter but deleted their accounts (not in the meme way, but for real) on the platform because they were hoping to maybe make themselves a little less sad on a daily basis.
One of my brothers calls horrifying news stories that he used to see on the timeline as “eye-stabbers” because, you know, they’re the types of stories that make you want to stab your eyes out. He didn’t want to do that, so he got rid of Twitter. Of course you don’t need Twitter to be miserable, there are plenty of other ways bathe yourself in the grotesques du jour of late capitalism, but he is right that @Jack’s very-bad website is absolutely full of eye-stabbers.
Where was I going with this? Oh right:
Behold the DewGarita, something that exists on Twitter (and maybe even not on Twitter, who knows?) It is a nifty new collaboration between “new buds” Mountain Dew and Red Lobster, by which of course I mean it’s a precision-engineered marketing ploy-cum-branded beverage borne in the bowels of some “boutique” agency’s collaboration base on Airtable and laser-focused on getting commodity shellfish-seekers to glug away some bucks out in Stripmallia. Fun stuff, I think!
The DewGarita is the latest in a long line of liquified marketing gimmicks hustled down our willing gullets by The Brands™, and while I refuse to plumb this cursed and consumptive genre at depth, two recent entries come to mind:
So you see, it’s very much a thing, and like hiring for bullshit jobs, brands do it to get money and attention from “sad, sad end users who volunteer to be taken advantage of” (to lift a phrase from Willy Stalley’s 2011 blog about McRibs and hog arbitrage on The Awl, now-defunct.)
Beyond that, what is there to say about the DewGarita? Ah god, so much.
As I was scrolling through the eye-stabbers today, its electrifying hue stopped my thumb mid-swipe and I was reminded of the absolutely insane thing that a Mountain Dew executive told BuzzFeed News back in 2015. This was way back, before the “pivot to video” and the endless layoffs and of course the rise of full-blown mask-off American fascism, and stuff. Back when blogs were still a thing and occasionally even fun.
Here is what the Mountain Dew executive told BuzzFeed News back then when reporter Venessa Wong asked him to answer the simple question of what color is this terrific fructose runoff you suits foist upon the masses in a grotesque exchange, dammit tell me?! (She said it much more professionally than that, which is probably why she is now a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News and I am writing this newsletter.)
Anyway sorry for the build-up but I didn’t want to drop this on you all at once—“this” being the executive’s answer to Venessa Wong’s question use an adjective to describe the color of Mountain Dew?—because I’m worried you might develop some brain bleeding when you read the quote. For all I know my brain has been bleeding ever since five years ago when I read the quote. Anyway are you ready for it (no you are not), here it comes, from 2015 (emphasis mine):
"We don't try to say what color the product is internally," Greg Lyons, vice president of marketing at Mountain Dew, told BuzzFeed News. He called it "Mountain Dew color," which really didn't push things forward much. We pressed further.
"Neon," he eventually said, reluctantly.
"That's if you're forcing me to describe it. 'Mountain Dew color' is in my words. If you force me to use an adjective, that's what I'd use. But I'd prefer, if you write about it, it to be Mountain Dew color. Because there's not really a color we call it."
There’s probably some smart joke I could make about how George Orwell was wary of a future of government doublespeak, but actually corporations are the doublespeakers now, but actually times-two the corporations *are* the government in this failing empire, and they don’t really see color an—oh man there’s probably another joke I can make about massive corporations like PepsiCo “not seeing color,” too. But to play it straight like a Good Boi of Journalism, I will simply say that that was a really weird thing for Mister Soda Man to have told Venessa Wong.
Smash-cut to 2020 and we all know what color the DewGarita is. It’s Mountain Dew-colored, because it’s made with Mountain Dew and that’s what color Mountain Dew is. Do you see? Of course you do. The Dew: do it.
Let’s talk about what’s in this hashtag DewGarita, shall we? I would call it an “unholy mess” or a “unctuous discharge” or something, but as a PR pro recently told me about shitting on beverage brands’ craven marketing gags:
“Unless [a critic] is like ‘they're killing babies!,’ they’ll flag [the negative headline] as neutral, or even positive, because it's still getting the word out.”
I can’t say for sure the DewGarita is killing babies in an alley behind your local Red Lobster, so I am just going to call it a “thing” and sally forth.
In this thing Mountain Dew, of course. It’d better have tequila, too, because if not someone is going to class-action Red Lobster just like they class-actioned Bud Light Lime-a-rita for not actually being liquor-based, which, they have a point. Anyway I’m guessing there are some other margarita-oriented ingredients in there too, but I can’t confirm because unfortunately:
Let me tell you, folks: I did not want to sign up for a free account on Adweek dot com just to get owned by a warmed-over press release spawned from another agency’s Slack workspace but I did it for you people, because Friends of Fingers are the only audience I have these days besides my fiancée and she has been tired of my shit for literal years at this point. I simply can’t afford to lose the interest of you guys/gals/nonbinary pals. I’ll do anything up to and including signing up for a free account on Adweek dot com, where I learned this about the contents of the DewGarita from editor David Griner (emphasis again mine):
So what’s actually in this drink? We don’t specifically know.
The brands told Adweek only that it’s a top-secret recipe made from Mountain Dew, tequila and “a few other special ingredients.”
As for the rim dusting? While at first glance it might appear to be Doritos dust, which would be absolute perfection, we’re told it’s simply a colorful salt.
The Dew Garita is reported to be the first in a series of menu collaborations between the restaurant chain and PepsiCo’s brands, including Frito-Lay and Quaker.
Ahahaha it’s the same routine all over again, there is nothing new under the sun, except for the DewGarita. You think this shit is a game?! It is most certainly not. What color is the that salt on the rim? It’s salt-colored binch, no more questions!
Red Lobster executive Nelson Griffin helpfully added “The Dew Garita is the first delicious taste of the types of inspired menu items to come,” which made me wonder if those words ever actually crossed Nelson Griffin’s lips or they were drafted for him by a PR person or if there even is a Nelson Griffin at Red Lobster or he’s more of a Pepe Silvia type of fellow, which is to say no fellow at all.
But let’s assume this thing real and not simply a brand asset optimized for “omni-channel social,” or whatever. My fellow newsletter editor Ryan Broderick made another very good point about the DewGarita that’s been bugging me. Here’s what he wrote in Garbage Day, a very-great newsletter about “having fun online”:
We talk a lot about how America in 2020 is a lot like the movie Idiocracy, but I’m not sure even Idiocracy would have included a “going to Red Lobster amid the deadly pandemic to drink the Mountain Dew booze” plot point.
See, unlike Taco Bell’s Jalapeño Noir or French’s Mustard Beer, a Red Lobster bar staffer, presumably making a tipped minimum wage is probably going to have to crank out DewGaritas under threat of contracting the literal plague from the aforementioned endless-shrimp wanters. Maybe they’re premixed, but still: pouring alien-green marketing drank for customers who showed up because they saw a tweet from one of their favorite sugar-water brands is some next-level alienation from the product of one’s labor.
And yes, I know it’s no fun to make it about LABOR when we’re all just trying to have some lighthearted diabetic fun in the electric Kool-Aid cocktail glow of cirrhotic corporate synergy. But it is very bleak and worth taking note of, your Fingers editor thinks, that the DewGarita is designed to get people in the door and into close quarters with staff who—and I’m just speculating here—are going to get neither credit nor compensation for selling this new corn-syrup slurry to the masses, and are just going to have to shut up and do (Dew) it.
A ~*viral moment~* is all well and good for the folks at corporate but the rank-and-file staffers have to actually accommodate the resultant demand, and that is not fun even absent an airborne plague. For example, dealing with the teeming hordes of chicken-sandwich demanders that descended on Popeye’s back in 2019 sounded absolutely harrowing. One worker told Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell (emphasis mine):
It just doesn’t make sense. We are busting our butts and breaking our backs and someone threatens to shoot us because we ran out of something. That doesn’t scare me, but imagine what that’s like for an 18-year-old kid who works here? It scares the life out of them. It’s a hard pill to swallow. And all over some sandwich.
That was over a year ago, before we ever even thought about a pandemic like this, back when the worst thing fast-food workers had to worry about was… actually a lot of other bad shit but you get the point. Maybe—and I’m just spitballing here—but maybe before concocting new and more deranged items to monetize social-media novelties companies should consider what “success” means when you’re the one actually making the donuts. Or in this case, the DewGaritas.
The bottom shelf
I tried to do an open comment thread in last week’s newsletter but I forgot to enable comments for the first few hours after sending it. God I am dumb. If you tried to comment and couldn’t figure it out, that was probably why. Sorry! We’ll do another one soon, promise.
Your fearless Fingers editor was on a recent episode of The Sota Pod to talk about my reporting on the union drive going down at Surly Brewing Company. The podcast is about beer and hockey, and though we only really talked about beer, right at the end I pointed out that Youngblood featuring Rob Lowe (1986) is basically softcore ice erotica (ice-rotica?) and that Shock Top : craft beer gateways :: Mighty Ducks trilogy : hockey cinema gateways. Both observations seemed to amuse them, so maybe I’ll be invited back!
I’ve already sent out a bunch of anti-racist beer stickers to Friends of Fingers across the country, and will be tallying up the donation totals soon. I was stoked to see that Virginia Thomas (the Chicago bar-owner I purchased them from in the first place) was able to raise around $1,200 for BeerKulture on her own. We’re not quite at that level yet, but you can help us get there: if you want me to mail you one of these beauties, get yours today, here’s how.