The Adventures of Fatrick: Uhhh, Do Drinks Count For This? If So – Pepsi Shiso
September 2, 2009
Don’t want to read hundreds of words about a carbonated beverage? Go to the bottom for the short version!
Long version: Known as “perilla” in China, shiso is an herb that Wikipedia says is a member of the mint family. It’s said to be loaded with all sorts of vitamins and capable of bolstering one’s immune system. Japan likes shiso (also called Japanese basil, thanks Wiki contributors!), so much that they use it in sushi and throw it on pizza. That might seem a little strange at first, but realize these people aren’t afraid to crack open an egg and pour the contents onto the middle of a freshly-baked pizza. So actually pretty tame.
Of course, someone had to find a crazy use for the shiso herb in this country. But what’s the weirdest way to use it? I’ve got it – lets incorporate it into a Pepsi product.
In the same fashion Mountain Dew used to release “extreme” flavors like “Code Red” and “Livewire,” Pepsi Japan unveils a new summer flavor every, uh, summer. But instead of invoking images of both international espionage and mad halfpipe skills, the Pepsi summer drinks aim at being simply disgusting. Two years ago I first discovered these seasonal abominations courtesy of Pepsi Cucumber – I desperately wanted a bottle of this drink, but couldn’t find a way to smuggle a bottle of the stuff over to America. The next year rolled out Blue Hawaii Pepsi – a mix of pineapple and lemon – that sounds slightly less atrocious. And now, shiso.
I’m extremely fortunate (cursed?) to have found Pepsi Shiso. When I arrived in Japan a month ago, convenience stores kept stocks up. Older JET participants who had tasted the drink described as “very……interesting” and “it’s just vile.” I resisted buying it. As the lines in my calendar ran deeper into the month, Pepsi Shiso vanished. I had seemingly missed my chance at drinking a gross-ass drink. Until luck shined down on me today – at the one yen store. The equivalent of a Dollar Tree in America, except on steroids, one yen stores stock all sorts of toys, kitchen goods and food – including drinks discontinued/potentially banned in the rest of the country. I didn’t miss out on Pepsi Shiso – I snapped up a bottle.
The liquid inside the bottle matches the color of Slimer, the loveable ghoul from Ghostbusters (who shills for a much more appealing drink). Alternatively, if you took a bottle and dunked it into the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day, you’d probably pull off a perfect match. Twist off the cap and you’re greeted with a strong detergent-like smell with a few Mentos added in for an extra punch.
The taste – is absolutely bewildering. I don’t know how to explain it (though I’m sure if you’ve eaten shiso, just imagine that taste). The initial few sips don’t taste bad – and, dare I say it, goes down kinda tasty, albeit with a sting – and sort of resembles a sharper Sierra Mist. But then the aftertaste kicks in and…well, imagine you are walking in a forest and find a pile of green leaves piled up on the trail. You get the urge to just start scarfin’ the leaves down for some reason. And you can’t stop picking up leaves and shoving them into your mouth. That’s what Pepsi Shiso starts tasting like after a bit – nature. Nature is great to look at, not nearly as enjoyable to drink.
Once Pepsi Shiso goes from “this isn’t so bad” to “Appalachian Trail” it dawns on you how slowly it takes to drink this. It feels like I’ve taken a hundred sips, yet I’ve only just hit the top of the “p” in Pepsi. This is a soda you can’t chug, can’t even take regular swigs of even. Remember the part in the latest Harry Potter movie where Dumbeldore had to down some sort of mysterious liquid but it was slowly killing him. It could have been Pepsi Shiso. Or bleach. Not a huge difference between the two.
I want to meet a person who enjoys drinking Pepsi Shiso. I want to ask them what about this they like. I want to ask them how an herb that’s apparently really good for you can be transformed into a bottled traumatic experience. I want to know what it’s like not to feel. And, most importantly, I want to know how Pepsi Cucumber tasted, because I’m still stupid enough to want to try it.
Short version: Pepsi Shiso? More like Pepsi so-so shit. Zing!
(Japanese Fun Fact #12 – Sticking with sodas, they don’t sell a single diet soda over here. If you’re wondering why I didn’t immediately get on the next plane back to America, it’s because they do sell Coke Zero and Pepsi Nex, which are basically diet colas. The word “diet” just doesn’t appear on any drinks…just “zero.”)