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Turkey & Gravy Soda is back after a decade. We tried it so you don't have to

The reality is much more diabolical than the sugared turkey flavor I expected.

As a registered dietitian, I often tell patients that even if they don't do anything else I tell them to do, they should cut way back on soda — even diet. When I do have it myself, I want it to be an experience. With real cane sugar and heavy reliance on natural flavors, Jones Soda Co. is a satisfying indulgence. It is commemorating its 25th anniversary by re-releasing the original, the granddaddy of the shock-treat genre — Turkey and Gravy Soda — after more than a decade of being off shelves.

It took a few days to track it down so I could round out a review of their more advisable flavors, but I got my hands on a bottle. (All 35,000 bottles in its limited-edition run have already sold out.) I've been of two minds: How bad could it be? And, how could there be anything worse?

Curious? Read on!

But first, the backup singers, which I tried at a rate of one a day so as not to overdose:

Strawberry Lime

Jones' Strawberry Lime SodaCourtesy Heather Martin

In choosing flavors for this piece, I couldn't resist a last taste of summer. The scent is bubble-gummy, tart, confidently berry. Britney, freed. Although Jones often runs a few grams lower in sugar than average, this one has a really sweet hit. It is Strawberrypalooza, but two-dimensional, and I'm not surprised to see both natural and artificial flavors listed. I am lime's biggest fan, once waiting in line for 17 hours just to see it wave while deplaning at Houston International. Zest to Kill Tour. Still wear the T-shirt. I'm disappointed to catch a similar glimpse with this flavor. There's acidity, sure, but it goes by so fast, who's to say whether it was green? This is a pleasant but garden-variety soda, and some of the plants in the garden are polythene.

Suggested pairing: In a car with the windows down, salted tortilla chips, wedge of fresh lime shoved right into the bottle.

Diet Black Cherry

Jones' Diet Black Cherry SodaCourtesy Heather Martin

Cherry is a favorite flavor of mine as long as it's natural, but otherwise I'm staunchly opposed. Modern maraschinos, for example, have been literally stripped of their color, flavor, nutrients and joy, and then soaked for an extended time in sugar, red dye, the bitter tears of a thousand fallen angels and pencil shavings (citation needed). They belong in one beverage and one beverage only: the Shirley Temple. Other than that, they belong in Malmö, Sweden, at the Disgusting Food Museum. It's no small feat to get the charm of real cherry without tipping into either glacé or cough-drop territory, but they've done it. The aroma in particular is deep in the delicious cherry pits, with an almost-cola overtone. I briefly considered using it as perfume. It opts for sucralose, which lingers itself but sadly kicks the cherry to the curb in a hurry. For a diet soda, though, this is uncommonly good.

Suggested pairing: Black pepper chicken, vanilla ice cream float, or the first two weeks of Resolution Season 2022.

Root Beer

Jones' Root Beer SodaCourtesy Heather Martin

Perfection of a classic is where a niche bottler can really shine. You may have heard that root beer was originally made from actual roots — either sarsaparilla or sassafras. It's always going to be sarsaparilla these days, or a facsimile thereof, since it turns out sassafras is a little bit, well, poisonous (oops!). There's no standard recipe for root beer, but this one lists only natural flavors, and it shows. Friendly herbal ripples lap at the shores of awareness. It blows the gentlest licorice-adjacent breeze. It's not too sweet, so there's plenty of room for the roots, and just a touch of wintergreen. It's a cheery kind of medicinal, invigorating but comforting, like the earth itself. Just lovely. One of the most sophisticated root beers you're ever going to meet.

Suggested pairing: Barbecue chicken, loaded potatoes, live music, denim jacket.

Turkey and Gravy

Jones' Turkey and Gravy SodaCourtesy Heather Martin

Well, I knew this day would come. There was discussion about whether turkey soda should be served warm like turkey or chilled like soda, or perhaps room temperature like a fine cognac, but in the end I'm opting for chilled — it's 99% soda and hopefully no more than 1% turkey, right? I have not looked at the ingredients so that I have no preconceived ideas. I love the rest of the label design, though, and I'm relieved that there doesn't seem to be any residue at the bottom of the bottle.

First, the aroma. Wow.

Maybe you have a strong sense memory of Thanksgiving with your family, the smell of roasting turkey permeating the whole house. Perhaps there's a little garlic in your traditional recipe. Maybe some butter or wine. Possibly rosemary or thyme. You'd know the exact scent in an instant, wouldn't you? It's amazing how those things stick in our minds. Hold on tightly to it, because that's the closest you're going to get to it for the duration of this review.

The aroma is barely there, and I'm grateful. What is there is lightly herbal, savory.

I stare into the cup. It stares back. Time slows to a crawl. The icemaker whirrs in the background, mocking me, dispensing clean, un-turkey'd water into the tray.

A sip.

First impression: carbonation. So far, so good. Next, disconcertingly salty. Faint sweetness, but it's blunting and persistent — clearly diet. Now, the herbal flavor I smelled first. I think it's thyme. I can tell it hates me as much as I hate it. The animosity is 3D, with Technicolor and surround sound. Determined to prevail, I take another swig to see whether I can detect turkey. There is something fleeting, furtive, like the ghost of a turkey at the corner of my eye. A spectral roastedness … and it's gone. I can't resist looking at the label any longer; I need to make sure it doesn't use the word "beaks" or "ectoplasm."

Thankfully, it does not, but since ingredients are listed by volume, it explains why the salt was so prominent — it's the second ingredient! With 240 milligrams of sodium, it has more than a serving of Doritos.

The reality is much more diabolical than the sugared turkey flavor I expected. If you took the broth from roasting the turkey, herbed the living daylights out of it, sweetened it just enough to sow discontent, and carbonated it instead of turning it into gravy, it would be a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea. And also it would be pretty close to this, the pinnacle of imprudent upheaval in food science. I feel profound respect. It takes a genius to conceive of something this counter to the entirety of human existence, and Jones Soda was the first. Humbled, I pay homage to the King of Mayhem, Carbonated.

Suggested pairing: The ashes of faith in a just universe.

My Jones sconesCourtesy Heather Martin

I don't like to waste things, so I set about trying to figure out what one could reasonably do with seven eighths of a bottle of anarchy. I made soda water scones — aka Jones Scones™ — which were delightfully fluffy and technically edible, and dilled glazed carrots, which were actually pretty good. I did not add salt.

We still have half the bottle.

Plus, we have the second bottle that came in the sampling box. Drinking the rest is out of the question. There's only one solution: It belongs in a museum. Specifically, the Disgusting Food Museum in Malmö, Sweden. I hope it will be very happy there.

Alone. Unopened.

Waiting.