Gen Z, you might want to clear out for a second. It’s about to get real old and crusty in here.
Let’s take a trip back to 2003. Artists like Sean Paul and Murphy Lee are dominating the music charts. Missy Elliott is the coolest person on Earth (still true). The Matrix Reloaded has a bunch of people (wrongly) thinking The Matrix didn’t need a sequel. And most relevant to us today, Mountain Dew’s orange-flavored LiveWire hits store shelves, providing a refreshing citrus taste during a confounding time in American culture.
Those of us who were roughly in the Mountain Dew target demographic in the early aughts are now 20 years older and might need something with a little more edge. That’s where Hard Mountain Dew LiveWire comes in. New this month, it’s exactly what you think it is: LiveWire with 5 percent ABV sold exclusively in 24-oz cans. By that description alone, you probably already know if you’re in or not.
Last year, I tasted Hard Mountain Dew and saw the face of God. This time, I think God and I might need to keep some distance between us.
A shotgun blast of citrus
Let’s get some nutritional housekeeping out of the way first. A single can of Hard LiveWire comes in at 200 calories and has zero sugar like the other Hard Dew varieties. There’s also no caffeine. (As much as we might like it to, pre-ban Four Loko isn’t coming back.)
Alright, so it’s marginally healthier than you might’ve expected, but how does it actually taste? Well, at least according to my memories from two decades ago, Hard LiveWire tastes pretty close to soft LiveWire. The first swig out of one of these sizable cans is like being hit in the face by a sledgehammer that’s both sour and sweet, as citrus tends to be. The last thing I’d call Hard LiveWire is “flavorless.”
Is it basically souped up orange soda? Sure. Do I care? Not really.
Truthfully, LiveWire was never my favorite version of Dew, as it’s pretty hard to beat Code Red. But it’s been faithfully recreated here with only a very tiny hint of alcohol that you might detect after all the other flavors have washed away. This was also true of the launch flavors of Hard Dew last year; they shockingly do not taste alcoholic at all.
The first swig out of one of these sizable cans is like being hit in the face by a sledgehammer that’s both sour and sweet, as citrus tends to be.
This is an impressive achievement. The rush of millennial nostalgia even led me down the rabbit hole of trawling through 2003 hits playlists on Spotify. Sometimes you have to spend a few minutes thinking about Uncle Kracker and Trapt to center yourself, you know? Sure, that technically has nothing to do with Hard LiveWire, but it also has everything to do with it.
Can a beverage be too good?
By conventional standards, Hard LiveWire is a rousing success. It’s a cold blast of citrus flavor that, depending on your age, might bring you back to a different time — an era where orange soda once reigned supreme. There’s just one major problem: These servings are way too large.
Unlike the 12-oz cans from a year ago, LiveWire only comes in a 24-oz size. I respect the value proposition, as someone who generally likes beverages to be large, but it’s an issue here. By the time I got halfway through one can, I was ready for it to be over. If it had been the same size as the other flavor’s cans, I would’ve walked away happy.
…Hard Mountain Dew LiveWire is too much of a good thing.
Instead, I had to fight my way through the rest, slowly resenting the drink more and more as time went on. This is obviously a matter of personal taste and tolerance. Some might find it nice to nurse a can of Hard LiveWire for an hour, while others (such as myself) prefer to guzzle down beverages with haste. Hard LiveWire is not compatible with the latter lifestyle.
Between the unreasonable size restriction, expertly crafted citrus flavor, and near-lack of alcohol aftertaste, Hard Mountain Dew LiveWire is too much of a good thing. For the first half of that can, I was totally on board. After that point, I never wanted to drink it again. Your mileage may vary.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to figure out how to explain 3 Doors Down to my grandkids someday.