Mountain Dew, as a brand, drink and cultural phenomenon has always lived on the edge between extreme, absurd and cursed for seemingly no other reason than to tap into minds like mine. I try my best to avoid soda, but when a new flavor of Mountain Dew, like their latest psy-op, “Flamin’ Hot,” pops up, I cave. It’s hard not to for something as cursed yet on-brand as this neon-red abomination.
What started as a habit to “get as much sugar and caffeine as possible,” (wow, 13-year-old me really had it out for myself) soon became an ironic drink of choice. After all, at that age, I was the stereotypical middle schooler who spent his time drinking Mountain Dew, eating Doritos and cursing out his opponents in the Call of Duty du jour.
Eventually, I inexplicably started to like it—though not as much as the myriad of multicolored, mouthwatering flavors like Voltage, Code Red or Baja Blast. I think there are a lot of people like me who’ve caught the Mountain Dew bug and will try any new flavor that pops up. Now that a good chunk of Gen Z is old enough to drink and is too busy with hard seltzers and canned cocktails, PepsiCo undoubtedly uses the citrus-y hooks its bold soda has in us to maintain some repeat customers.
And when you’re as obsessed with mixology as I am, the Mountain Dew brain worms have their occasional benefits. In fact, the best Moscow Mule I’ve had wasn’t made with ginger beer but with the “Gingerbread Snapd” edition of the ambiguously citrus-y soda, chili-flavored vodka and the requisite lime.
Surely those same principles apply to a number of Mountain Dew flavors, but none feel so desperate for a cocktail as the extreme soda’s latest abominable flavor: Flamin’ Hot. Unfortunately, fans of the snack chips under the same brand are going to be disappointed; Flamin’ Hot Mountain Dew’s hardly even tepid hot. That said, its syrupy combination of vague citrus and a hint of capsaicin makes for a great mixer and cocktail ingredient. So I’ve dreamed up some drinks that make use of this iconic and much-maligned soda.
Before we get to shaking, let’s get everything into place. Find a glass of your choice, preferably a pint glass, and rim it in Tajín. If you don’t know how to do this, first, quarter one of your limes and rub one of the quarters up against the rim of the glass. Then, put some of the Tajín on a plate and twist the lime-covered part of the rim in the chili-lime spice. It should be coating the rim of your glass. If it isn’t, try putting more Tajín on your plate or more lime juice on the glass’ rim.
Now that everything’s ready to pour, you just need to make the drink:
In your shaker, combine:
The juice of 1 lime
2 ounces of tequila
1 ounce of triple sec or Cointreau
2 ounces of watermelon juice (I used Trader Joe’s watermelon and cucumber juice)
Shake with plenty of ice and pour into your Tajín-rimmed glass. Top the rest off with some Flamin’ Hot Mountain Dew, garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy!
On the first sip, at least without the Tajín, this drink’s reminiscent of a really cheap margarita in all the best ways. The booze disappears underneath all the fruitness and sweetness from the juices, triple sec and Mountain Dew. That’s not to say it’s overwhelmingly sweet, though; the flavors work together incredibly well and they only deepen once you get the Tajín involved. The watermelon and lime’s freshness complement the smokiness and bite from the reposado and Tajín. It’s a really simple, drinkable cocktail that just about anyone can enjoy.
These next two drinks are a bit more involved since they both use Flamin’ Hot Mountain Dew syrup. It’s pretty easy to make, but it does involve getting out some cookware and spending some time watching a pot boil. To get the perfect ratio of syrup, you’ll want to reduce the soda to about one-sixth the volume it started at. You can go lower to get a more concentrated syrup, but really, it’s totally fine to eyeball it. The Flamin’ Hot Mountain Dew really isn’t that spicy, so if you’re looking for a way to add a little extra kick to your syrup, follow the steps above, but once the liquid’s reduced by about half, add a few slices of your favorite spicy peppers. Taste the syrup every few minutes, and take the peppers out once the syrup’s seasoned to your liking.
This drink’s significantly easier to throw together than the last. In your blender, add:
2 ounces of Flamin’ Hot Mountain Dew syrup
3 ounces of gin
1 ounce of Triple Sec
2 cups of frozen watermelon
A handful of ice
The juice of 1 lime
Blend ingredients. Once everything in your blender has reached the same consistency, pour the contents into a hurricane glass, garnish with some pineapple slices, maybe a drink umbrella or anything you think belongs on this drink. Enjoy with a straw!
This drink is refreshing like a bite of watermelon on a summer day. In every sense, aside from the notable lack of rum in this drink, this is a tiki cocktail to a T: It’s fruity and sweet, deceptively strong, incredibly drinkable and makes me wish my apartment had a porch to sip it on. The only part of the gin that shows up here is its botanicals, which really help to bolster this drink’s summery, refreshing taste. You could probably substitute the gin for white rum (makes sense, given this is more or less a tiki drink), but then you run the risk of the rum’s stronger flavors overpowering the relatively delicate watermelon.
In fact, on the first sip, you could’ve told me that I was drinking a watermelon smoothie, and I would’ve believed you. The lime and triple sec do a great job of adding a slight citrus-y background to the drink that never overpowers the watermelon, but they play incredibly well with the gin’s botanicals. The only truly disappointing thing about this drink is that the Flamin’ Hot Mountain Dew is almost nonexistent here; you certainly get the sweetness, but most of the cursed drink’s flavor disappears behind the citrus.
This last drink’s short and sweet. Really the hardest part of this drink to actually make is its garnish.
In your shaker, combine:
The juice of 1 lime
¾ ounce Flamin’ Hot Syrup
1 ½ ounce white rum
Shake well with ice, strain the contents into a coupe glass and garnish with a lime twist.
At first blush, this drink is pretty unmistakably a classic daiquiri. Like with the other drinks, any hint of “Flamin’ Hot” plays second fiddle until the finish. The fact that the syrup is made with Mountain Dew actually makes this daiquiri less desirable than a classic daiquiri; the artificial, syrup-y, cloyingly sweet lime flavor is almost as prominent as the fresh lime. If you could imagine a daiquiri made from concentrate, this is probably what you’d get.
That’s not to say it’s a terrible drink. After all, you could mix nearly anything with lime and Plantation 3 Stars, and it’d still be great. Ultimately, this comes down to preference and balance. In a typical daiquiri, the syrup acts as a diluting and balancing agent between the tart lime and rich rum. Here, it’s an agent of chaos; the extra lime giveth and the extra lime taketh away. A few seconds after you set the drink down and the citrus siege lets up, you’ll pick up the faintest burn from the Flamin’ Hot syrup. It’s not remotely overwhelming or even particularly strong. It’s just a nice, understated heat. I personally found myself wishing for just a bit more, but in a drink like this, having a flavor that takes on such a long evolution is well worth the sacrifice of spice.