Over the last few years, the alcohol industry has seen an explosion of innovation and creativity. Following the rise (some would say onslaught) of hard seltzer brands to the successful spiking of everything from lemonade to iced tea to coconut water, it was truly only a matter of time before alcohol infiltrated the frozen food aisle. Emerging from somewhere between champagne gummy bears and pouring vodka over sno-cones comes an invention we didn’t know we desperately needed — the boozy pop. Reminiscent of our blue-tongued camp days, these boozy pops look almost identical to the frozen tubes of colorful sugar-ice we were obsessed with as children — but with more of a shaved-ice feel and less of a solid-block-of-ice-that-might-break-your-teeth situation.
Of course, as soon as I saw that boozy pops existed, I started seeing them all over the place. Everyone from Truly to the Vanderpump boys have dipped their toes in frozen booze, so I gathered my team (and special guest, Refinery29 Editor In Chief, Simone Oliver!!) and the two biggest ticket booze pops (Bud Light Icicles and Natural Light’s Naturdays Icicles) and pitted them against each other. May the best booze pop.
We started off with the Naturdays Icicles, which, unfortunately, I couldn’t taste because they have hops in them and I’m allergic. Thankfully, my wife graciously subbed in for me here. We had two flavors from Natty Light — Pineapple Lemonade and Strawberry Lemonade. The pops are two ounces each (just a bit bigger than a standard shot) and 8 percent ABV. We started with pineapple, and it was initially a hit. Lifestyle Editor Olivia Harrison noted their strength relative to their size, and Lifestyle Writer Michelle Santiago Cortés, who thought it tasted like “a frozen shot,” pointed out that pineapple can sometimes make drinks (or pops) taste more alcoholic, possibly because of how difficult it is to make synthetic pineapple taste authentic. EIC Simone Oliver was into it, but wasn’t sure if that’s because they were actually good or if “her expectations were so far in the ground.” Either way, she admitted, “I can’t say I don’t like it.”
The Strawberry Lemonade flavor on the other hand was a split crowd. My wife liked it and most of us thought it tasted the most like the ice-pops from our childhood, but for Simone, it was a no-go. “My strawberry lemonade bar is high, and this isn’t it,” Simone said. Senior Wellness Writer Molly Longman said she would “give them to a frenemy at a party,” but never buy them for herself.
When it came to overall ranking (on a scale of zero to 10, zero is “throw in the trash,” five is “would have at a party,” 10 is “would buy for myself” the Naturdays Icicles sat around an average of 4. Some of our team were in favor of throwing the Strawberry Lemonade in the trash, some said they’d pick them up at a beach party, and Simone was in the camp of “if the Drizly order is late, I’ll definitely have two of the Pineapple Lemonade while we wait.” Olivia, on the other hand, was not quiet about her distaste. “These are bad,” she said. “They taste like sunscreen and alcohol and aren’t frozen enough.”
Bud Light Icicles
Next up was Bud Light Icicles which took the whole nostalgia element to the next level with flavors from our past such as Blue Raspberry, Cherry Limeade, and the mysterious Summer Ice.
We started with the Blue Raspberry and it was a hit and a half. “This was my flavor as a kid!” Michelle exclaimed, and Simone was right there with her: “This reminds me of the ice cream truck.” They tasted deeply evocative of our childhoods, (meaning, super delicious). And, at only 5 percent ABV, tasted distinctly less boozy than the other ones we’d tried.
Then we tried Cherry Limeade and the team could not get enough. Senior News Editor Leora Yashari said she doesn’t usually like cherry-flavored things, but really enjoyed these; and Olivia, who loves anything cherry limeade, said they were great, but pointed out they actually tasted like cherry more than lime. I piped in to say it tasted like cherry yogurt, in a good way. Michelle then compared it to a frozen Gogurt which put me in a time machine back to the after-school snacks I’d have in 5th grade. Meanwhile, Molly said they reminded her of her younger years when she would only eat peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and cherry Icees from Burger King. So, fair to say the nostalgia was strong with this one.
Finally, we tried the Summer Ice mystery flavor — again a very 2005 move to make the consumer guess the flavor. Wellness Writer Lizzy Gulino immediately clocked it as tasting like Capri Sun, with other members of the team saying it tasted like everything from “vaguely lemon” to “pink cotton candy” to “just sugar.” Simone, who “does not get down with mystery flavors,” was surprised by how much she liked this one, saying: “ I don’t know what it is, but it’s my favorite.”
All three of the flavors were pretty damn sweet, so having more than one full pop in a sitting felt hangover-inducing, but I could totally see myself having one while floating in my Funboy yacht on a lake. And I wasn’t alone when it came to my love. Director of Lifestyle, Wellbeing, & Social Issues Kristin Iversen gave these the highest ranking she’s ever given any alcoholic drink I’ve made her try — a nine: “This is really a testament to Budweiser; I love the flavor ‘blue,’ and I would definitely buy them for a ‘90s nostalgia night.” And the more we talked about them, the more the love grew. “I’m such a simp for these,” Michelle said. “Ten out of 10 across the board. They really played on my nostalgia and it worked. I’m already planning parties around these. The Bud Light Icicles are a stroke of genius.”
Of the two, Bud Light Icicles were clearly the winner. They made us want to plan parties and enjoy a hot summer afternoon. The Natty Light pops on the other hand, well, once we had the Bud Light pops, our descriptions of them went from the lukewarm “not great” to “vile” pretty quickly. Michelle put it succinctly, “If I’m going to put something this synthetic into my body, I don’t want to taste the alcohol. I want it to be smooth and enjoyable like the Bud Light pops.” Admittedly, we did all end up feeling a little weird/hungover/sugared out within a few hours of the tasting, but in the end, we agreed boozy pops were not a bust.