Kylie Jenner’s Vodka Sodas Should Have Kendall’s Tequila Shaking

“Obviously no added sugar.” That phrase, printed on the box for Kylie Jenner’s new brand of canned vodka sodas, Sprinter, perplexed me. Obviously no added sugar? First of all, Ms. Jenner, do not assume you know what I am thinking. Being spoken to as if I am a child makes me irate; I worked hard for these forehead lines and dark circles! Sure, I may have a stunning, youthful glow despite them, but that doesn’t mean I deserve to be scolded for a conclusion I haven’t even made in the first place. I picked up this crate of eight canned vodka sodas two seconds ago, and already I’m getting a playful slap on the wrist? If it weren’t my job to taste these things, the box would’ve gone back on the shelf.

Alright, that’s a lie. I have been dying to get my hands on some Sprinters since Jenner announced the brand earlier this month. If there is one thing I’ve always admired about the Kardashian-Jenner oligarchs, it’s their keen eyes for branding. Whether the products they make are good is of…some concern to me, of course—look at the article you’re reading!—but I’m far more fascinated by how those things will be marketed. Take, for instance, Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS shapewear and undergarment brand: I don’t wear shapewear, but if I did, I’d be inclined to buy it from the woman who made a cheeky, irreverent ad about some of her bras having visibly protruding nipples.

I love the textured glass bottles of Kourtney Kardashian’s line of supplements and vitamins. I adore the fact that Khloé Kardashian had to incorporate her denim line (that is definitely not a money laundering front) into an ad she did for migraine pills. I worship the ghastly label of Kendall Jenner’s equally frightful tequila, simply because the design is so memorable. Whether the Kardashians and Jenners could be considered “artists” in the traditional sense is up for heavy debate, but they are certainly sculptors of their own relevancy. Fame is an art form, just like painting, music, or, well, I suppose even writing. I’ll have to delicately caress my reflection in a mirror to process that, but I’ll do it later.

Sprinter is another case of fantastic Kardashian-Jenner branding—even the “obviously no added sugar” line couldn’t deter me for long. But this time around, the vibes crafted by Sprinter’s gorgeously designed packaging are matched by the cocktail’s taste, formulation, and honestly, how the can feels just to hold. Unlike 818 Tequila, which writer Olivia Harrison, in a piece for The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, once correctly noted is too sweet, Sprinter is nicely balanced and easy to drink. Move over Kendall, because your little sister’s alcohol might just be nipping at your heels.

The best thing about Sprinter has nothing to do with the drink’s taste or its look. Rather, the team’s most ingenious move was rolling out this drink quickly and widely, making sure it would be easily available for anyone willing to try it when it officially hit the market March 21. (The same can’t be said for a certain pop star, whose delicious spritzes only recently landed in New York, about nine months after their initial launch!) A few taps on the official site’s store locator quickly pointed me in the direction of a liquor store seven subway stops away; little did they know I’d crawl through broken glass to get a sip of Sprinter.

In a store, it’s easy to see that the primary difference between Sprinter and other canned cocktails isn’t its ingredients—which boast real fruit juice, premium vodka, sparkling water, and obviously no added sugar—but its design. The packaging is chic and colorful, while admirably simple. A set of pastel hues on each can match the tone of its corresponding fruit flavor. Those shades are complemented by bold, darker text in the same color family to make the drink easily identifiable, even across the room. This shit basically glows in the dark! The “I” in “Sprinter” is dotted with a shooting star, giving the can a signature symbol by which it can differentiate itself from others on the market.

Again, this is fabulous branding. I would so much rather drink this than any variation of a White Claw, which I find to be the mark of the beast. That’s just how my brain works! I’m not saying it’s healthy or well-measured, only that I am an aesthete who values visual characteristics as much as I do quality construction.

An eight-pack of Sprinter cans.

An eight-pack of Sprinter doesn’t run cheap.

Coleman Spilde/The Daily Beast

Speaking of the Big Claw, which still keeps its satanic grip over twentysomethings all over the world, let’s compare the two brands on a base level before we get into taste. Your average eight-pack of White Claws, either vodka sodas or the standard spiked seltzers (which, here’s a flash, are basically the same thing), will run you somewhere between $15 and $20, depending on where you live. Sprinter is priced about the same, but the eight-pack I bought cost me about $25 before tax. That’s not exactly cheap, but there’s no accounting for taste, and you will look 16 times hotter holding a Sprinter than you will gripping a White Claw. Both the White Claw vodka sodas and the Sprinters are 100 calories each and 4.5% alcohol by volume, so you might as well choose the one that will make other people feel bad about themselves while you sip mysteriously in the corner of a party, making them say, “Who’s that girl/boy/really stylish Weimaraner?”

As for the taste, Sprinter has the Claws beat there too. The brand’s first wave of flavors includes black cherry, lime, peach, and grapefruit—pretty standard stuff in the realm of canned cocktails. I tried the peach first, and was immediately shot back in time and had my spine cracked against a concrete wall, recalling the dark ages spent consuming Bud Lite Peach-A-Ritas at the age of 20. The scent profile is nearly identical, but the taste of the Sprinter is, expectedly, far more subtle than the malt liquor sludge that shaved a few years off my life. The drink is peachy, but not insistently so. It’s hard to make a decent flavored beverage out of any stone fruits, so to drink this without retching is already a point in Jenner’s favor.

Next up were the lime and the grapefruit. The lime is one of the best of the bunch, just acidic enough to avoid becoming cloying. Lime is, excuse my pun, low-hanging fruit when it comes to beverages: It’s one of the easiest flavors to get right. But unlike a White Claw, you can really taste the real lime juice in the Sprinter. My best palate comparison for this brand would be to Spindrift sparkling waters, which are also made with real juice and obviously no added sugar. I was, however, not so taken with the grapefruit Sprinter. Grapefruit is one of my very favorite foods—I love things that are so sour and acidic that they feel punishing—so I’m highly critical. But the juice-to-vodka-to-water ratio is slightly off, leaving it with a basic, forgettable flavor.

Finally, there’s the black cherry Sprinter, which I just cracked this morning at 11 a.m. after realizing I had forgotten to try it last night. Worry not: I had one little sip and threw the rest in my fridge! Black cherry is the premier White Claw flavor, and Jenner’s brand just blew them out of the water. This one is tart, a little sweet, and has a delightful, undeniable cherry taste that doesn’t stick in your throat like an artificial cherry flavor, which I’m pretty sure is the same ingredient they use in cough medicine. Compared to the famous, beloved White Claw version, which I find chemically and bland, Sprinter is the undeniable winner.

As much as I enjoy Sprinter, though, I still find myself far more enamored by its packaging. A line of text on the back of the can tells consumers to “sprint to the good times,” which seems like…a bad sentiment to put on a can of alcohol—even a low-alcohol beverage! But I can look past that because of the blurb that sits right below it. “Say hello to Sprinter: A bold and juicy mix of real fruit juice, premium vodka, and sparkling water,” the can reads. (Kylie Jenner does not have to adhere to the conventions of AP style, so she and the team at Sprinter did not capitalize the “A” after the colon.) “It’s your plus one for fun. Your can for every plan. Your new main squeeze.”

Coleman with cans of Sprinter

Coleman with his cans of Sprinter.

Coleman Spilde/The Daily Beast

Maybe I’m an easy mark, and perhaps the Kardashian-Jenner family is wickedly good at keeping their talons stuck in my spleen, but I find that utterly delightful. It’s saucy and brash! Suddenly, “obviously no added sugar” makes a little more sense. It’s a playful rib, not a harsh chide. Sprinter is silly and unserious; it sort of has to be as a Kylie Jenner passion project. At least she knows exactly what people want from America’s royal family, which is to be in on the joke. Crafting a tasty drink is nice, but doing it with a little self-awareness will shoot you into the stratosphere, and Jenner has crafted her shooting star-branded beverage for the ride.

This post was originally published on Daily Beast

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