Often when I'm writing a beverage review, I like to dive into the history of the product to provide a better context of the marketing and positioning. Little did I know that when I started exploring MacFuddy Pepper Elixir that McDonald's wasn't really a fan.
This drink from Orca Beverage Soda Works comes in a 12 oz glass bottle with a historically-styled label that resembles the medicinal concoctions peddled by traveling salesmen in the late 19th century. Notes on the packaging include "Infused with Luck", "12 oz for 24 hours of Favorable Outcomes", and "Cures Timidness and Satisfies the Daring." Orca is an interesting company in that it started producing its own products out of its location in Mukilteo, WA, but then got heavily involved in also making glass-bottled version of other licensed brands. For example, when we reviewed Bubble Up years ago, that glass version was made by Orca, even though the brand itself is owned by Dad's Root Beer.
In the case of MacFuddy, it appears that this was a brand that was originally available in the early 1940s, and per Orca, was a "regional favorite in the Michigan area and surrounding states." I'm guessing that the original ownership of the brand eventually lapsed, because it wasn't until 2011 that Orca applied for a trademark on the name (#85242703). Curiously, McDonald's then filed an opposition to this trademark application, basically arguing that the use of "Mac" might be confusing with their existing brands. Talk about trademark bullying! As it currently stands according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Orca's application is still "opposition pending" as of late last year.
But enough of the legal drama. What about the drink itself? As you can tell from the photo, this is a dark beverage with a reddish tint. After unscrewing the cap, you are greeted with a deep black cherry scent. I'm going to say it right now… this drink is a lot like Dr Pepper, but so much better. It's Pepper with black cherry overtones, but not quite like Cherry Dr Pepper. The real fun comes in the aftertaste, where the actual use of pepper in the ingredients produces a burn in the back of your throat, much like really good ginger beer. Carbonation is strong, with a strong "burp factor." The use of cane sugar produces a clean, sweet flavor. This one is differently a winner!
MacFuddy Pepper Elixir
Carbonated water, cane sugar, natural and artificial flavors, carmel color, extracts of dark cherry, pepper, vanilla, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate (a preservative)
A 12 oz bottle contains 150 calories, 50 mg sodium, and 41 g carbs (41 g sugars)