Review: Arizona Joe DiMaggio Joltin’ Joe Sparkling Espresso – Black

What’s another athlete on a Arizona can, right?

After having success with Arnold Palmer (Half & Half Iced Tea/Lemonade) and Jack Nicklaus (Golden Bear Lemonade), Arizona Beverage reaches into the baseball archives to tap Joe DiMaggio as they jump into the canned coffee world. Their first product in this new line is Arizona Joe DiMaggio Joltin’ Joe Sparkling Espresso – Black.

Arizona Joe DiMaggio Joltin' Joe Sparkling Espresso - Black

Arizona Joe DiMaggio Joltin’ Joe Sparkling Espresso – Black

When Arizona first announced this beverage back in August, they really laid on the spin regarding DiMaggio: “AriZona is an all-American company and was founded on the principles of perseverance and hard work. These are principles which DiMaggio embodied, along with grace, humility and the promise of the American Dream. The Joltin’ Joe drink will evoke DiMaggio’s timeless legacy – not only his greatness on the field but the way he symbolized the potential for greatness we all yearn to see in ourselves.”

Like the other licensed images that Arizona uses on their products, the athlete owns the trademarks, not Arizona. In this case DiMaggio’s licensing company — DiMaggio, LLC — facilitates the “Joltin’ Joe” brand.  The trademark was first created back in 2006 for general products (#77010992) such as toys, clothing, posters, sporting goods, and even restaurants. The beverage trademarks were created in March 2011, but just now are being put in use. Contrast this with the speed of the Nicklaus Companies, LLC put the wheels in motion for their lemonade launch with Arizona — trademarks were filed in January 2012, product announced in March 2012. Curiously, two beverage-related “Joltin’ Joe” trademarks are secured. An obvious one for coffee products (#85257272), as well as one for energy drinks and fruit juices (#85257312). Might be an indicator of what else we might see from this brand.

The choice of photography on the Joltin’ Joe cans is interesting, because the primary image doesn’t exactly seem like a very flattering photo of Joe DiMaggio. In my opinion, it’s a rather creepy approach to sell a coffee drink. Doing some research, we discovered that Arizona is using the photo of DiMaggio as originally pictured on his 1948 Blue Tint Baseball Card, as seen below.

1948 Joe DiMaggio Blue Tint Baseball Card

1948 Joe DiMaggio Blue Tint Baseball Card
(Source: Used by Permission)

If you compare the baseball card photograph against the version used on the can, you’ll see some changes have been made  (Kudos to BevNet’s Ray Latif for first discovering these modifications). Take a look at the logo on DiMaggio’s hat. Per the original baseball card, you’ll see that the hat featured a New York Yankees logo. However, the version implemented on the Arizona beverage has been modified to showcase “USA” instead, most likely due to Major League Baseball licensing issues. The uniform itself also seems to have lost some of famed pin-striping.

Note "USA" on Joe's cap

Note “USA” on Joe’s cap

Something I also found curious had to do with how this drink was initially described by various press releases. For example, on August 30, Marketwire published a release put out by Joe DiMaggio, LLC that talked about the new drink, but with a heavy focus on the player himself. You’ll laugh at the humorous explanation regarding why “USA” on the cap: “Joltin’ Joe Sparkling Espresso comes in a 16-ounce aluminum can featuring images of Joe and historical headlines including his famous 56-game hitting streak, still considered one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of sport — and a record unbroken to this day. The can features Joe DiMaggio with USA on his baseball cap. ‘The New York Yankees are part of Joe DiMaggio’s DNA and legendary history in baseball; today, Joe plays for America‘.”

Um, OK.

Arizona pushed out their own release on August 30 using PR Newswire. Of note is this line: “Joltin’ Joe contains 80 mg of caffeine, RebA – a natural sweetener derived from the stevia leaf, and only 50 calories per 8-ounce serving.” Why is this curious? Because the release mentions RebA, which is stevia, but the product I’m holding in my hand doesn’t contain it. In fact, if you go back to the PR Newswire story now, you’ll note that it has been modified to remove the reference to RebA: “Joltin’ Joe contains 80 mg of caffeine and only 45 calories per 8-ounce serving.” The 45 calories number is correct and this beverage is now sweetened with sucralose. It’s interesting to see the retroactive change in sweetener. Some media outlets still have the original version of the story, while others have the corrected version. Nothing scandalous by any means, but as someone who follows beverage releases, this caught my eye.

All the releases mention that the product is sold in a 16 oz can. Actual size printed on the product? 15.5 oz. The primary color scheme of the can is black, with callouts on the rim noting that this drink contains “Natural Energy.” Other callouts near the vertically-written Arizona logo include “No Preservatives”, “No Artificial Color”, and “No Artificial Flavor.” So what exactly is in this stuff? Let’s take a look at the ingredient list:

Arizona Joe DiMaggio Joltin’ Joe Sparkling Espresso – Black
Premium brewed coffee, sugar, natural flavor, brown sugar, honey, lactic acid, sucralose, natural caffeine.

A 15.5 oz can contains 87.2 calories, 19.4 mg sodium, and 23.3 g carbs (21.3 sugars)

So that’s that basic background surrounding this drink. Let’s jump into the taste! When you first open the can, you a greeted with a coffee scent common for most drinks of this type. It’s a deep smell, but not overpowering. In some ways, bubbles tickle your nose. Wait, bubbles? In case you haven’t figured it out from the use of the word “Sparkling” in the title, Joltin’ Joe is a carbonated coffee beverage. It’s cola-like in color, light brown with a carbonated, foamy head.

Let me say right off that carbonated coffee is a bit odd. There’s a bubbly, tangy base that’s put into conflict with a bold, coffee bean experience. It’s quite different from other coffee energy drinks we’ve reviewed, such as the Starbucks Doubleshot Energy+Coffee lineup. Upon first sip, the coffee flavor is subtle, but then builds and finishes with a very rich aftertaste that hangs with you for quite a while. Arizona is launching Joltin’ Joe with a single flavor — Black — though it’s still quite sweet (it should be with the inclusion of sugar, brown sugar, and honey). The flavor itself is bold, and not really creamy (those who like their creamer with a bit of coffee thrown in will probably be turned off). The use of artificial sweetener sucrolose helps to cut the calorie count, but I did detect hints of it in the aftertaste. I should not that coffee isn’t my most favorite beverage, so java enthusiasts may have quite a different experience. I really did find the cold coffee + carbonation to make for quite an unexpected taste overall. While there was no cola element present, the mixture reminded me of Coke Blak for a split second.  (Hopefully for Arizona’s sake, it their beverage doesn’t meet the same fate!)

With some of the can-based messaging noting that Joltin’ Joe contains “Natural Energy,” you are probably wondering how much caffeine is in this stuff. While it’s not detailed numerically in the Nutrition Facts, it is noted that the product contains a “caffeine equivalent to 2 cups of coffee.” What exactly does that mean? Probably the best indicator is referring back to the product press release, which notes a can contains 80 mg of caffeine. Doing the math, that breaks down to 5.16 mg/oz. For comparison, regular Mountain Dew contains 4.5 mg/oz., Red Bull 9.64 mg/oz., and Monster Energy 10.0 mg/oz. So it’s not that much more than an average soft drink.

Overall, Joltin’ Joe is a non-traditional carbonated spin on a coffee energy drink, which helps set it apart from competitors. Unique hall-of-famer baseball branding, combined with the low-calorie aspect help make it attractive to both coffee enthusiasts and curious onlookers. Arizona seems to have a magic touch with new beverage lines as of late, and I anticipate that we’ll see growth of this franchise as well.

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Full Disclosure: This beverage was provided compliments of Arizona Beverage Company