"My obsession with old Kool-Aid packets takes me to strange places."
June 14, 2019 7:55 AM   Subscribe

When you’re in the mood for Kool-Aid, you can walk into a grocery store and chose from about 20 different flavor packets all priced at about a quarter a piece. However, if you’re in the market for some quintessentially classic, high-grade, “Oh Yeah!”-era Kool-Aid (YouTube), you’ll have to enter the fruit-flavored underbelly of one the most intriguing subsets in the world of pop culture food enthusiasts: the black market of vintage Kool-Aid packet collectors. Will Hodge writes for The Takeout, interviewing Matt of Dinosaur Dracula (previously), who is a fan of old and rare Kool-Aid flavors, going so far as to mix and drink really old Kool-Aid.
posted by filthy light thief (29 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
If you want to experiment with making your own Kool-Aid, you could make some with Jell-O powder (Instructables), or for a natural variety, try peppermint tea with Hibiscus flowers and Stevia leaves (Deep Roots at Home).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:58 AM on June 14, 2019

This is neat. Wouldn't have expected to find any interest in old Kool-Aid packets, but I do remember how excited I was to find another color hidden behind one of the more boring ones at the grocery store when I was dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid a year or so ago. (Took a fun class provided by my local public library on how to do it!)
posted by asperity at 8:01 AM on June 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I bought some Sharkleberry Fin on a whim in the grocery store a couple months ago. I'm pleased to report that it's just as delicious as I remembered.
posted by backwards compatible at 8:02 AM on June 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

95% of you have no interest in Kool-Aid, but you do love the idea of misguided strangers eating 25-year-old food.

This all seems to be unsweetened flavor packets, so probably nothing terribly dangerous, right? This is more like using that weird old jar of, I dunno, mustard powder in the spice rack that you don't remember buying but you've clearly had for at least ten years now.
posted by asperity at 8:06 AM on June 14, 2019

I watch a YouTube show called "Cereal Time," which covers cereals from the past and present, and the host collects cereal boxes that sometimes contain old cereal in them. It's pretty interesting to see how much effect time has on foodstuffs, especially foods with sugar in them. I suspect the powdered, unsweetened Kool-Aid doesn't get as rank.
posted by xingcat at 8:44 AM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

These links are amazing, thanks so much for posting! As a child, I called up the 1-800 number on the back of the Kool-Aid packet to ask why they discontinued my favorite flavor, Purplesaurus Rex. I got the customer service rep to admit that the flavor was “a combination of grape and lemonade flavors,” but she wouldn’t tell me the ratio. Further experimentation at home never resulted in the desired taste/color... I wouldn’t pay the $195 stated in the article, but 10-year-old me is glad that there are other people who would.
posted by Maarika at 9:06 AM on June 14, 2019 [9 favorites]

This discussion reminds me of the guy on YouTube who reviews military rations. Here's one from Italy with an cordial (yes, alcohol for drinking) in the coffee kit. Saluti!
posted by exogenous at 9:10 AM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I miss Sunshine Punch Kool-Aid. My parents and I used to mix Kool-Aid and club soda to make spritzers, and Sunshine Punch was far and away the best flavor for that.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:18 AM on June 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

(Mountain Berry Punch was also quite good. I see that the Dinosaur Dracula dude has a lengthy post on that one but I don't know if he ever mentions Sunshine Punch.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:20 AM on June 14, 2019

I am very glad to know this is a thing. BOTW indeed.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:20 AM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

This month I did a project dying yarn with Kool-Aid with my kid's class and I have to tell you,these 6 to 9 year old Montessori kids had no idea what Kool-Aid was.
posted by bq at 9:24 AM on June 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

exogenous: This discussion reminds me of the guy on YouTube who reviews military rations.

Previously: "It tastes like mothballs and old library books." :)
posted by filthy light thief at 9:45 AM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I went. I saw. I bought the shirt.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:45 AM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Bonus links: How Kool-Aid, a 90-Year-Old Summertime Icon, Has Stayed So Popular for So Long -- Fruity, fun and affordable since the Great Depression (Robert Klara for Adweek, July 25, 2017)

Kool-Aid Pickles Taste Test (GoodMythicalMORE) -- making and tasting various Koolickles (video with awkward trancript, plus links to tasting of various discontinued cereals).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:49 AM on June 14, 2019

It is a miracle of modern municipal water fluoridation systems that my brothers and I made it to adulthood with all of our teeth intact - I literally only drank Kool-Aid (and the required glass of milk at dinner) growing up, and it was full-strength, 1 cup of sugar per pitcher Kool Aid.

My husband grew up drinking watered-down fruit juice because his mom was concerned about sugar, whereas my pediatric nurse mother outsourced all household Kool Aid preparation to me at probably age 7. Now I am a mother, and my child will only reluctantly drink one flavor of juice box at school and will decline any non-water beverage at home.
posted by Maarika at 9:52 AM on June 14, 2019

Unsweetened Kool-Aid stopped appearing on grocery shelves in Canada in 2011 or so when Kraft bought the brand. With the advent of liquid drink concentrates even the store brands have disappeared. Not that I should still be drinking it, but the 1970s childhood nostalgia factor and ability to customize the sweetness is missed (yes, I know there are online sellers importing it from the US at a mark up, but it's not the same).
posted by acroyear at 9:52 AM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

My brothers and I also only drank KoolAid as kids, but when the price of sugar spiked in the mid-1970s, my mother started buying liquid saccharine to use to sweeten it instead of white sugar. The too-sweet-with-a-weird-aftertaste flavor of saccharine-sweetened KoolAid still comes vividly to mind even now.
posted by briank at 9:59 AM on June 14, 2019

> it was full-strength, 1 cup of sugar per pitcher Kool Aid

Luxury! I don't know if I've ever had full-strength; I've only had it as bug juice, from one of those big coolers.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:48 AM on June 14, 2019

I was never a big Kool aid fan, but my college housemate used to bring home the big packets from the cafeteria, just known as "red stuff" and "orange stuff." Mix with any clear liquor for typical collegial fun.

I buy unsweetened Kool aid now to use as flavoring in my homemade marshmallows.
posted by Marky at 11:28 AM on June 14, 2019

Actual Kool-Aid! What a luxury! We got "the purple stuff." ("Sugar, water, and...of course...purple.")

I am genuinely amazed that C-rations guy hasn't died yet.
posted by praemunire at 11:44 AM on June 14, 2019

I am genuinely amazed that C-rations guy hasn't died yet.

The thread on the guy that filthy light thief linked includes this anecdote from fixedgear, whom I'm also worried for: "a display case in a conference room in this building (we have a meeting scheduled in there later) that has a Vietnam era can of peaches that's pretty swollen, we take bets on when it might explode or start leaking"

Reminds me of the message on the Claymore mines from the same era - FRONT TOWARD ENEMY
posted by exogenous at 12:16 PM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Never Been Thawed.
posted by bongo_x at 2:22 PM on June 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

This guy wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter to Kraft asking if he should drink a 60-year-old packet of Kool-Aid he has, and their response was equally humorous.
posted by Quasimike at 6:06 PM on June 14, 2019

Oh, I have a gallon size ziplock bag about half full of Kool-Aid packages from ages ago. Scary Blackberry "Ghoul-Aid", Pink Flamingo, Mountain Berry Punch... A bunch of other extinct flavors, too. Every once in a while I pull one out and mix it up to drink. It's not like that powder in the foil-lined pouches is going to spoil very easily.

I've thought about going in pursuit of some of my faves in the vintage packet community but have never really done anything with those thoughts. I don't drink that much sugary drink stuff these days. But it might be amusing to round out a collection and serve them out during a long party weekend or something.

Great post! Thanks!
posted by hippybear at 6:14 PM on June 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

My grandma's go-to party punch recipe called for one of those ephemeral eighties berry flavors for some reason and my whole childhood I remember having to go to the store before a party and get whatever weird short-lived berry Kool-aid happened to be in season and hope it would work.
posted by potrzebie at 7:05 PM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I sent away box tops and got a Kool-Aid Man shaped pitcher, from which I drank cherry Kool-Aid for several years, until I realized this was like 30,000 calories a day.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:34 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

About 30 years ago, before I ever heard of an Arnold Palmer, Kool-Aid made a Lemonade Iced Tea flavor. It was delicious, and I was sad to see it discontinued. As an adult I found Kool-Aid too sweet so I would dilute it to 50% water. Much more refreshing.
posted by Daddy-O at 1:49 AM on June 16, 2019

I have a packet of that Lemonade Iced Tea Kool-Aid in my stash. It's one of those "oh man, if I do then I can't probably ever again" packets.
posted by hippybear at 10:18 AM on June 16, 2019

acroyear: Unsweetened Kool-Aid stopped appearing on grocery shelves in Canada in 2011 or so when Kraft bought the brand.

Thanks for the info. I was kind of wondering why I stopped seeing it (not that I've had it in years, but just assumed it was still a thing), but the unsweetened* stuff was the only kind my parents would get.

*Added sugar levels would, of course, vary depending whether it was my parents or us kids making it.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:27 PM on June 20, 2019

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