Zima Returns for a Blast of Coors History and Nostalgia

Is $8.99 too much to pay for a taste of youthful indiscretion and dormitory carpets?
Is $8.99 too much to pay for a taste of youthful indiscretion and dormitory carpets? Mark Antonation
The shame I felt as I walked across the parking lot of Argonaut Liquors made me wish I'd requested a paper bag. Instead, I toted the blue, black and silver six-pack emblazoned with the word "Zima" openly from the check-out counter to my car. Embarrassment turned to pride as I looked around at other shoppers with their silly craft beers and overhyped artisan spirits. Who were they to look at me askance, scorn in their eyes? After all, catching an afternoon buzz needn't be fraught with self-esteem building or credibility bolstering.

Zima is the perfect beverage for the self-confident, the uninhibited, the drinkers who just don't give a fuck about what you think of their choices.

Zima, 2018? No, you didn't just stumble across an archived story from the 1990s. MillerCoors has just unleashed its citrus malt beverage, first launched in 1993 (when the company was simply Coors) but discontinued in the U.S. in 2008, in a limited release for a public that didn't even know it was craving the uncannily clear refresher.
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Is $8.99 too much to pay for a taste of youthful indiscretion and dormitory carpets?
Mark Antonation
Although the company has been manufacturing Zima on the regular for its Japanese market, last year MillerCoors gave it a short test run in North America for the first time in nearly ten years. Now it's back to add a spritzy note to pool parties, backyard cookouts and other summer festivities.

You may look back on Zima as nothing more than a ’90s party foul or the source of a lame drinking story that begins with "Remember that time I drank all that Zima and..."

But the 5 percent ABV beverage was big business back when Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump vied for movie-ticket sales (though you know your money went to Dumb and Dumber) and "I Saw the Sign" by Ace of Base topped Billboard's Hot 100. Coors sold 1.3 million barrels of Zima in 1994. If that's a difficult figure to visualize, consider that all of Colorado's craft brewers combined to produce 1,523,204 barrels of beer in 2016.

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A vintage six-pack of Zima decorates the bar at Cochino. This one's not for sale.
Mark Antonation
This year's marketing strategy is directed squarely at those looking for a sip of nostalgia. "Zima Z2K" brings back the exciting and dangerous times surrounding Y2K: Would every computer system in the world crash? Would we experience the Singularity? Does my black leather car coat make me look more Matrix or Russian mafia? The brand's website also warns that Zima availability will be extremely limited this time around: "The end of ZIMA is near...again. Prepare your fridge-bunkers now!"

So I held my six-pack of fluted bottles high like Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything as I strode confidently into the office to hand out samples, hoping to elicit feedback from newcomers to the beverage as well as those who enjoyed (or loathed) it the first time around more than twenty years ago.

"It doesn't smell like anything," one twenty-something remarked. Another noted the similarity between Zima and a bottle of Sprite that's just shy of going flat.

One colleague, just off her fortieth birthday, was a little more reflective: "It tastes exactly the way I remember it. I used to drink this all the time."

Some refused to sample it altogether, while others sipped timidly from shot-sized pours, pointing out a vaguely chemical aftertaste or a complete absence of anything other than cloying sweetness.

"If I admit that I like it, does that make me trashy?" someone asked. (Yes, it does, in case you're wondering — but we're not here to judge.)

Later that night, Johnny Ballen, owner of Cochino Taco at 3495 South Downing in Englewood, admits that he just got off the phone with his liquor rep to secure a couple of cases for his restaurant. He says they'll be delivered on Wednesday, May 16, for customers looking for a lemon-lime blast from the past. Ballen carried Zima last summer, too, and says he loves the nostalgic aspect of popping a bottle, because "everyone has a little Kip Winger in them."

Looking for zomething different to wet your whistle this summer? In addition to Argonaut (700 East Colfax Avenue), a few other local liquor stores are stocking Zima: Plug your age (to prove you're 21, not 41) and zip code into Zima's store locator to find a six-pack near you.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation

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