There are no Sonics in my immediate vicinity. The closest outpost of the fast food chain is about an hour’s drive away. Yet for weeks I have been subjected to ads for Sonic’s new Sour Patch Kids® Slush Float — an advertising technique that, as you may know, is Sonic’s dirty trick. “Here's why you see Sonic ads even when there isn't a location anywhere near where you live,” explained Insider in 2017, and I do not care what the answer is; I only care that I need the Sour Patch Kids® Slush Float. And I will have it.
In its ads, the slush float looks like a child’s illicit dream. It is bright pink with multicolored sour candy flecks, topped with a generous coil of vanilla ice cream that extends from the upper quarter of the cup to several inches past its lip, itself topped with larger multicolored chunks of massacred sour candy.
In a press release for the new slushie, a Sonic representative calls it “refreshing” and “craveable”; a drink that “provides an exciting new twist” by “incorporating the iconic Sour Patch Kids candy.” Upon viewing the slushie, each of us might instead describe it as “horrifying” and “of an unnatural shade,” one which may “provide an exciting new twist” by “unleashing heightened ADHD symptoms and severe migraines.” But as a sour candy fan who once received from Santa a shoebox filled to the brim with loose Sour Patch Kids, I will reserve all judgment until the slushie is mine.
I searched for Sonic locations on a recent drive through Pennsylvania and found one that was not very far off-route. I arrived with an open mind and a sense of hope. While the Sour Patch Kids® Slush Float was not included in the restaurant’s “drive-in” ordering stations (where a customer can place an order and wait to have it delivered to their parked car), it was advertised on the drive-thru menu, so there I went.
As you can see, the ad tells you the slush float is made with: “SOUR PATCH KIDS® Watermelon Flavor Slush; Real Ice Cream; SOUR PATCH KIDS® Candy Bitz.” Yum. I took the occasion to also order jalapeño poppers (known in Sonic-speak as “Ched ‘R’ Peppers”), a snack option that I encourage all other fast-food providers to adopt. Problems began to arise almost immediately: “We don’t have the ice cream for the slush float, so I can just give you the slushie,” said the disembodied drive-thru voice, “and, ah, we’re out of Ched ‘R’ Peppers.” Well, fuck me. I took him up on just the slush and settled for tater tots.
At the window, the employee let me down gently. “I’m sorry, I — I don’t have the, ah, Sour Patch Kids crap.” Evidently I would be having no part of the Sour Patch Kids slush float. He asked if I would instead like the Nerds® slushie. “No,” I said. “Yeah, I understand,” he said, and granted me my tater tots for free.
My boyfriend Chris, with whom I was driving but have not mentioned until this point, encouraged me not to give up. “You can search on the map and find another Sonic on the route?” he offered. I decided that no, I did not want to. Ten minutes later, I decided that yes, I did want to, and I found one in New Jersey.
Getting there, as directed by Google Maps, required driving directly past the terminals of the Newark airport, a navigational reality that did not please Chris, although I would like to remind you that the idea to find a second Sonic was his. After exiting the airport and getting briefly lost in New Jersey, we spotted it: a Sonic with the longest drive-thru line I have ever seen in my life. Of course, at this point, we were all upset with Chris for begging to find another Sonic just so I could acquire the disgusting joke drink that I knew with 100 percent certainty I was going to hate. But relationships are about compromise.
I will allow you the decency of fast-forwarding the narrative through the nearly half-hour long wait in the drive-thru line. Suffice to say there were several moments of one person begging another person to please just drive away from the line, and the other person resolutely stating that he did not drive through New Jersey to not get the stupid drink.
Finally, we were at the speaker. “Do you have the um — what’s it called?” Chris asked me. I replied calmly, without a hint of irritation, “SOUR PATCH KIDS® SLUSH FLOAT!!!” (Size: large.) (Calories: 740.) Miraculously, the voice said yes.
As we drove away I noticed that I had been given what the first Sonic had promised and failed to deliver: just the slushie.
It seems I will never experience the Sour Patch Kids® Slush Float the way God intended, which is with Real Ice Cream and SOUR PATCH KIDS® Candy Bitz. Does this version exist at any location? Is it all a ruse? It is not for me to know. I would have to make do with the watermelon Sour Patch Kids slush alone.
The taste of the slush was startling. A condensed and heightened version of the syrupy taste that exists at the bottom of a popsicle, its watermelon did not mirror that of Sour Patch Kids watermelon, but instead that of Warheads watermelon — a taste that is less “I’m enjoying a candy” and more “I'm poisoning myself (for fun).” The experience of drinking the candied sourness is odd; not sour enough to provide the pleasurable jolt that sour candy-lovers crave, but sour enough to make it seem like something is wrong. Like maybe they put too much syrup in this batch, or the battery from the slushie machine has begun leaking into the mixture at a rapid clip.
On a positive note, the colorful flecks passed from straw to esophagus without fuss. I thought I might have to chew them — which I was perversely looking forward to — but they blended in unnoticeably with the drink’s icy chunks. I took several long pulls, experiencing each with the same shock as the first. “OOOHF,” I said. “EEYYUUCH.”
Once home, I experienced full-body weakness and slept from 5 p.m until the next morning. It occurred to me that this might be the promised Float aspect, as I felt myself Sour Patch Kids® Slush Floating out of my corporeal form and astral projecting into a nightmare in which I was convinced the drink had somehow given me COVID.
Alas it did not. It merely made me very ill otherwise. And for that reason I must give it the rating of: