Take the Milwaukee Challenge: Robinade vs. Calypso Natural Lemonade
With summer poised to embark on its seasonal takeover, the OnMilwaukee.com editorial staff has been thinking about all the little things that make the coming months some of the best of the year: festivals at the Lakefront, baseball at Miller Park and fresh lemonade on those days when it's not the heat that gets you, but the humidity.
Sure, lemonades come a dime a dozen, and the national varieties are practically endless, but did you know that two commercial brands have roots right here in Brew City?
In this edition of our Milwaukee Challenge series, we pit two local lemonades against each other: Robinade vs. Calypso.
Robinade, of course, launched in 2008 as a collaboration between Tom Boehland of Madison's Citrus Systems and former Brewers star and Hall of Famer Robin Yount. A portion of Robinade's proceeds are donated to the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) Fund and, yes, Yount and his wife Michelle contributed to the flavor of the product, rather than simply endorsing it in name alone. You can read more about Robinade here.
Calypso, on the other hand, is a bit less high-profile, even though its distributor, King Juice, has been a successful Milwaukee business for more than 40 years. The family-owned company features non-carbonated juices, including 11 different flavors of lemonades, which launched in 1999. To most accurately match Robinade, which bills itself as "old school lemonade," we chose to sample Calypso's natural lemonade. You can read more about Calypso here.
After much sampling, Robinade took the title by a single vote, 4-3. Here are our results.
The Robinade was drinkable, but seemed more like a kids' fruit drink, sweeter and less of a strong lemon flavor. Calypso, on the other hand, was sharper and way more lemony. I'd pick the Calypso.
Molly Snyder Edler
To me, Robinade tastes more like a lemon "Tang" beverage than lemonade. It only claims to be 12 percent juice on the container, and indeed, it has a fake lemon flavor and is a bit too sweet. Calypso, on the other hand, is tart --which I prefer in a lemonade -- and has more of a natural lemon flavor. Plus, according to the bottle copy, Calypso includes "real lemon bits." What's not to like about "real lemon bits?"
I'm not big on sugary drinks, especially lemonade (Country Time Lemonade makes me shudder), so I was pleasantly surprised by the tartness of Robinade. Plus, it includes a bit of pulp, which I like. A far cry from the instant powder I was fed as a kid, Robinade tasted fresh and real. Very refreshing. Calypso, on the other hand, tasted sweeter to me. It's made with lemon juice concentrate, and I feel like I could taste that, which was disappointing. That's not to say it wasn't an enjoyable beverage and I'm actually looking forward to sampling the other 10 varieties of lemonade this company makes.
I'm definitely not a lemonade snob. I'm not above using a powdered mix like Crystal Light to wash down my turkey sandwich during a break from lawn mowing or summer chores. I love to have a vodka lemonade on the patio when I'm grilling, but I'll use whatever lemonade is on hand -- and whatever vodka, for that matter. Given a choice between these two contestants, my vote goes to Robinade. I liked the flavor, finish and texture / pulp content, which made it easy to imagine it mixing with Rehorst. I thought that the Calypso was solid -- much better than the powdered mixes in my cupboard -- but it tasted a little bit like the "from concentrate" products in my grocer's freezer. If I'm going out of my way to buy lemonade, I'd go for the Robinade and be happy that some of the proceeds go to the MACC Fund.
This was something of a toss-up as I didn't love or hate either option. I liked that Robinade seemed pulpier and is, well, linked to Robin Yount (cue the fond childhood memories of then-Mets manager Yogi Berra and his chocolate Yoo-Hoo drink) and I was disappointed to see that Calypso has more sugar and is made from concentrate. But, I have to admit, I liked the Calypso flavor better. Maybe it's the sugar buzz talking.
I once named Robinade my "beverage of the year," so I accept that I'm biased on this one. That said, I genuinely enjoyed the taste of Robinade more than the Calypso. Robinade is sweeter and pulpier, and it reminds me of a freshly-squeezed lemonade I'd get at State Fair. Calypso isn't bad, either, but it's a little more acidic and has an aftertaste that I don't love. To be fair, Calypso tastes a little more like one would expect lemonade to taste, but Robinade actually has that sugary "old school" flavor it claims -- which might just hearken back to something that I'd mix from a powder as a kid. I really can't explain it -- taste is so subjective -- but even without seeing that photo of Yount on the container, I'd still pick Robinade over Calypso.
Neither beverage really blew me out of the water. I found the Calypso to be way, way too sweet and the Robinade, despite my childhood admiration for Mr. Yount, to be too bland. Needing a way to break the deadlock, I opted to try mixing the different lemonades with various beverages and can say that the Robinade "blends" much, much better.
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