As any teenager of the 1990s will atest, I often found myself privy to various urban legends as I ventured through those unquestionably awkward years, many of which were proven to be false but some of which ultimately, fantastically, wound up incredibly true. Tales of the aftermath of ingesting pixie sticks mixed with Coke ran rampant amongst my friends, in addition to the horrifying accounts of what might happen if more than one Atomic Fireball or Warhead was shoved into one's mouth at once. Indeed, Jolt Cola was one such legend-over the years I’d hear stories of this near-mythical caffeinated beverage, one that could keep a video game-crazed youngster up all night so as to complete the latest Final Fantasy in one sitting or play Pilotwings on endless repeat.
Though I was fortunate to taste such similar drinks at that time as Kick, Jolt remained elusive, something I knew existed but was never conveniently sold at any nearby 7-Eleven, PDQ or Kwik Trip. As such, like many things as one grows older, Jolt was soon forgotten, but a viewing of 2010's underrated Robert Downey Jr./Zack Galifinakis buddy comedy Due Date accelerated the memory of said cola back into the forefront of my then-late-20s mentality, as the road trip premise contained a scene in which Downey Jr. & Galifinakis make a pit stop at a gas station where a battery can of the drink was purchased-much to Downey Jr.'s chagrin-and quickly consumed. The movie produced more than a chuckle or two, and something was now extremely apparent-having been somewhat inspired by Galifinakis, a moment in film which seemed to confirm the existence of Jolt Cola at that time, I now knew I needed to find it through whatever means necessary.
So began a quest to track down Jolt Cola, one that saw me checking in roughly every roadside gas station as time went by, all to no avail. Every vacation I took, every out-of state trip I made, every time I found myself on the road with family or friends almost certainly included as many visits to the refrigerated section where I would always walk away disappointed at the complete lack of Jolt Cola. My journey did reach something of an end, however, in October of 2012, when I stopped at a grocery store known as Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati, Ohio while on tour with my band at the time, and let me be one of many to say that this place is absolutely worth the trip. Though a first glimpse might present this establishment as yet another supermarket, the volume of product and random knick knacks scattered throughout set it apart from your neighborhood food source and put it in a league all its own. Leftover animatronics from Showbiz Pizza, Chuck E. Cheese and a General Mills cereal super band serve as in-store entertainment, while a substantial portion of the store features copious amounts of international goods and one of the most unique restrooms I've ever seen. It was here, amidst the vast aisles of soda and ethnic foods that I finally found 20 oz. bottles of Jolt and much celebration occurred.
And yet, I still desired the can. Furthermore, as Jungle Jim's was several states away from my home in Wisconsin, acquiring Jolt on a regular basis was, unfortunately, not to be.
In August of 2017, a strange, surprising happening took place-Jolt Cola suddenly appeared on social media, with several sites touting a return of Jolt at Dollar Generals throughout the country. My interest now piqued once again, I awaited the release date with the anticipation one who obsesses over '90s pop culture gems such as Jolt might feel, though several trips to local Dollar Generals soon after produced no results. One such location hadn't even heard of the drink, while another appeared closed, though I believe this to be more of an economic issue and seriously doubt this had anything to do with the probable absence of Jolt. Was my past repeating itself, taunting me with the promise of the mysterious Jolt Cola only to laugh in the face of a 35-year old who just wanted to experience the past all wrapped up in a colorful, cylindrical aluminum package?
Luckily, a visit to the quaint mid-Wisconsin town of West Bend in December of 2017 included a trip to their local Dollar General, and despite my hesitations as I entered the store on a chilly Sunday afternoon, a swing down the Dollar Deals aisle brought me firmly in front of this.
I couldn't believe it. There was my past, a legendary beverage and relic from my youth, now staring me directly in my stunned face.
I wasted no time, scooping up half the inventory and heading to the checkout as quickly as possible before scores of sugary, caffeinated soda fanatics stormed the West Bend Dollar General, loudly proclaiming that every Jolt Cola shall soon be theirs. Only when I had paid for said goods and was safely driving away that I could finally exhale with gleeful relief. At last, it was mine.
Over the past few years, I've seen the return of such previously defunct products as Ecto Cooler, Crystal Pepsi and, on a regional level, Jolly Good. The return of Jolt Cola is a welcome addition to the list, though many might say it was never truly gone, and a drink I look forward to consuming every time I need that titular jolt of energy such a beverage promises.
Now, where's my copy of Pilotwings?