If you’ve ever felt the need to claw your way through an alleyway full of couches, locked in a primal battle, fighting for a chance to quench your thirst on a “fully loaded citrus soda with carbos,” you’re not alone. People have always had an intense urge for Surge soda. And they’ll go to great lengths for a sip of this energy-boosting ‘90s legend.
Sure, Surge made its initial comeback in 2014. But unlike the recent reappearances of Crystal Pepsi and Hi-C Ecto Cooler, this isn’t just a temporary promotional stunt. The return of Surge came from years of consumer demand, and its new distribution strategies could be a game-changer for other cult beverages.
Also, it’s not a bad mixer.
A Secret Weapon Comes To Life
The year was 1996, and Coca-Cola was hard at work on a top-secret project to break into the citrus soda arena. It needed a weapon that could take on Pepsi’s reigning champion, Mountain Dew, and wrestle away its loyal fans. Coke’s soldier was code-named MDK: the Mountain Dew Killer.
Since the company couldn’t actually call it that, it settled on Surge — but there was a problem. In Norway, the name Surge was already trademarked. Gasp! Was it a move by Pepsi to thwart Coke’s overseas operations? Nope. The Babson Brothers had owned the name since the 1920s, for a cow-milking machine called the Surge Bucket Milker. No, I’m not making that up.
Coca-Cola’s lawyers eventually sorted it out. In America, it would be called Surge, but in Norway it would be called … wait for it … Urge. Good job, guys.
In an era before energy drinks even became a thing, Surge positioned itself as an “extreme” soft drink, much like the Dew it aimed to dethrone. Surge contains not only caffeine but an energy-spiking carbohydrate called maltodextrin, which explains the weirdo “carbos” tagline.
Surge was an initial success but sales eventually dropped off. Some schools even banned it due to its high content of sugar and caffeine. Sadly, it was discontinued in 2003.
Urge, however, has continued to be a smash hit in Norway.
The Surge Movement
In 2011, a guy named Evan started a Facebook group called Surge Movement, which accumulated a massive following. The group posted on Coke’s Facebook page relentlessly, and once a month they’d firebomb the company’s consumer affairs hotline with incessant calls. They even sent handwritten holiday cards to Coke.
Then came the billboard. In 2013, the Surge Movement crowdsourced almost $4,000 to buy a billboard outside of Coke’s headquarters in Atlanta. It simply said, “Dear Coke, we couldn’t buy Surge, so we bought this billboard instead.”
Well, it worked. Only one year later, clad in bright green Surge t-shirts, the team at Coca-Cola threw a welcome party for Surge. They invited the founders of the Surge Movement, and toasted to their success.
The Revolution Continues
But the story doesn’t end there.
Coke tried something new for this re-release. Rather than jumping to full distribution, it struck an exclusive deal with Amazon. It would be the only place to get your hands on the shiny new 16-ounce cans. However, Coke said that if this goes well, it might launch other niche products as online exclusives, paving the way to keep beverages with small but avid fan bases available.
We’re looking at you, Crystal Pepsi.
As for the Surge Movement, their work isn’t done yet. They’re not satisfied with online-only sales and want to see Surge return to every shelf and soda fountain across the country — permanently. They’ve even been giving away bright green N64s and surge-branded pogs in an effort to gain more support.
Well, Coca-Cola did some test distribution in the southeastern U.S. last year to see how it would go. As you can see on Find Your Surge, it’s going very well. Locations are expanding and Surge is making its way to shops all over the map.
Maybe Surge is here to stay. And if that’s true, the only logical next step is to make some cocktails with it.
Recipe: Extreme and Serene
Surge is simply labeled a “citrus flavored soda.” It contains some OJ concentrate, but that’s all we really know. In any case, it’s sweet, it’s fizzy, and it’s really, really bright green.
So, how should you boozify it? Pretty much however you want. The citrus-mash profile mixes well with gin or rum. It’s a great way to dress up your next round of tequila slammers. You could even use it as your new whiskey chaser (as Mountain Dew was originally intended).
But, after everything Surge has been through to get here, let’s do it up fancy, shall we?
- 1 1/2 oz vodka
- 2 dashes lavender bitters
- 4 1/2 oz Surge
- Twist of grapefruit peel
Build this drink over a big heap of crushed ice, then squeeze that grapefruit peel over surface to release the wonderful citrus oil. Sometimes even Surge wants to relax and take a breather, right?
Well, maybe, maybe not.