In honor of our abbreviated Mardi Gras season this year, I’ll be reviewing drinks that are king cake flavored, instead of king cakes, proper. Perfect for those who live alone and don’t want to eat an entire Dong Phuong ’s king cake in one sitting, or for anyone who just wants to enjoy king cake in new, strange, and liquid ways. Also, several of these goodies are from the grocery store, so if you’re reading this after Mardi Gras day, they’ll undoubtedly be languishing away in the clearance bin. This way, you’ll know what’s worth stocking up on, and what you can leave behind.
King Cake Smoothie (from Smoothie King, various locations)
This one’s up first, because I’m guessing that it’ll disappear before you’re even lined up for your ashes on Wednesday. As soon as I heard about this smoothie, I knew I needed to have one. It’s a king cake smoothie! Doesn’t that sound both disgusting and intriguing? My favorite combination! OK, time to be serious. The ingredient list is completely un-terrifying: almond milk, vanilla frozen yogurt, bananas, vanilla extract, cinnamon, almond extract, and the ever mysterious protein blend. It’s definitely more of a milkshake than a smoothie. It also tastes (surprisingly, considering the ingredients list) nothing whatsoever like a king cake. It tastes like eggnog! My guess is that Smoothie King will be recycling this recipe as an eggnog smoothie in December. If I see one on the menu, I promise to try it and let y’all know if it’s the same thing. Overall, this was neither good nor bad—it was just very rich and super sweet.
Cocktail & Sons King Cake Simple Syrup (various locations)
This syrup is a blend of pecan, lemon, and cinnamon, which I find really interesting, since vanilla plays such a big part in most of the other king cake-flavored offerings that I’ve tried. I like that they decided to focus their flavors on the cake portion, not the frosting part, of a king cake. They nailed the smell and for the most part, got the flavor down! This might be the most king cake-flavored thing I tried. I’m pretty sure this is supposed to be used in making fancy mixed drink cocktails, but I decided to try it in all sorts of non-alcoholic things, because I love a simple syrup. I especially recommend using it in iced coffee. Also, the bottle is very appealing in an old timey medicine sort of way, so it’ll look pretty on your shelf, which is always a plus.
Taaka 60 Proof King Cake Vodka (various locations)
I’m not much of a drinker. I’ll occasionally have that one frozen margarita at Juan’s, but then I’m loopy, falling asleep at the table, and totally over alcohol for the rest of the month. So if you see me around, don’t buy me a drink, buy me a pastry! I’m saying all this because I’m probably not the person you want reviewing your vodkas. They all taste nasty, y’all. But I am a serious journalist and as such, I bravely took a shot of Taaka’s king cake vodka. I should mention that the label isn’t playing around with aspirations of authenticity: it proudly states that you’re getting “imitation king cake flavor.” You have to admire their honesty. And for real, it does taste “imitation,” but not necessarily like an imitation king cake. It tastes like vanilla, kind of ? It also tastes vaguely like nail polish remover. It burned the back of my throat and I had a coughing fit; but to be fair, that probably would have happened with any other Taaka product. Maybe this would be good if you mixed it into something else but well, I kind of doubt it.
Abita King Cake Soda (various locations)
Abita has been selling Mardi Gras Bock for a while, but this was the first time that I’d seen their King Cake soda. Just to confirm, I called the brewery and yep, this was released in 2016! Isn’t that exciting? In fact, it was released the same week that I’d picked mine up from Rouse’s. I feel so on the ball! There’s a cream soda base (which makes me wonder why Abita doesn’t offer a cream soda, proper) with spicy cinnamon and sharp vanilla overtones. The soda is buttery and dense; the first swig is all frosting, then just a little spice, then it fades away entirely. It’s ultimately a strange experience, and I wouldn’t recommend drinking an entire bottle by yourself, because this is very sweet, almost overwhelmingly so. But you know what? It’s vaguely reminiscent of buying a king cake and eating the whole thing by yourself (we’ve all been there, right?). I don’t know if I like the Abita King Cake Soda, but I definitely recommend trying it. I have to mention, though: a friend added rum to this soda and said it was “sublime.”
Community Coffee King Cake Blend (various locations)
I love coffee and accordingly, I can tend towards snobbishness (my favorite is Orleans Coffee Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, followed by their Kona Pacifica, in case you’re wondering). I rarely drink Community Coffee even though locally, it’s pretty much everyone’s grandma’s go-to coffee bean and nationally, has a strong cult following. Occasionally, I’ll pop into CC’s for something, but I don’t think I’ve ever bought a pack of Community Coffee beans and brewed a cup at home. Not to mention that just the idea of buying pre-ground flavored coffee is a completely alien concept for me. And yet, how could I resist this king cake blend? The first thing that hit me when I opened the bag was how good this coffee smells! It really smells like a king cake. On to taste! Light and rich, but with no king cake flavor whatsoever, this coffee is still straight up magical. I’m seriously rethinking my obnoxious coffee snobbery, because this was really good. OK, don’t bother if you want something king cake flavored, but you may as well buy all the bags they have at the store, because this is great. Pairs nicely with the Cocktail & Sons King Cake Syrup, if you need extra king cake goodness in your life.
King Cake Hamburger (from Food Drunk Food Truck)
I’m including this because, while it’s not a drink, this is clearly the most wackadoo king cake-flavored item out there. It’s a fairly standard cheeseburger with king cake icing and sugar on top of the bun (not a cheeseburger stuffed inside of a king cake, which is what I expected). The first bite was disgusting. I wasn’t sure if I could go any further, but I’m brave, and so I tried another bite, and then another. After roughly three bites, it grew on me, and I was like, “this isn’t so bad.” And then, abruptly, I thought I was going to be sick. There were too many flavors happening at once, and none of them made any sense together. I mean, have you ever thought about putting cheddar on your king cake? Have you ever really thought about slathering frosting onto a ground beef patty? I’m going to guess not. Y’all, don’t bother with this. Learn from my mistakes. I eat these things so you don’t have to.