A controversial '90s-era beverage that was pulled from shelves during the Recession is back with a vengeance

Zima, a bizarre alcoholic beverage that was popular in the 1990s, is unexpectedly attempting a comeback.

MillerCoors announced that the “first-of-its-kind crystal clear, malt-based, adult beverage” would be available from late June until Labour Day this summer — nine years after the drink was discontinued in 2008. 

Zima is a citrusy and sweet drink, though critics on Reddit have said that the flavour is closer to “Scotch tape with lime” or “lemonade filtered through aluminium foil” than anything else. 

The beer giant is doubling down on ’90s nostalgia in its marketing, launching an ad filled with Troll dolls, JNCO jeans, and inflatable sneakers. An old-school Zima website is complete with clip art, Comic Sans, and flashing text boxes. 

The beverage brand has also embraced modern times in the form of an Instagram marketing campaign, popping up on a handful of meme-centric accounts.

Meme accounts are a convenient way to introduce Zima to people who may not have been old enough to drink the beverage in the ’90s — or old enough to remember its spectacular downfall. 

While 1.3 million barrels of Zima were sold in 1994, the year it launched nationally, the beverage’s sales had fallen to 403,000 barrels by 1996, Slate reported. 

The drink was intended to appeal to people who didn’t like beer but wanted a drink with lower alcohol levels in an era when the clear cola drink Crystal Pepsi was making headlines. While the drink found some fans (including underage drinkers), most people apparently just didn’t like the taste. 

“The taste was not appealing, and it left you feeling bloated,” one drinker told Bloomberg in a 1997 article charting the downfall of the beverage. 

“We had people who liked the idea but not the taste,” Robert Joanis, vice-president of marketing for Coors’ microbrew unit, told Bloomberg back in 1997

Still, it wasn’t until the Great Recession in 2008 that Zima was actually discontinued in the US.

“We haven’t seen a fallout in the malternative segment this bad since ’29,” Business Insider’s Caroline Waxler wrote in an article headlined “Now We Know We’re In A Depression: Zima Being Discontinued!”

So, why is Zima coming back now?

One reason: ’90s nostalgia is in. 

According to Tristan Meline, senior marketing manager of innovation at MillerCoorsPlus, “tons of people” have been asking for Zima to make a comeback.

“Whether you remember it or not, this summer is your only chance to taste the ‘it’ drink of the ’90s,” Meline said in a statement. 

Will Zima make it past this summer? Probably not. But, if you’re craving a sip of the ’90s, MillerCoors is hoping you’ll buy at least one bottle of Zima — if only to take the Instagram to prove that you did. 


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