Will Ecto Cooler Ever Make a Triumphantly Slimy Return?
Hi-C's Ecto Cooler, released as a drinkable tie-in for <i>The Real Ghostbusters</i>, has acquired a bizarre amount of cult fandom over the past two decades.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The year was 1987 and slime was having a moment. Nickelodeon was covering kids in it, the Teenage Mutant Turtles were crawling out of it, and the Ghostbusters were fighting it. The animated spinoff The Real Ghostbusters made a star out of Slimer, the lovable floating ball of snot, which led—in the great 80s tradition of the cartoon-sugar-industrial complex of tie-in products—to Hi-C's Ecto Cooler. Ecto Cooler was basically a juice flavored with some indeterminate citrus, with Slimer slapped on the box—colored green, because kids at the time loved slime and putting it on and in their bodies.
Ecto Cooler has a distinct place in pop culture food products. It's perhaps the only promotional tie-in to long outlast the property it was invented to promote: The Real Ghostbusters went off the air in 1991; Ecto Cooler stayed on the shelf in some markets until 1997, about the time Saturday morning kids had well moved on to Animaniacs.
Ecto Cooler was basically a juice flavored with some indeterminate citrus, with Slimer slapped on the box—colored green, because kids at the time loved putting slime on and in their bodies.
Its cult fandom over the past two decades has attained something few other products have: the Resurrect Ecto Cooler Facebook page has nearly 10,000 fans, and the internet is full of DIY recipes. But in the last few months, the fandom has reached a fever pitch—likely it's the specter of the new Ghostbusters movie looming the on the horizon, or last year's 30th anniversary of the original, or maybe just that childhood memories of internet-connected Millennials summoned it like a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Boozy versions of it are popping up on bar menus across the country. And if you're the kind of person who believes internet upwelling gets results, it could very well mean that Hi-C (owned by Coca-Cola) could resurrect the juice within the next year.
"A lot of people get all upset about this reboot—they throw out vitriol and insults," says Dan Milano, 31, who lives in Austin; he's the guy who took over an Ecto Cooler fan page last year and turned it into the Resurrect Ecto Cooler clearinghouse. "The most positive conversation I've seen around this reboot is the potential for this drink to come back."
He's trying to make that happen by reaching out to Hi-C and Coke's marketing teams to see if they'd consider bringing it back and retweeting love for it.
That is a long way to go to resurrect a product that would essentially put money in the hands of a movie reboot that will make plenty of money for Sony already, and a soda company that produces the real-world version of that drink from Idiocracy.
But lunchroom nostalgia is a hell of a drug, as Jean Broillet learned when his Tired Hands Brewery outside Philadelphia made two batches of a "Necto Cooler" beer this summer out of fermented nectarines with a bit of green tea to add a greenish hue. The 26 kegs they made were gone in about a week.
"When it kicked ... my inbox was flooded [with] hundreds of emails a day [from] people begging us to bring it back," he says. "I've never received that response to a beer I've brewed before."
He says he wasn't cashing in on the upcoming movie; Broillet chalks the inspiration up to the slightly supernatural notion of the collective consciousness, or at least the love of a good pun.
"The idea was pure whimsy," he says. "I'm still sort of befuddled by all the interest."
Nearly at the same time down in Atlanta, Brad Tolleson was creating the cocktail menu for the new Old Fourth Ward bar and music venue Venkman's. They chose the name of Bill Murray's Ghostbusters character for fun; it's not a theme bar—except for a $7 "Ecto Cooler" cocktail. Its ingredients are listed as vodka and fresh-squeezed Hi-C, which is actually tangerine puree, orange and lemon juice, simple syrup, and spinach chlorophyll for coloring. It's already the bar's most popular drink, selling about 30 a night.
"Ecto Cooler was my favorite drink growing up," Tolleson says. "This was pretty much created from memory."
Is it possible that Ecto Cooler—like so many of its over-sweetened, fruit-rot flavored juice box competitors—was actually not that good?
So will fans ever see the real thing again? Coca-Cola did not respond to several requests for comment. But Matt C., the 36-year-old Staten Island blogger behind the nostalgia site Dinosaur Dracula (and probably the internet's leading expert on Ecto Cooler, who tracked down its fate on his old blog), says the company would be downright stupid not to bring it back.
"In the last few years, we've seen a real spike in food companies making decisions strictly based on internet buzz. Surge soda was brought back because of vocal fan demand. Do you really think Nabisco would make such crazy Oreo flavors if Twitter and Facebook didn't go berserk every time they did?" he says. "There is just no way an Ecto Cooler return could possibly fail."
Of course, childhood nostalgia passes through the filter of time, which has a distorting effect on the tastebuds. Is it possible that Ecto Cooler—like so many of its over-sweetened, fruit-rot flavored juice box competitors—was actually not that good?
"Way back in the day, would I have chosen some weird orange/tangerine drink for my bagged school lunches without the Ghostbusters boost?" Matt C. asks. "Probably not."