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Ranking All the Lipsmackers Chapsticks in the Coca-Cola Party Pack

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I bought the Lip Smacker Coca-Coca-themed variety pack of chapsticks, and the first bit of feedback I received on Instagram upon posting this incredibly important not-at-all-a-cry-for-help purchase was: Where is the Dr. Pepper?

The Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker, you see, apparently still has many of us in a chokehold. And for good reason. That shit not only smelled and tasted delicious but also possessed a certain je ne sais queer about it…the coolest, most desirable girls in the late 90s and early 2000s seemed to have an endless supply of Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker chapticks. The perhaps quieter and nerdier girls who envied and desired said cool girls also kept Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker nearby, the nerdiest among us wearing it on a chain looped through our jeans belt loops, dangling at our side like a cowboy’s pistol. We could taste how their lips tasted without ever having to kiss. The power of Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker is impossible to describe, but it is undeniable and, apparently, lasting.

But Dr. Pepper is not a Coca-Cola entity, my friends! So of course it is not featured in the Coca-Cola Lip Smacker party pack. But the stream of complaints I received about its absence led me down a research rabbit hole. WTF HAPPENED TO DR. PEPPER LIP SMACKER? The Pepsi party pack does not feature it. It’s nowhere to be found. Apparently, it was unceremoniously discontinued in 2020 after a license between Dr. Pepper branding and Lip Smacker expired. Why not just renew the license! Why must we be punished! Now the only way to get your sticky little fingers on Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker chapsticks is to purchase old ones on eBay, which is not something I’d necessarily advise.

And with that bit of chapstick lesbian lore, let us now take a very scientific look at the Coca-Cola Lip Smacker party pack. I went down the line in the order the flavors came in and journaled my thoughts as I wore them. I’ve compiled those gay thoughts into the mini essays/evaluations below. Chapsticks were rated on a scale of 0 to 5 Obsessive Crushes, because Lip Smacker chapsticks just instantly conjure the aromas, sounds, and fluttering feelings of Obsessive Crushes from my youth.


COCA-COLA CLASSIC

My first thought upon removing the cap from the Coca-Cola Classic Lip Smacker is wow they really made it the color of Coke. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was not that! More specifically, it’s the color of Coke from a fountain running low on its syrup — you know, when you realize too late that you’ve filled a cup with soda water with merely a whisper of Coke flavoring. That’s the color of this chapstick.

A confession: I specifically like weak Coke when eating Jimmy John’s — I think because the fountains at Jimmy John’s are always running weak so it’s what I expect, much like I expect a Coke from McDonald’s to be crisp, flavorful, and somehow the best thing I’ve ever sipped in my life every single time.

The chapstick smells exactly like the Haribo cola gummies, and while that is not exactly the scent of an actual Coke, I’ll take it! I apply some and instinctively lick my lips. These bad boys are just as sweet as I remember — basically a sugar bomb for your mouth. As far as tasting notes, I’m getting…sugar. Do they put actual sugar in these? I refuse to investigate.

Tbh, not a ton of flavor and certainly nothing like drinking a Coke, but I imagine there is a scientific explanation for why you cannot perfectly translate a liquid soda to a solidified waxy stick whose purpose is cosmetic rather than gastronomic.

I’m wearing this chapstick to a gay Capricorn’s birthday party, but he has been very adamant about the fact that it is not a birthday party. Instead, we are instructed to refer to it as a “Thursday evening fire pit soiree with balls.” We have been instructed to bring “foods shaped like balls” to this party. I have made grape jelly chili sauce crockpot meatballs, and someone else has made homemade arancini. We have also been instructed to wear all black, and I have just seen the feature film M3GAN, so I don a black ribboned doll-like Selkie dress, add more ribbons, and part my hair in the middle. Tbh, Coca-Cola chapstick is the unexpectedly perfect match for this ensemble. I look like a haunted doll, and I smell like the past.

Chapstick Rating
3.75 out of 5 Obsessive Crushes
Scores some points for nostalgia in its simplest form, but I wasn’t attached enough to remember to regularly reapply at the Thursday evening fire pit soiree with balls and promptly forgot I was wearing anything on my lips at all.

COCA-COLA CHERRY

This one is, spiritually, the closest to Dr. Pepper (RIP). I know Dr. Pepper as a soda does not technically feature cherry, but there were cherry undertones to the chapstick, were there not?

I apply this one and immediately ask my fiancé Kristen to kiss me, perhaps subconsciously brainwashed by the Katy Perry cherry chapstick lyric all these years later. The year That Song came out was 2008, and I had technically only kissed girls up to that point in life and yet identified rather adamantly as a heterosexual woman. In other words, That Song was my anthem. (And I still think it kind of slaps, sorry.)

Chapstick Rating
4.75 out of 5 Obsessive Crushes
The only thing keeping it from a perfect 5 is its color, which is bright red, and I preferred the realism of the original Coke chapstick more. Cherry Coke is not bright red!

COCA-COLA VANILLA

Y’ALL?????? Are these supposed to be soda-flavored or soda-scented????? Is it supposed to be both??????? So far, in every instance, I do get a distinct aroma, but the flavor tastes the same! It just tastes sweet! The package itself says “best flavor forever,” and I do agree that that aptly describes a Coca-Cola, the soda with such sensational flavor that every time EVERY TIME my fiancé has a sip of one she reacts as if she is tasting it for the first time and says something to the effect of damn, that’s good. But flavor-wise, these chapsticks leave a lot to be desired! And also, so far, all taste the same!

I wear this one to our neighborhood farmer’s market and then later to our favorite natural wine shop for a tasting, and I realize I sound like a very particular lesbian cliche, and I will not apologize! Wearing this chapstick while tasting wine makes for an experience I’d describe as interesting but would not exactly recommend.

Chapstick Rating
2.75 out of 5 Obsessive Crushes
It probably would have scored better if it hadn’t been paired with a punchy pet nat.

SPRITE

This smells like summer and chlorine clinging to wet hair and sidewalk chalk and mowed grass and lemon Italian ice. I mean, not literally. It literally smells like Sprite. It’s probably the most accurately scented one in the party pack so far. But when I smell it, I smell all those other things, too. This shit is pure nostalgia in a tube. I never even wore Sprite chapstick in my youth, and yet I feel like I’m returning home as I swipe some on my lips.

Chapstick Rating
4.25 out of 5 Obsessive Crushes
I want to go on a three hour bike ride with this chapstick that ends right at dusk and then split a grilled cheese and an actual Sprite with it. Does that make sense?

BARQ’S ROOT BEER

This is by far the best scent so far, and this might also be the first one with a discernible taste difference, but if I were to describe that taste it would just be…tingly. Not quite as tingly as those “lip plumping” lip glosses that were popular among the meanest girls when I was in middle school but definitely a touch of effervescence.

I’m in Louisville, visiting my sister who moved here for work over a year ago, and I’ve just asked her and my best friend Becca who is also on this trip to be not my “bridesmaids” but my “VIP” at my wedding, because these semantics have suddenly become important to me as someone who is trying to navigate the push and pull of planning a wedding that will employ a lot of cultural traditions and not wanting to be boring and heteronormative. I frequently feel like I’m failing at finding whatever the fuck the balance should be here, but I shall stop thinking about this now, because I would like to think merely of root beer chapstick and how it prickles my lips rather pleasantly.

This is also perhaps the most I’ve actually needed chapstick since this experiment began, because Kentucky is much drier than what I’m used to in Florida. My lips are genuinely chapped!

After a couple glasses of wine at the natural wine and tinned fish bar here that I’ve already decided to make part of my personality despite not living in this city nor this state, I notice my lips are chapped. I’ve briefly forgotten about the root beer salve in my purse. So I ask to borrow my fiancé’s chapstick, which is nice, because its minty taste always reminds me of some of our earliest makeouts. Then I remember I’m “supposed” to be wearing the root beer chapstick for a piece I’m “writing” for my “job.” And root beer and mint chapstick, it turns out, do not mix well!

Chapstick Rating
4.25 out of 5 Obsessive Crushes
Lots of points for the novelty of the slight tingle and probably would have scored more if not for the mint mishap.

FANTA GRAPE

Okay, now we’re talking flavor. This shit tastes like grape soda for real. I apply it in our kitchen, and Kristen points out it’s the first to have a hint of a tint. Once upon a time, I wore really dramatic lipstick colors — blues, blacks, dark purples. But once Kristen and I started dating, I stopped on account of all the making out. I know there are allegedly some lip stains that stay on, but it all just seemed like a lot of work, and since I already do dramatic eye makeup, I was fine giving up lip colors. So any time I wear something with even a slight tint, it’s obvious! And this has a whisper of purple to it, almost like I’m somewhere cold or have been obsessively biting my lips.

Speaking of tinted lips, before she decided to propose on Christmas morning, Kristen almost proposed a few days before Christmas when we were alone in a cute part of the city where my parents live, but I was so cold that my lips were blue, and she realized that a proposal might not be the most romantic vibe in that moment.

This chapstick also reminds me of the time Kristen and I went bowling in Austin and the “drink special” was a $3 concoction made with vodka and…Sprite Grape?! I didn’t even know Sprite Grape was a thing outside of Coca-Cola Freestyle machines? And according to my Google search just now, it in fact IS NOT a thing outside of Coca-Cola Freestyle machines???? Was there some sort of underground soda operation happening at this Texas bowling alley? Were they just calling Fanta Grape “Sprite Grape” in that way of like calling all soda “coke” in the south? Help?

Chapstick Rating
5 out of 5 Obsessive Crushes
Taste! Tint! She’s a winner.

FANTA ORANGE

Not to get all I Live In Florida Now, but I have absolutely been citrus-pilled and think orange is one of the best flavors the planet has to offer. This smells like orange! But it admittedly has a blandish taste that’s back to just the “notes of sugar” of the early chapsticks in the pack. Still, it’s not a bad option! Kind of feels and tastes like I had a creamsicle, but like half an hour ago, like the memory of eating a creamsicle.

Chapstick Rating
4.25 out of 5 Obsessive Crushes
If it were more prominently orange-tasting, it could easily score a perfect five. This is like having a crush on your bully — hot, but there’s something that’s undeniably off.

FANTA STRAWBERRY

And so, folks, we have arrived at the conclusion of our little experiment. We end with the Fanta Strawberry, which is the only chapstick in the pack for which I have not tasted the soda it is based on! It sounds like it would be refreshing, and I in fact recently had an artisanal strawberry rhubarb soda that was absolutely delicious. But I have never tasted the strawberry-flavored Fanta, and now I want to!

It’s late. I’ve been trying to put on these chapsticks during times when I’m doing something at least moderately interesting, but the thing I’m doing right now is writing this piece, because I’m down to the deadline wire, so yes, that means I’m writing this section in real time, essentially live blogging the experience of applying this strawberry chapstick at my desk, smacking my lips, and…immediately feeling like I want to dance?

Fanta Strawberry Lip Smacker is Hot Girl Chapstick. The scent is subtle, but it smells femmey and mean. I feel like I’ve put on a costume, and I like it.

If the point of this experiment was an exercise in scent-memory and nostalgia, this does feel like a fitting ending. Nostalgia is heady and can feel like a quick hit of joy, but ultimately, it’s muted, a blunt blade, something that’s not quite real but a hazy simulacrum.

Chapstick Rating
3 out of 5 Obsessive Crushes
The scent is faint and fades quickly. But when I do get a whiff of it, I feel sunkissed, so it’s not a complete bust.


Want to go on the same adventure I did? You can for about $10!


Bubble Trouble is a series helmed by Autostraddle Managing Editor Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya about the nostalgia, effervescence, and never-ending appeal of carbonated beverages.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 814 articles for us.

7 Comments

  1. When I was in 4th grade, it seemed like all the girls in my class suddenly got very into lip gloss (in hindsight it was probably like. half the girls? if that?). My mom wouldn’t let me use lip gloss but got me a tube of bubblegum lip smacker, and it always felt like that embarrassing knockoff version of a cool thing (even though it did taste delicious). It makes me genuinely happy to learn that in other schools, lip smackers were the cool thing to have!

  2. Oh nooooooo! I am obsessed with my cherry coke chapstick from 2006. It’s a deep maroon, which ends up being slightly tinted and looking great. I’ve always told myself I can just get more when I try to fight the urge to hoard it forever… And I guess they’ve changed it and I can’t get more! Sidenote, it was given to me by a lesbian!

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