If you said two decades ago that the next arms race between Disney and Universal wouldn't be around new rides, but new drinks, people would've called you crazy.
Yet here we are, more than a decade into the era of the "Living Land," when immersive, cinematic theme park expansions plucked from blockbuster intellectual properties are all the rage. And from Hogsmeade to Avengers Campus; Cars Land to Arendelle; Springfield to New Fantasyland, the race is on to develop new signature retail and dining experiences that'll convince guests to spend big bucks to "live" in their favorite worlds.
Countless custom-designed specialty drinks have popped up at parks around the globe, each vying to be that must-try $8 impulse buy and selfie star. But which reign supreme? Today, we'll consider how these "in-universe" beverages fit into the parks – and of course, how they taste – in the ultimate beverage battle. Which drinks will earn our medals? We'll find out... But let's start with some honorable mentions.
– Pingo Doce
Disney had its work cut out for them in trying to make the Marvel Cinematic Universe into a "Living Land." Unlike Harry Potter, there's no single "place" from the films that quite lends itself to a small-ish theme park land, and no iconic, must-try food or drink associated with the Avengers team... with a small exception, in a movie that's also an exception in many ways. Universal acquired (and still retains) the standalone movie rights to the Hulk character, and when their 2003 film Hulk underperformed, they tried again with 2008's The Incredible Hulk. Technically, that film is the second canonical entry to the MCU, but it's often overlooked both because it's not on Disney+ and because it stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner rather than Mark Ruffalo (who didn't join until 2012's Avengers), making it only-kinda-sorta an MCU movie.
In any case, Pingo Doce (pronounced ping-goe do-say) is a fictional Guarana soda from Brazil that shows up briefly in The Incredible Hulk, when Banner – on the run from authorities in Brazil – visits the soft drink's manufacturing facility and accidentally leaves a drop of radioactive blood on a bottle. That bottle then ends up in the fridge of an old man (played by creator Stan Lee in one of his iconic cameos) who drinks from it and dies. (Posters for Pingo Doce can also be spotted in the background in Ant-Man).
Given that it's a relatively obscure reference – even in a fandom known for its appreciation of obscure references – Disney doesn't make a huge deal out of Pingo Doce. Rather, it can simply be selected from the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines in Avengers Campus' Pym Test Kitchen. While carrying the radioactive green hue of the drink from the film, the park version of Pingo Doce is pretty much a Vanilla Sprite, which is a fine pick me up, but not a huge contender for the best drinks on our list.
– Pumpkin Fizz
It's well known that one of the Caveats to Universal's licensing of Harry Potter was that the resulting land needed to be fully "in-universe." The "real" Hogsmeade doesn't have Coca-Cola, so neither should the resulting theme park land! Obviously Butterbeer is the biggie, but actually, Universal developed a ton of beverages for the land that help expand the options in restaurants.
Bottled Pumpkin Juice was long a fan-favorite within the Wizarding World, made of a combination of apple cider, pumpkin, and apricot flavoring. Given that the juice is probably mentioned more in the Potter books than Butterbeer, it's definitely worth trying – especially since it recently returned after a production shortage, now with a collectible sipper rather than in bottled form.
But in terms of our top drink choices, we have to hand it to Pumpkin Fizz – the carbonated variety offered at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.
This fizzy beverage is like pumpkin pie in a cup – rich and sweet and autumnal, with nutmeg and cinnamon... Drink one on an empty stomach and you may find yourself feeling woozy from the sugar, but paired with a hearty fish and chips platter or a shepherd's pie, Pumpkin Fizz is a cooling dessert drink you've got to try.
– Blue & Green Milk
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm outright in 2012, there was no question that at least part of the impetus behind the $4 billion purchase would be the acquisition of Star Wars – maybe the only intellectual property that can really give Harry Potter a run for its money. Still, many fans were surprised when Disney decided not to base its Star Wars land on one of the well-known and established planets from the films... and in fact, to not even base its land on the original trilogy of films at all. Instead, Star Wars became incarnate as Batuu – a from-scratch Outer Rim planet set in the timeline of Disney's sequel trilogy.
Frankly, the setting makes sense. Planets like Tattooine and Coruscant may be recognizable, but they don't translate well to the needs of a theme park, where scale is limited, where logistics like bathrooms, restaurants, and retail matter, and where giant showbuildings need hidden away. Besides, the visual language of Star Wars is established enough that Black Spire Outpost looks like Star Wars, even if it's never been seen in the films. Likewise, food offerings and retail in Galaxy's Edge are believably within the Star Wars Universe.
Technically, one of the few direct lifts from the movies was "Blue Milk" – a beverage initially seen only briefly and unnamed in A New Hope. Surely just meant to be an "alien" drink, Blue Milk became something of a fan staple, appearing in several other installments of the series. And just like that, Disney's Star Wars lands had a built-in, must-try Butterbeer equivalent... Emphasis on try.
In actuality, both Blue Milk and Green Milk offered at Batuu's Milk Stand are... unusual. It's not uncommon to see guests snap a selfie with their frothy beverage, give it a taste, grimace, and toss the $8 beverage right into a trash can. Seeking to defy expectations, both Blue Milk and Green Milk are creamy, non-dairy blends of coconut and rice milk. Disney says that the Blue version has "alluring fruity characteristics" while Green has "zippy citrus and tropical characteristics." We definitely give Blue the edge over Green (which, frankly, tastes like a cleaning product) but your mileage may vary... and at the end of the day, we appreciate the Milk Stand's ambition and its desire to do something different than guests might expect!