MEATWATCH: The Lemonade That Kills You

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Look, we know what you’re thinking: This is by far one of our worst pun-based ideas. But Greg gets real pissy if we don’t let him just go to town roasting something, both literally and figuratively, every thirty days or so. And so we present: the Panera Bread lemonade that kills you (Panera Bread, if you’re reading this: please don’t sue me).

The pantheon of beverages. A hot cup of boiled bean juice. The PBR tallboy. A crisp cup of cold water, the ultimate in refreshment. And now, a new aspirant reaching for the crown, which cursed science hath delivered unto the world: lemonade that kills you.

The lemonade that kills you carries the government name of Panera Bread Charged Lemonade. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, appearing to the eye as innocent lemonade in a self-serve dispenser. Which it mostly is, in a way: 99% of it is normal stuff, but it’s in the same way a person can be mostly made out of regular stuff with just a tiny amount of arsenic in them: it still presents a problem. Charged Lemonade has the same caffeine content per volume as Monster, and very nearly as much sugar as a Coke. It comes in a 32 ounce cup with free refills. Like everything at Panera, it has a thin veneer of upscale class signifiers that mask the premium mediocrity shot through the heart of it. 

I don’t, obviously, love that this shit was involved in two deaths (legally I suppose they died “with the lemonade that kills you”, not “of the lemonade that kills you” – these were allegedly lemonade-involved deaths where the beverage was consumed by a person who later died), but “panera bread lemonade that kills you” is a perfect phrase, Tolkien’s “cellar door” applied to beverages. Panera is usually considered healthy, or at least “real food”, even though their menu mostly consists of a loaf of bread full of cheese. It’s the type of lunch store for suburban moms to swing by between yoga class and daycare pickup. Given the patina of respectability that the brand carries, it’s uniquely bizarre that this would be the fount whence the lemonade that kills you flows. It’s like if you could buy Four Loko at the airport. It’s unhinged and borderline undrinkable, but in a unique way that gives it a certain charm. Panera did crank the dial on bad ideas, but they didn’t only do that, they also tried, legitimately tried, to make something happen here. Algorithmically generated hyperproducts like “Death Coffee (fortified with ground-up trucker pills)” or “Ten Billion Scoville Mouth-Blaster Hot Sauce” can only aspire to this.

I don’t even really blame the people who drank the lemonade that kills you and were killed (allegedly, in tenuous unverified connection), since it’s not like there’s rules or prominent signage or anything, which puts this in the McDonald’s Coffee Burn Injury tier of gruesome corporate irresponsibility, that the deranged American psyche somehow maps to “consumer choice”. The freedom to die screaming, but not the freedom to know that it’s coming.

Full disclosure here: I haven’t tried the lemonade that kills you. My wife won’t let me. I suggested it, and she shut me down instantly. She puts up with a lot. I know that’s a stereotypical 1950s view of marriage, but in my case it’s true: I am uniquely difficult to be around. When I joke about visiting the Unabomber cabin for a family vacation or actually do drag the entire family to Camden New Jersey on Father’s Day so I can spend the day wandering around a battleship, she never complains, even humors me. I point this out to make clear that her immediate and immovable pushback on me drinking the lemonade that kills you was in no way an idle threat. 

For the record, I don’t even think I would be killed. First of all, lots of people drink the lemonade that kills you and don’t die, and secondly, even if they did, I’m different. The lemonade that kills you wouldn’t dare harm me. I’m not even totally sure I can be killed, to be honest. It’s been forty years and nothing has, so empirically we can conclude that nothing can. My wife will of course be sending me a screenshot of this paragraph to chide me for my hubris and tell me not to tempt fate, and will be correct to do so.

All of this to say that it’s perhaps not accurate to say that I actually like the lemonade that kills you – it might be good, who knows – but that I like the idea of it. Ideas are all I have, really. Supposedly I have hobbies and interests but functionally speaking I actually don’t. Ideating is easy, but then I don’t actually do anything with it, so if you look at how I spend my time my only hobbies are playing with my daughter and reading books about old boats before bed. Which isn’t bad! I love my kid, and once I turned 40 I felt the call of the sea as all middle-aged dads seem prone to. I’m actually quite content, but also I haven’t painted a model in over a year and a half. The backlog somehow keeps growing, though. I buy stuff, then look at it and either decide I can’t justify the time, or I try to and five minutes in find out that I can’t remember how to do it anymore.

An impartial observer would think that I used to play Warhammer, and that now it just takes up space in my house. It’s a game I know about (or at least know of) but don’t engage with, which is perhaps not ideal if you work for a website about said game. What I should do is just pull a Gundam kit off the shelf and half-ass it, to get myself doing something, anything, but I follow a bunch of Japanese model ship guys on Twitter and it’s hard to slam out a quick HG Gouf covered in nub marks and seam lines, when you can tab over and see a dude posting about how he got drunk on a weeknight and YOLOed period-accurate rigging on a 1/700 heavy cruiser. Which does make me want to get into building model boats, but let’s be realistic here: no I wouldn’t. Four hundred 6mm Frenchmen and their field artillery can attest to that.

I guess that is sort of a problem from the perspective of the website you are seeing these words on, but from here it’s fine – I’m unbothered, thriving, and at any rate there’s nothing I could do about if it were otherwise. I don’t particularly have time to do all the things that I need to do, let alone everything I’d like to do, so I have to pick and choose. If you’re looking for an answer, by the way, I don’t have one. There are no more ends of the candle to burn. 

Except. What if there were a magical elixir that could grant me more waking hours, or propel my form through space at high speed. It’s certainly possible that ingesting 800mg of caffeine and a half cup of sugar via yuzu big gulps might give me the energy to Ascend, but I suspect that it’s not worth trying to go super saiyan at the panini store just to get a couple more shirts folded before bedtime. I have too much riding on this, being alive. The lemonade that kills you will just have to wait for someone with less to lose. 

Thanks for sticking around, and making this column what it is: a little-read corner of this website that exists solely for me to waste your time and get yelled at. If you have questions, let us know at, or right here in the comments. Meatwatch is here to help. Once again, to the good folks at Panera Bread, I would greatly appreciate not getting sued. Thank you in advance.