Blast from the Past: Zima Returns from the ‘90s For This Summer Only

Boy bands. Walkmen. Frosted tips. Some things are best left in the ‘90s, but for fans of malt beverages, there’s one blast from the past that’s back on shelves this summer: Zima.

The Y2K-era carbonated, clear, citrus-flavored beverage is being brought back by MillerCoors until Labor Day, by way of a spectacularly goofy marketing campaign that capitalizes on two key things: nostalgia and Millennial-era irony.

Adults who actually drank this in the ‘90s and early 2000s will recall its sweet, spritzy flavor, akin to a Smirnoff Ice, or the teenage mixology equivalent of adding vodka to a lukewarm Sprite (or even better, a bargain brand lemon-lime knockoff).

Zima is a clear malt beverage that debuted in the mid-1990s under the Coors Brewing family, then exited the market in 2008, vanishing everywhere except Japan, where it’s been solely distributed under Molson Coors ever since. The 5% ABV, 181-calorie flavored malt beverage was intended to serve as a bubbly alternative for those who didn’t drink beer, but it faded in the marketplace, disappearing when the Recession hit. After nine years missing from American drinkers’ collective consciousness, the drink has returned, available in six-packs of 12 oz bottles through this summer.

If you think it unwise to bring back a concoction that wasn’t successful, you’re wrong. Nostalgia is a funny thing: it makes us look back fondly on misguided moments, wistfully longing for past encounters while remembering things, perhaps, better than they really were. And like listening to cassette tapes, bringing back a beverage that disappeared is less about the quality of the experience itself than it is about reuniting you with the sticky-sweet memories of a supposedly simpler time.

Those familiar with Zima will delight in the resurrected brand’s old-school internet comeback: the '90s-homage homepage dazzles viewers with the sparkling graphics, upbeat dance music and Comic Sans font—as if!—to match your Xanga profile. Pixilated arrows pulsate toward the scrolling message: “THE LEGEND RETURNS FOR A LIMITED TIME.” And, naturally, retro phone wallpapers are available for download, too.

“Tons of people have been asking for Zima to make a comeback, and this summer seemed like the perfect time,” said Tristan Meline, senior marketing manager of innovation at MillerCoors. “Whether you remember it or not, this summer is your only chance to taste the ‘it’ drink of the ‘90s.”

MillerCoors seems to have struck a chord with this one: despite Zima’s disappearance (likely caused by consumers’ disinterest in the beverage), the product’s return seems to be winning over Old Millennials’ hearts.

This satirical love for Zima is evidenced on Facebook, where Zima fans can debate what should and should not reemerge from 90s-era ephemera in the “Back, Not Back” series (we say Tamagotchi can come back, and Furby can stay); talk sentimental longing with a 90s-themed chatbot on Facebook Messenger (oh my god, remember SmarterChild?!); and, in a dispiritingly modern strategy, on Twitter and Instagram, where the resurrected brand is already achieving meme fame. #ZimaIsBack.