You know the saying about looking a gift horse in the mouth. Well, whoever came up with that stupid phrase likely never wrangled with the bitter lingering aftertaste of free Slurpee day.

7-Eleven celebrated its 84th birthday on Monday, what with the date being 7/11 and all, which meant one thing: free Slurpees for the masses. WaPo offers some details on the history of the frozen treat, as well as a link to area locations offering the complimentary 7.11-ounce cups (pictured).

As a critic, I’m generally not obliged to accept free food. But a Slurpee is hardly food. And the notion that a jaded vet of the grueling print biz could be swayed over less than half a pint of frosty fluid swag seems pretty ridiculous. Unless it’s infused with booze or something. But, to the best of my knowledge, today’s promotion is strictly virginal. So I think we’re good. Ethics seemingly intact, I ventured to the nearest 7-Eleven for a sample of the icy stuff.

Now, it’s been several years, perhaps a decade or longer, since I’ve tasted an honest-to-goodness Slurpee. There might have been an Icee, or some other type of slushy knock-off, somewhere in between. Probably at the cinema. But for the sake of the trademark, let’s keep this review strictly about the genuine article.

The convenience store was pretty packed when I arrived around 2:30 p.m., as the freeloading hordes jockeyed for a limited supply of tiny free cups. (By 4:20 p.m., a colleague reported that the nearest 7-Eleven had completely run out of cups.) With the heat index soaring past the century mark on Monday, Mother Nature couldn’t have been more supportive of the Slurpee promotion.

I figured I might try the “Alienade,” a promotional tie-in with the new sci-fi flick “Cowboys and Aliens.” The spacey Slurpee variety is described as “an out-of-the-world blend of strawberry, raspberry and lemonade.” Unfortunately, the red light was on, indicating that particular tap was malfunctioning.

So I oped for the pina colada instead. Big mistake.

The first sip wasn’t awful. I detected the expected flavor of coconut, minus the complimentary syrupy goodness of a dark rum. But, as I slurped on, the beverage turned ever more bland and watery. The initial sweetness suddenly morphed into a bitter metallic aftertaste that lingered on my tonsils.

While I certainly appreciated the chill factor, I would have been a lot happier with a free cup of ice.

When I returned to my desk, I logged on to the 7-Eleven web site to try and get a better of understanding of what might be causing that nasty aftertaste I was unable to kick. According to the posted nutritional information, listed by flavor, an 8-ounce serving of the Fanta Pina Colada variety clocks in at 66 calories, with 18 grams of sugar. The listed ingredients suggest a number of possible culprits: high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavoring, yucca extract, quillaia extract, sodium benzoate. Yum!

One thing is clear: Next year, I’ll slurp on something else, thanks.

Photo by Chris Shott