When I was a boy, I liked Coca-Cola. Dr. Pepper was my favorite soft drink, but most of the time I drank Coke. It was good stuff. In 1985, Coca-Cola moved to a new and vile formula, only to quickly reverse their position after a loud hue and holler from the public. For a while, there were two flavors of Coke on the market: New Coke and Classic Coke.
Time passed. My taste in sodas evolved. I drank more Dr. Pepper because I was old enough to buy my own pop. I started drinking diet soda instead. Occasionally I still tried a Coke, but I found that I didn’t like it as much as I used to. Something seemed to have changed around the time of the New Coke fiasco. There was a cloying sweetness about it, and it just didn’t taste as good as I had remembered.
Last year there was a minor internet fuss about Mexican Coke, which was widely available in and around San Francisco. This version of Coca-Cola, bottled in Mexico and with only limited distribution in the U.S., reportedly had a cleaner, more satisfying taste. I remember Will brought it up at a dinner party or something last fall to disbelief (or disinterest) from those present.
Yesterday Kris and I stopped at Justy’s Produce on Johnson Road to pick up some tomatoes, apricots, and plums. (We also got some local honey — Kris wants to be sure you all know this.) I was very very thirsty all afternoon, and Justy’s had a case of old-fashioned glass-bottled pop, including Coca-Cola. I picked out three of my favorites, but then put back two, keeping only the Coke. (It cost $1.69 plus deposit!)
I drank it last night with dinner — damn it was good! The stuff was much better than I had remembered. At the time I attributed this to the following factors:
- I had frozen it in the afternoon sot he Coke was mighty chilly.
- The glass bottle was giving me a sensation transference.
- I just hadn’t had Coke recently.
This afternoon, on a kick, I decided to have Coke in that bottle again. I hunted all over the house for a Coke, but we didn’t have one. (We don’t harbor much soda since my wellness program began.) Then, just as I was about to give up, I spotted a single can in the back of the drink fridge, hiding behind several six-packs of tonic water. Victory!
I opened the can and slowly poured the Coke into the bottle, pausing every couple seconds to let the foam subside. Then I took my first sip. Ugh! It was ghastly stuff. This is what I think Coke tastes like nowadays. The glass bottle wasn’t helping. Instantly, I realized what was happening. I remembered the fuss about Mexican Coke from last year. I set the bottle and the can side-by-side and compared the labels. Sure enough: the can was run-of-the-mill Coke produced in the United States. Its ingredients:
Water, high-fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine.
The bottle, on the other hand, was from Mexico. The label was in Spanish, and the ingredients included:
Carbonated water, sugar, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine.
The Mexican Coke had 150 calories in twelve ounces instead of 140 calories in the can from the U.S., but I don’t care. I’d gladly pay the ten calories (and the extra money) to drink real Coca-Cola. The Mexican Coke had a crisp, clean flavor, and was sweet without being overpowering. The Coke from the can was cloyingly sweet with a dull flavor, and it left a sticky residue in my mouth after I drank it.
From my perspective, Mexican Coca-Cola is far superior to the swill we’re given in the United States. The main culprit is that nasty, nasty high-fructose corn syrup.