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Variations on a Theme - Regular, Kosher, and Mexican Cokes


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Variations on a Theme - Regular, Kosher, and Mexican Cokes

big o | | Apr 26, 2005 03:59 PM

As a lifelong Coke drinker (though I certainly don't plow through it like I did when I was a kid) I've noticed, from time to time, that there can be dramatic swings in flavor from one Coke to the next. Not just in from-the-fountain servings, which I would expect, but in packaged form as well.

I am aware of three Coke variations that could be used to help explain away this phenomenon: Regular USA Coke, USA Kosher for Passover Coke, and Mexican Coke. However, as I'll get to in a moment, my actual experiences clash with the expectations these types lay down.

As is my understanding, Regular USA Coke is what we've all had more often than not. It's the old Coke formula with cane sugar being replaced, for financial reasons, by high-fructose corn syrup. The Kosher for Passover Coke, in a nod to Jewish religious practices, reinstates the cane sugar and drops the corn syrup. Mexican Coke also makes use of cane sugar, even though I recently had a bottle upon which was affixed a sticker listing corn syrup as an ingredient. I was assured that the sticker is there to appease someone who needs appeasing, and that cane sugar is the actual sweetener in use.

I've had all three types of Coke, and, generally, I prefer the (quite noticeable) difference offered by Kosher and Mexican. But, here's the thing: the two best Cokes I've ever had were of the USA variety. And these weren't just "better" -- they were leaps and bounds beyond all other Cokes I've ever had. Plus, through the years I had access to either of them, each one remained consistent.

The first came in one-liter plastic bottles that my father had delivered to his office in Brooklyn. "Work with Dad" was always a big deal when I was a kid, and I can recall thinking, even all the way back then, that those plastic bottles of Coke were -- for whatever reason -- much better than Coke everywhere else. And they sustained that belief year after year throughout my childhood.

Flash forward about fifteen years to 2001. My company sends me out on a lengthy consulting job in Nashville, Tennessee. The Coke machine on the sixth floor, east-side breakroom of the Caterpillar building spits out a dead-on match for my Brooklyn memory every time I drop in sixty cents. For my (almost) three years in that office, the flavor never changed.

I can't imagine that machine was stocked year-round with Kosher for Passover anything, and I know they weren't pulling stock from south of the border. Anyone know what would account for the consistent Coke superiority at those two locations? Could it just be something that the respective bottlers were doing differently than all other bottlers I've ever wound up with a Coke from? I've had Cokes that, though not on par with those two, have been pretty good, and then I've had others that have been tasteless suckfests. What's the deal?

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