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.

12 Replies to “Mexican Coke”

  1. Nikchick says:

    Oh, my friend, I’ve long been of the theory that the switch to New Coke was meant to mask the transition from sugar to High fructose corn syrup. Had New Coke taken off, they’d have been happy. When it didn’t and they “switched back” to so-called Classic Coke, that was *not* the original sugar recipe. Had we been drinking it all the time, everyone would have noticed, absolutely. Instead, discerning palates like ours picked up on the difference but for the majority of people it was close enough.

    For a while Canadian Coke was still made with sugar and you could taste the difference right away. I loved that original stuff…

    I seriously believe that you should avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup whenever possible but when you start paying attention you realize it’s in everything! Really. Buy a loaf of wheat bread from the grocery store? It’s in there! Juice drinks, snack crackers, all sorts of prepared foods are all made with HFCS and there’s compelling evidence that HFCS contributes not only to obesity but also diabetes specifically. I’ve really tried to cut as much of the stuff out of our diet as possible.

  2. J.D. says:

    Nikchick brings up a good point that I forgot to make in the post: Before Coca-Cola introduced New Coke, Classic Coke was made with sugar. When they brought Classic Coke back after a two month absence, it was made with high-fructose corn syrup. This is not a conspiracy theory. It’s a well-documented fact.

  3. Lisa says:

    It sounds like the ingredients speak for themselves. But have you considered the difference between the can and the bottle? Are there people who believe that the can taints the soda?

  4. B says:

    I’ve heard rumors of yellow capped kosher coke being available in some markets, but I have never seen it. This stuff is made with cane sugar too.


  5. luneray says:

    I think only in the US is Coke made with HFCorn Syrup. The Coke I’ve drunk in northern Europe and in South America was all made with sugar. It’s probably an economic thing. HFCS is much cheaper in the US than sugar because the US price for sugar is much higher than the world price due to subsidies on corn and intense lobbying by the US sugar growers. Elsewhere, sugar is cheaper so that’s what’s used.

    I’ve pretty much given up drinking soda completely since I’m trying to eliminate HFCS from my diet, and diet sodas don’t taste all that good either. I used to have a Coke during the afternoon to satisfy my sweet tooth, but now I nibble on some dried mango instead (unsweetened). Satisfies the sweet tooth and is awfully tasty as well. 🙂

  6. Jethro says:

    Amen, brother!

    Let’s start an official HFCS boycott…

  7. Vincent Jan says:

    On 12 August 2007 (02:40 PM), Nikchick said:

    “Oh, my friend, I’ve long been of the theory that the switch to New Coke was meant to mask the transition from sugar to High fructose corn syrup.”

    Disproved. See http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/newcoke.asp

  8. Will says:


  9. pam says:

    J.D. – this all comes down to farm subsidities, with resultant artificial pricing on agricultural products in our country. I am telling you, they are part of the U.S. government axis of evil (along with the postal service and G.W.)!!

  10. Tim says:

    I just got back from southern Arizona, and managed to score some Mexican Coke. I’d been looking forward to trying some since the big hub-bub last year. My experience was the same as yours. The Mexican version is the Coke from my childhood and soooo much better. I wanted to get cases of the stuff, but the WalMart I was at in Nogales only sold singles of it.

  11. allan w. says:

    But, can you find Mexican Coke in the Portland area??

  12. Chris says:

    You are so right. I recently bought Mexican Coke at Costco. It has a great flavor and reminded me of my college days in the early 1980s when I really liked the taste of Coke. I had stopped drinking Coke for the most part in the past few years as it just did not seem to satisfy.
    I just drank a regular Coke for comparison and it is awful. Soda is on the way out of my diet anyway.

    HFCS is cheaper in the US and helps prop up prices for corn. I also think it is partly responsible for making Americans fat as I believe it is not processed by the human body very well.

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