PopCult: The Obsessive Journal of Quality Pop Culture

The new Diet Cokes are not as horrifically bad as the old Diet Coke

I hate Diet Coke. So does everyone else. Yet we have all been drinking it for over 35 years. Why? Because the Coca-Cola Company told us to, claiming their infernal concoction had a “delicious, crisp taste” (among so many other blatant lies). And, most importantly, we yearned to continue sating our childhood Coke addiction in a way that wouldn’t someday end badly with obesity and diabetes. So: Diet Coke tyranny.

But Diet Coke has always been terrible. Its flavor isn’t even remotely similar to regular Coke (which itself is not as good as the original pre-corn syrup Coke). Rather than Coke’s traditional spicy-sweet rush (which we immediately want more of after each swallow), Diet Coke delivers an acrid mouthful of metallic battery acid that any discerning person immediately wants to spit out. Coke Zero proved the lie of Diet Coke by actually tasting much more similar to “the real thing”—so much so that Coca-Cola recently dumbed it down with the “improved” Coke Zero Sugar, which tastes more like Diet Pepsi than anything else. (Yes, it’s all just like how the company dumbed down the fabled original recipe with “New Coke” in 1985.)

Obviously, these calculations are part of a 100-year-old secret plot being perpetuated by the secret inner circle at the Coca-Cola Company for reasons beyond our mortal understanding. Either that or executives really don’t know what the hell they’re doing. But their new effort to save Diet Coke isn’t without a saving grace: Diet Coke isn’t completely undrinkable anymore.

As you’ve no doubt heard via all available news outlets, there are now five different flavors of Diet Coke. Crazy! Here’s all you need to know about their drinkability:

Feisty Cherry is not actually very feisty. In fact, I would label it “Rather Wan Cherry.” In contrast, the old Cherry Coke Zero was a raging monster truck of fake cherry flavor.

Zesty Blood Orange is likewise not altogether “zesty” per se, but it is surprisingly lifelike—rather than taste like your usual artificial orange of the sort that makes the roof of your mouth hurt, it has hints of actual blood orange flavor. But it nevertheless conjured memories of St. Joseph’s chewable aspirin for kids.

Ginger Lime may lack a youth-oriented adjective in its name, but it is accurate—the flavor is surprisingly nuanced, not going overboard in either direction but attaining a nice balance between ginger and lime. Do we dare say it’s “sophisticated”? Maybe not yet.

Twisted Mango makes this marketing exercise all worth it. It’s actually very good, bringing a sweetness to Diet Coke that almost tastes natural. It also seems even more bubbly than the others, and offers an actual bouquet of mangoness. Altogether, it’s a pleasing facsimile of refreshment.

But what of plain old Diet Coke itself, now encapsulated in the same trendy “slim” can as the other newfangled Diet Cokes? Perhaps I was so swayed by Twisted Mango that my usual gag reflex was restrained, but I think this version actually tastes better—or at least less evil than before. It’s still not as good as Coke Zero or even Coke Zero Sugar, but it’s not as immediately offensive to the senses as it used to be. Nice try, Coca-Cola food chemists!

Meanwhile, Diet Rite is still superior in every respect.

Coury Turczyn

Coury Turczyn is a concerned consumer of popular culture. Got an interesting story idea or an amazing financial opportunity to share? Contact him at coury@popcultmag.com.

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