Monday, October 26, 2009
Mexican Coke, Passover Coke, Cleveland Coke
Coca Cola: ubiquitous, enduring, and familiar. And unchanging. Well, except for that ridiculous New Coke thing in the 80's. And, as it turns out, Mexico. We're a little late to the party, but it was only on a recent trip to California that Foodgoat was first introduced to Mexican Coke. What's that, you say? Coke with a splash of tequila? A dash of cayenne? No, it's a Coca Cola that has been made and bottled in Mexico. What's the difference?
Instead of using highly processed high fructose corn syrup, in Mexico they make Coke with plain old cane sugar.
And they bottle it in an old fashioned glass bottle, instead of a can or plastic bottle.
These two factors make Mexican Coke a delightful, nostalgic alternative to regular American Coke for Foodgoat. Drinking a Mexican Coke is a warm, pleasant experience that takes him back to his early childhood in the 70's, visiting his grandparents' house in Garfield Heights.
Is it just the glass bottle? Nope. Mexican Coke, with its cane sugar, really does taste more like the Coke of yore. In 1980, corn syrup replaces half the sugar in Coke in the U.S.; by 1985, U.S. Coke was sweetened entirely by high fructose corn syrup, which is much cheaper (while sugar is cheaper is Mexico).
While Coca Cola claims it makes no difference at all in the taste, others disagree, and Foodgoat is one of them. He put it to a head to head blind taste test, and found Mexican Coke the winner: it had a discernibly smoother taste.
But then we came back to Cleveland. Foodgoat had a yen for Mexican Coke, but nowhere to get it. We thought our Mexican Coke craving would have to wait until our next visit to California.
But on our weekly trip to Alesci's, the local Italian deli, Foodgoat spied a box of just delivered Coke bottles, and an examination of the label confirmed it: Mexican Coke! In Cleveland! Just around the corner from us!
We went home with six bottles.
After happily enjoying our Mexican, cane-sugared Coke, Foodgoat took a glance at the ingredient list on a regular, U.S. bottled Coke to see if there was anything else different.
He was surprised to find sucrose, rather than high fructose corn syrup, on the ingredient list. Isn't that ... sugar?
It is sugar, from sugar beets instead of sugar cane, and definitely not high fructose corn syrup. It turns out that not all Coca Cola bottlers in the U.S. use high fructose corn syrup. Among the few that don't: the Cleveland bottler! Thus, Coke in Cuyahoga County is made without the dreaded high fructose corn syrup, just like Mexican Coke.
In fact, some Coke bottlers in certain metropolitan areas switch to using sugar once a year - every late March and early April, for the two to three weeks leading up to Passover. Corn syrup can't be consumed during this time by observant Jews, hence this limited run of Passover Coke. As you can imagine, it runs out quickly.
The Cleveland bottler, though, apparently uses sugar year round.
So if you can't find Mexican Coke and it's not Passover, look for Cleveland Coke!