Coke: United States vs. Mexico

Categories: Beverages

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Cane sugar has been gaining on HFCS lately. Dr Pepper admitted that high-fructose corn syrup is a shoddy sweetener when it turned Lawyer Pepper on its Dublin, Texas bottler. And tonic makers have created a new market from the knowledge that gin mixes with corn syrup like gin goes with police checkpoints.

We decided to do a little research on the difference between beverages made with the two sweeteners. It would not be a contest if I compared American corn syrup Cokes with Mexican sugar Cokes, so I decided to make it a more interesting three-way battle with the inclusion of Jarritos Mexican Cola. I'm a fan of other Jarritos flavors--Mandarin Orange, Grapefruit, and Guava--all made with cane, not corn. I tasted the three colas plain, with rum, and with rum and lime for Cuba Librés.

When tasted plain, the Mexican Coca-Cola won handily. The sugar vibrates mildly on the tongue, while the American Coca-Cola dulls the taste buds, like an ultra-thin layer of liquid cotton. The Jarritos tasted like a cola, but had an extra taste, sort of fruity, like a child had mixed up several different soft drinks (a "suicide") and poured a little in the cola. Jarritos placed third.

Next came rum and Coke. The addition of Flor de Caña Gold Rum complemented the extra taste of the Jarritos, moving it into second place behind the Mexican Coca-Cola. The American Coke fell to a distant third. The "Real Thing" was beginning to look real pathetic.

Finally, I sliced a Persian lime into three equal parts, muddled them in separate glasses, and added rum, cola and ice for Cuba Librés. The lime juice accentuated the mystery fruit flavor of the Jarritos, and produced a completely different drink flavor, which I'll call a Mexico Libré.

The Mexican sugar Coca-Cola won again, but the lime juice and lime oil cut through the unctuousness of the high-fructose corn syrup, to the point where the difference between Mexican and American Coca-Cola, at least in Cuba Librés, is negligible.

Jarritos Mexican Cola can be found in the international aisle of Kroger. Sugar Coca-Cola, in classic glass bottles, can be found there, too, but not on the regular Coca-Cola shelf.



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9 comments
yknot
yknot

Don't forget you can get Houston made sugar cane Coke in the spring.  Kosher for Passover and varies grocery stores. 

Jay Francis
Jay Francis

Here's an idea for a future experiment. I've never tried it myself but when I read a chemistry treatise several years back that Coca-Cola gets is flavor from bubbling sherry through de-cocanized coca leaves, I always meant to try making a simple syrup of sugar and water and then sweetening a glass of tawny port to taste, to see if the two flavors were close.  John?

SirRon
SirRon

Anyone else up on that HEB cola sweetened with cane sugar? They sell it in glass bottles too if you think Sugar is better than HFCS and Glass Bottled is better than Aluminum Canned.

Jay Francis
Jay Francis

Did you do a double blind taste test? I doubt that you could tell the difference between HFCS Coke and cane sugar Coke. I've done the experiment myself with 10 co-workers and no one could discern the difference.  Until.....I cooked with each. I put a 12 ounce serving of each in a sauce pan on a gentle simmer to reduce the water. By the time a thick syrup had formed in each, they were then taste tested against each other. The HFCS Coke tasted disgusting, a metallic, pesticide taste. The Mexican Coke was very palatable and could be used succesfully in a recipe. 

Recommended reading: Harold McGee's section on sugars in On Food and Cooking or, this article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H...

Allison B.
Allison B.

I love me some Mexican Coke too!! Yumm!

Lina Panahi
Lina Panahi

I love Mexican coke! I'm glad it's gaining popularity at the regular grocery stores.

Guest
Guest

Brilliant idea.  Regrettably, I loathe port, tawny or otherwise.

John Kiely
John Kiely

I always use the Three-card Monte method, with identical glasses and identical pours, numbered on the bottom, which are then switched around by my research assistant (hand pictured).  It was suggested by Robb Walsh, in his original story on smuggled Dr Pepper, that people who grew up with only HFCS-sweetened drinks cannot tell the difference, or actually prefer the feel.  Like I say, it's more the feel than the taste that is affected.

I recommend making gin and tonics, one with Schweppes, the other with Q or Fever-Tree Tonic, to see what HFCS does to cocktails.

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