Diet Coke has announced its new flavors. They are:
Well, no. The actual names are Ginger Lime, Feisty Cherry, Zesty Blood Orange and Twisted Mango. Yes, “Zesty Blood,” as though they’ve discovered some athletic vampire portion of the market previously unserved.
You might miss the old flavors; I won’t. At some point I was drinking a Diet Coke with Lemon and thought, “If I mixed corn syrup and furniture polish, how would it taste different?” The Diet Coke with Cherry had top notes of rusty nail and wet saddle, and I swore off both.
Once you stop drinking these things, your taste buds recalibrate, like grass growing in the no man’s land of WWI battlefields. Your appetite for carbonated paint thinner diminishes, and you start drinking cans of flavored carbonated water. The problem is that they have “flavor” in the sense that someone walked outside the bottling plant and waved a grapefruit.
Anyway, Diet Coke’s new versions are aimed at millennials, of course, because everything is aimed at millennials. “We’re so sorry about your crippling student debt. We’ve reformulated some pop; hope it helps.”
A Coke spokesperson actually said this in a news release: “Millennials are now thirstier than ever for adventures and new experiences, and we want to be right by their side. We’re contemporizing the Diet Coke brand and portfolio with sleek packaging and new flavors that are appealing to new audiences.”
Apparently we have millions of millennials in a state of peak parch when it comes to the need for experience-related adventures. Get these kids some cold cola cans stat.
That said, this is all great. New flavors! Who doesn’t want to try new flavors? At least the names are helpful. Mountain Dew has been making bro-centric drinks with such names as Code Red and White Out. Soon they’ll market Cerulean Smash and Ocher Overload and Blast Radius and Mouth Hammer.
Kids today, by gum, they got no gol-durned idea how limited the pop flavor market used to be. You had your colas — Coke and Pepsi for normal, good Americans, and RC for the hairy, sandal-wearing nonconformists. There also was 7-Up, which you drank warm when you were sick, with its rather presumptive slogan: “You like it, it likes you.” I question your premise, pal.
Later came Sprite. Like 7-Up, it was lemon-lime, something no one asked for. “Can I have a lemon soda? I love lemons. No. OK, got any lime soda? No. How about a combination of the two that muffles their distinctive qualities?”
Let’s not forget grapefruity Squirt, which was different and delicious but weird. Squirt was for the chess-club president who sat down at your lunch table and started talking about one-world government.
You had orange pop, usually Nesbitt’s, and root beer, which fought a low-level war like the Coke-Pepsi conflict, with Dad’s and Hires slugging it out.
That was it. If some pop exec had said, “How about we try a guava-mango drink?” the boss would’ve pulled him aside and hissed: “Are you smoking that mari-ju-ana I keep reading about?”
When I was growing up in Fargo, our soda was limited to picnic Shasta, so of course I ran off to college and sampled the sinful syrups of the big city. I had my first Cherry Coke at Grey’s Drugstore in Dinkytown. It arrived in a tall tapered glass full of crushed ice; the straw wore a paper condom. It was a heavenly mix of Coke and cherry syrup, just like they made in the Olden Times.
It was the sugar that made it really sing, of course. True pop experts bemoan the switch from sugar to corn syrup, as if that change turned Americans from go-getter Nazi-beaters into slumped sacks inert on the sofa, mashing remote control buttons with plump thumbs.
Maybe. I just know that the finest soda experience I ever had was working a bottle of Grape Nehi out of a gas station cooler in Tennessee and drinking it under the blaring summer sun of the South. I was selling seeds for Northrup King that summer, a job I took because I wanted — nay, thirsted — for new adventures and experiences.
If it showed up in the stores in a sleek new can tomorrow, I’d pass. If it was a battered, chipped bottle with a scratched-up painted label? I’d buy a case.
And then pour it down the drain! All that sugar. OK, a sip or two can’t hurt. The brand portfolio isn’t contemporized, but ohhh, it’s so delicious.