Mexican Coke: Is There a Diff?
The New York Times isn't always on the ball. Lately we've read some seriously Onion-esque doozies, like last month's recession-friendly human interest story about a young, high-earning Brooklynite redecorating her new downtown loft -- "on the cheap" -- for $5,000. That was a howler. Nor does the Times mind coming a little late to a party. Blogs can bloviate within minutes of something going down, and the Twitterati can tweet the very second something happens, but at the end of the day, on some level, news isn't really news until The Gray Lady weighs in, blowing up trends and illuminating subjects -- often years after they've surfaced -- but with authority and insight nevertheless. On Sunday, Mexican Coke had its moment, courtesy of Rob Walker's Consumed column. Walker initially tried Mexican Coke because he preferred its sleek glass bottle. Now, even as he acknowledges the fizzy little cult the product has spawned -- Web sites devoted to pinpointing where it can be found, a Facebook page, etc. -- and relays a crushing quote from a Coke spokesperson ("All of our consumer research indicates that from a taste standpoint, the difference is imperceptible"), Walker seeks out Mexican Coke whenever he can, not because it's cane sugary instead of corn syrupy, or for any clear rational reason, but because he believes "it tastes better."
joel8x/Flickr Sometimes, a Coke is just a Coke.
The San Francisco Chronicle tried to figure that out in 2007 with a blind taste test, and results, while inconclusive, did in fact reveal perceptible differences in taste between Mexican and American bottles. Senior critic Michael Bauer and wine editor Jon Bonné sided with the stars and stripes, citing its "cleaner finish" and mellowed sweetness. Former drinks writer W. Blake Gray and editor Miriam Morgan preferred theirs hecho en Mexico, trumpeting Mexican Coke's "finer mousse of bubbles and straightforward sugar flavor" as well as generally fuller taste.
Toward the beginning of his piece, Walker shares Andy Warhol's famous cola quote: "A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it and you know it." We would wager that the normally soda-phobic citizens ordering Mexican Coke at San Francisco's taquerias, bars, and upscale restaurants would disagree. As Walker suggests, devotion doesn't always require a rational explanation.