REVIEW: Crystal Pepsi (2016)

Crystal Pepsi (2016)

Full disclosure: I’m a Coke person. But I like Pepsi.

The sweetness of a cherry Pepsi contrasts particularly well with the sodium bomb of an extra crispy two-piece KFC meal, flanked with a side of comfortingly bland mac and cheese. And on Friday nights before I knew anyone with a car, Pizza Hut would deliver a meat-lovers pizza to the house, accompanied by bulbous onyx two-liter tanks of soda—always Pepsi.

I just like gross, adult stuff now: Bitter, sour, spicy, stuff that tastes like medicine, Coca-Cola. I like the harsh carbonation of Coca-Cola. If we’re picking teams, I’m Team Coke. But Pepsi is fine. And I definitely got my mother to buy me Crystal Pepsi multiple times the twenty-or-so odd years ago it was available.

Crystal Pepsi is back. It’s visually striking, the label’s bold blue and red logo against a foggy clear backdrop. The nostalgia factor is enough to get one buy out of me, but even on pure aesthetics, it’s compelling. A 20-ounce bottle of regular Pepsi looks like a familiar product. A 20-ounce bottle of Crystal Pepsi looks like the absence of Pepsi. It looks naked, vulnerable, honest even. It looks like it’s missing something. And it is.

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What Crystal Pepsi lacks is the almost-metallic taste that hits the back of the throat that regular Pepsi has. It’s hard to tell if the subtraction of the caramel coloring is the reason for this, but without the light medicinal quality, it kicks the balance of the drink into being really sweet. I would say too sweet. If you took a poll of what people thought of OG Pepsi, I think a lot of the answers would be “sweet,” especially in comparison to Coke. So this is even more than that.

At first taste it has the same sugary hit of Pepsi regular. Without the complexity of the rest of Pepsi regular, though, it seems like the soda boosts into maple syrup, lip-curling sweetness territory. I would have assumed a taste test between Crystal and regular would have been at least interesting, but it’s really not difficult to tell them apart. It’s an entirely different beast. It carries the lightness of a ginger ale with the sugary ceiling of an apple juice.

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Crystal Pepsi also has a smoother finish, and the carbonation is less harsh than most other sodas, so the texture in the mouth is also not compensating for the added perceived boost in sweetness. The sugar contents compare to regular Pepsi, however, and the ingredient differences are “gum arabic” and “sodium citrate.” Sure. Who knows what that means. Crystal Pepsi does now contain caffeine, which it didn’t have in the 90’s. So for people looking for a weird ass coffee replacement, that’s good information. “Nothing better in the morning than a cheese Danish and a mug of hot Crystal Pepsi.”

With 90’s nostalgia in full swing, Pepsi is surfing the trend wave. I mean, look at that label. I can’t remember if this is how Crystal Pepsi tasted like this in the 90’s but if it did, it was too sweet then. I probably just didn’t care. I was too busy playing pogs at Taco Bell while listening to Dookie. Now I sit in my breakfast nook and do my taxes and listen to a self-made Train’s Greatest Hits. And I drink Coke. Diet Coke. You got me to buy one, Crystal Pepsi. But I think that’s all you’re gonna get.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 oz – 250 calories, 0 grams of fat, 90 milligrams of sodium, 69 grams of carbohydrates, 69 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 20 fl oz
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Nostalgia factor. Nice looking label.
Cons: Too sweet.

11 thoughts on “REVIEW: Crystal Pepsi (2016)

  1. Bought 2, only drank 1. Not sure if I want to bother opening the remaining bottle. There’s not much to set it apart and it’s not as crisp as I’d hoped. It’s got to be the artificial sweeteners.

    What I was hoping that they would do is use real sugar.

    I guess 20+ year old memories aren’t so reliable after all. On a side note, I too listened to Dookie and played pogs around the time the original came out.

  2. This review is pretty bad. Why have a Coke drinker review a Pepsi product? Of course any Pepsi product is going to be too sweet. There are definitely different levels of spice here than regular Pepsi. If the reviewer couldn’t get past the sweetness, then he should have passed on reviewing the product. This entire review boils down to “Do I have to drink this? Ok, I’ll drink this. I don’t like this because it’s not Coke. Give me a Coke.”

    Hey, I know what that means in regards to gum arabic and sodium citrate. Caramel color acts as an emulsifier for the spice oils that make up the taste of the cola. Since they can’t use it here, obviously, gum arabic is needed in its place. Sodium citrate is like citric or malic acid but imparts a different character than both. What likely happened is there was a limit to how much oil could be emulsified and the Pepsi profile changed in turn. The citrate was probably added to adjust the perception of the spice oils closer to regular Pepsi.

    Also, if you are afraid of GMOs, then I have a desert to sell you in the middle of the ocean.

    1. I dunno. I’m a Coke fan for sure, but I kinda dig the Crystal Pepsi. It’s very sweet, but the spice comes through quite well. Almost reminds me of Holiday Spice Pepsi, but without the earthiness of crazy-amped-up cinnamon.

      Generally, I do prefer something with a bit more bite, but this… this isn’t bad. Sometimes just a little spice is bite enough.

  3. I definitely agree with this review. Pure Crystal Pepsi is way too sweet.

    I will say though, that soda in GENERAL is way too sweet 😛 Especially in cans or bottles, where they jack up that sugar. Gross. I barely drink soda straight anymore because of that kind of thing, and I have to say, the way I usually drink soda improves Crystal Pepsi immeasurably as well – take it with flavored seltzer water! 2/3 a glass of Lime Seltzer and you have one. refreshing. drink right there! There’s something about C-Pep that lets it take on the flavor of a seltzer and completely change its flavor profile – with black cherry, lemon, orange or whatever, it changes really noticeably. And all of them taste great. I just like the clean, citrus-y blast the lime gives it.

    I usually skip out Pepsi myself, opting for Coke or even generic brand Colas. But I’ve picked up a good number of Crystal Pepsis because they go so well when “cut” with Seltzer, which is how most people should probably start drinking their soda, tbh. Seriously; there’s no need for the amount of sugar PepsiCo and Coca Cola put in there. Have a few glasses with Seltzer and your mouth won’t let you go back; your teeth and tongue’ll taste the sugary overload in an instant – drinking it normally will all taste like thick syrup compared to the cleaner, more refreshing taste of Soda + Seltzer.

  4. I have tried the new Crystal Pepsi and it’s not the same as the old Crystal Pepsi, but it will do. I have read all the comments before me, and I agree with it tasting like Holiday Spice. I too am a Coke drinker, and believe that Pepsi tastes like defective Coke. However, oddly enough, I prefer the flavored (lemon, lime, vanilla, even cherry) in Pepsi rather than Coke. I loved Crystal Pepsi as a kid, but it’s different now. Not better, not worse, but different. I remember a more citrus type flavor, and I also remember my mother making a non alcoholic punch for myself and a few friends of mine as a young teen. She used either Hawaiian Punch or some kind of kool-aid, and mixed maraschino cherries and pineapple chunks in with it. This Crystal Pepsi isn’t something for I would use to make a fruity punch out of. For those that haven’t tried it yet, but miss the old Crystal Pepsi, you’re going to be disappointed that it isn’t the same, but not disappointed because it’s different and still good.

  5. I’m definitely digging Crystal Pepsi, I don’t know what it is about it that draws me to it.. It’s lighter in taste for me. I drink both Coke and Pepsi on the regular.. Maybe I’m just weird.

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