The Impulsive Buy

REVIEW: Coke Freestyle Holiday Beverages (Secret Santa, Jolly Reindeer, and Mistletoe Flow)

Gather ‘round, all you Tiny Tims, Little Lisas, and Miniature Mitchells, and I’ll tell you about how ol’ Ebenezer Dan was visited by three new, carbonated Christmas Cokes during his latest Burger King trip.

As an idealist who insists that each December should be blanketed in snow (and pigs in blankets, but that’s a story for another day), I’ve been bah-humbugging my area’s lack of that magical sky sugar.

Turning to my local holiday radio station for inspiration, the unintentional subliminal advertising within “Hark! The Herald Angel Sings” soon had me driving to the nearest BK to quench my thirst with the chain’s three limited edition, seasonal Coca-Cola flavors. That’s right: I was ready to sing glory to the new-poured Burger King.

I placed my drinks-only order with my Burger King bartender, whose confused expression clearly read, “Gee, I sure hope this isn’t one of those Internet pranks where dumb teens throw soda at typically non-soda covered objects.”

Her confusion intensified as I proceeded to take photos of the Coke Freestyle machine that harbored my sought-after soda behind its newfangled touch screen. After touching the appropriately merry buttons, I was presented with three tempting options.

First up was Secret Santa: the Coke of Christmas Past. This drink earns that title by tasting like every mad scientist concoction of leftover sodas that my cousins and I mixed together as young’ns. The overwhelming taste notes are a seamless cocktail of cola, cherry, and vanilla. It feels like the flavors were unceremoniously dumped together, as it’s hard to distinguish between the candied cherry and syrupy vanilla sensations that blend together like a liquid fruitcake.

Sorry for that mental image.

So while the middle is a bit muddled in this one, the lime twist that comes with the aftertaste is pleasantly citrusy with a subtle sourness. It lasts, too: limey tendrils continued to wander aimlessly around my labyrinthine mouth like a fruity Theseus (that mythology class is finally paying off!).

While the other flavors are available in most restaurant Freestyle machines, Jolly Reindeer seems to be a BK exclusive. This Coke of Christmas Present gets its name by embodying a very irritating modern trend in which companies simply slap two existing things together and call it “New!” “Revolutionary!” or, worst of all, “Mystery Flavored!”

Because there’s no mystery here: the enigmatic “festive blend” of Jolly Reindeer tastes just like Coke mixed with vanilla root beer. It’s tasty, don’t get me wrong, but it makes me imagine an emergency, last minute marketing brainstorming session that ended with a hastily scrawled sticky note reading “DEER = Sounds like BEER? Yes: do it!”

I have to admit that Coke and root beer make great cup-fellows, though. As I chugged down my gingery cola, I noticed a sophisticated herbal and woody aftertaste, as if Jolly Reindeer were barrel-aged and half the cedar barrel came with it. Bravo, Jolly Reindeer: you made me feel like a lumberjack Santa Claus.

My final visitor was Mistletoe Flow. As the Coke of Christmas Future, the Coke Zero base of this drink symbolizes all of the diet drinks I’ll be drinking in the near future to justify the Santa-sized portions of gingerbread men I’ll be sliding down my own face chimney.

Like most diet colas, the body of the drink tastes a bit diluted, light, and artificial. However, the vanilla here makes up for it—unlike the syrupy vanilla smack of Secret Santa, Mistletoe Flow boasts denser notes of genuine vanilla extract.

Beneath the vanilla, I struggled to decipher what the drink’s “zesty blend” was. Coming up empty-handed and full-stomached, all I could think was that it tasted an awful lot like those cola bottle gummies, which have a more puckering and exaggeratedly caramelized cola flavor. And as someone who often dreams of sucking down liquefied cola bottle gummies through a straw, this is a high compliment.

So all in all, each limited edition Coke offering presents a fun holiday present, and each would make a perfect gift for a certain personality. What do you get for the person who has everything? Give ‘em a taste of everything with Secret Santa’s fruity mixology. Got a Ron Swanson-themed holiday party coming up? Go with Jolly Reindeer’s down-to-earth charm (my personal favorite). Oh, and I’m sure your Haribo-loving HariBro will love Mistletoe Flow.

After my invigorating series of visits, this Scrooge is now feeling merry once more. I should probably stop listening to the radio when I’m hungry, though. Because now B.B. King has me dreaming, of a Whiiiteee…Castle!

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Item: Coca-Cola Secret Santa, Jolly Reindeer, and Mistletoe Flow
Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 20 oz (small)
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Secret Santa)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Jolly Reindeer)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Mistletoe Flow)
Pros: A vanilla-y trilogy of holiday fun. Lime-flavored Greek heroes. Three cheers for deer beer: here here! Fulfilling gummy cola fantasies
Cons: Metaphorical liquid fruitcakes. Literal liquid fruitcakes (probably). Drinking flatter colas to get a flatter stomach. Inevitable post-gingerbread man regret. Pissing off the kids behind me at the Freestyle machine