As an older millennial, born in 1985, I never quite know how I should think of the ‘80s. Am I an 80’s kid? On the one hand, I distinctly remember hiding my He-Man themed Slap Bracelet in my Transformers Trapper Keeper because some kid two towns over had allegedly accidentally slit his wrist with one. Further evidence: that Trapper Keeper would later be lugged home in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles duffle bag and the map on the classroom wall still had an ominous swath of red labeled “USSR” on it.
On the other hand, my ‘90s kids sense of ironic detachment says it’s kinda sad so many of my early memories are dominated by commercial properties. Plus, I only saw The Breakfast Club last week, and still haven’t seen Labyrinth.
Whether I’m a child of the ‘80s or not, there’s one relic from the era that I regret missing: New Coke. The soda always seemed to symbolize something essential about the ‘80s. It’s an updated, new take on a decade’s old classic, ready for the next generation and eager to face a hopeful future. Yet, it failed.
(‘90s kids says, “Dude, it’s just flavored sugar water, get over it and go live an authentic life!”)
Ever ready to capitalize on nostalgic desire, Netflix and Coca-Cola have collaborated on the Stranger Things 1985 Limited Edition Collector’s Pack featuring New Coke. Will trying it fill in some ineffable hole from my childhood? Let’s find out!
According to internet lore, New Coke was actually Coca-Cola’s attempt to replicate Pepsi’s sweeter tasting formula, which performed better in blind taste tests. You can thank my internal internet-obsessed ‘00s teen for that factoid.
So, this seems like a perfect opportunity to perform a comparison: New Coke vs. Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola Classic.
Before tasting, I gave each a quick sniff. Coke Classic has a very mild scent, with both Pepsi and New Coke being much sharper. As I taste each, this pattern remains. Coke Classic is less sweet, with a rounder flavor. New Coke and Pepsi are sweeter and have a more acidic bite. I can see how Pepsi would perform better in a taste test. It’s also more carbonated, so it’s more exciting to drink in the moment.
A bit more internet research reveals that cola flavor is actually a combination of vanilla, cinnamon, and citrus. The citrus element of Pepsi is supposedly more lemon-forward, with Coke Classic relying more on orange. This unverified and poorly sourced research conforms to what I already thought, and so I will believe it. I would bet the primary differences between New Coke and Coke Classic are that the former is sweeter with more lemon in its cola formulation.
Additionally, Coke Classic has some caramel flavor that’s lacking in Pepsi. If there’s a difference between New Coke and Pepsi, it’s that New Coke also has some of this caramel flavor.
It turns out there’s a reason they don’t make New Coke anymore. It doesn’t deliver anything that Pepsi doesn’t already, and Coca-Cola Classic is better than both. (Don’t @ me Pepsi fans. 2019 adult me doesn’t need to be dragged through the mud on social media.)
Purchased Price: $19.85 (Included in Stranger Things Collector’s Pack)
Size: 12 fl. oz. can
Purchased at: Cokestore.com
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts:: 160 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates (includes 42 grams Added Sugars), 0 grams of fiber, and 0 grams of protein.