Mar 26

Tales of a Soda Jerk

I’ve always been a big fan of soda. When I was a kid, around 11 or 12, I was known to drink an entire six-pack in a single day. This was a great source of consternation among my parents, especially Dad. At a certain point they switched primarily to caffeine-free and/or diet sodas, which I found increasingly unpalatable.

pepsifree

Bleah.
Image credit: Roadsidepictures

Nevertheless, having a much stronger stomach in those days I drank the diet stuff anyway. It tasted like I was prematurely embalming myself, but whatever. Sometimes when money was tight we’d step down further into the bowels of Shasta Cola land. That low-end stuff was just as bad, if not worse. With the notable exception of generic black cherry soda – which I still buy from time to time – I came to hate that stuff with a passion.

Speaking of cherry, a watershed moment in my soda life came in 1985 with the introduction of Cherry Coke or, as the marketing department calls it now, “Coca-Cola Cherry.” This stuff was the bomb and a prized commodity indeed as far as my 12-year-old mind was concerned. It almost made up for the New Coke blunder.

CherryCoke80s

Pictured: 80s ambrosia.

I don’t know if I was imagining it at the time, but it seemed like back when Cherry Coke came out the intensity of the cherry flavoring varied randomly from can to can. If you got a can with less flavoring, it was still OK. But if you got a can on the high end, oh man, you had yourself the best soda experience ever. I hesitate to say it’s my favorite childhood memory, but it’s definitely in the top 10. Sadly, it appears whatever consistency issues Coca-Cola had with the product are long since corrected, as I haven’t noticed the discrepancy for years.

No entry like this would be complete without a discussion of the long-running “cola wars” between Coke and Pepsi. When I was younger I preferred Pepsi. However, this slowly began to change with the introduction of Cherry Coke. By high school I was a firm Coke partisan.

A lot of people say they can’t tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke, but I can. However, the infamous New Coke tasted just like Pepsi to me. So if you’re too young to remember New Coke, in my opinion you didn’t miss much. I suppose in an alternate reality where New Coke was successful Pepsi and Coke taste the same, but not in my reality.

Some of my favorite Coke products, such as Mello Yello and Mr. Pibb (er, excuse me, “Pibb Xtra“), are maddeningly hard to find around here. Another favorite, Surge, has been gone for years. So when I’m in that mood I settle for Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper instead.

Mr._Pibb

With Coke it’s either cutsey marketing names … or bad grammar apparently.

As I’ve aged I become less partial to sweet things in general. As a result I don’t drink nearly as much soda as I used to. As you’ve probably noticed I call it “soda.” Most people around here call it “pop.” I did too as a kid. That changed after I moved back east and stuck. Call it a personality quirk, or something.

Oh yeah. Now that I’m ostensibly a grownup I don’t drink diet soda, at all. I’m not ready to be embalmed yet.