Does Mexican Coke Really Taste Different From Coke Produced in the U.S.?

Mexican Coke has a small, but devoted slice of the Coke-drinkers market (a majority love Coca-Cola Classic, there are tons of Diet Coke admirers, and then there are the cherry and vanilla lovers). Mexican Coke uses real cane sugar (instead of the Coke in the U.S. which uses high-fructose corn syrup), and is bottled in small glass bottles—this for some people is all the difference. So much so that when the Mexican bottler of Coca-Cola let it slip that it was considering switching to high-fructose corn syrup to save money, fans of Mexican Coke expressed enough outrage to get the Mexican bottler to stick with cane sugar.

But, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, it’s a myth that Mexican Coke tastes better:

It would seem the two colas made by the same giant beverage conglomerate are distinct enough for consumers to prefer one over the other—and pay a premium. At my local bodega in Brooklyn, a 12-ounce bottle is $1.50, the same as a 20-oz. bottle of the American stuff. Some describe the Mexican version to be crisper and fizzier, with a hint of root beer. A Coca-Cola spokeswoman, Kerry Tressler, points to company research showing no perceptible difference in taste. Maybe it just seems better from a cold glass bottle in place of the plastic and aluminum prevalent in the U.S.?

It really might be the experience of drinking the soda from a glass, at least according to Mexican Coke lovers. A commenter from the story argues:

Most of the “better taste” factor with MexiCoke comes from it being in glass bottles instead of cans or plastic. Bring back glass!

I have to admit that I too have always thought that the cane sugar in Mexican Coke made it taste better than the high-fructose Coca-Cola Classic bottled in plastic in the U.S. The sweetness of American Coke is cloying, I’ve thought, perhaps, incorrectly. A grocery store near me sells both versions. Perhaps I’ll have to do a side-by-side taste test to find out for sure.

Photo: Adam Bartlett

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28 Comments / Post A Comment

travlinggirl (#4,335)

It definitely tastes different. I mean, cane sugar isn’t the same as high fructose syrup.

deepomega (#22)

I will do this at lunch today.

deepomega (#22)

@deepomega With the help of a coworker I did a blind taste test, and: It is incredibly obvious which is regular coke and which is Mexican coke. The regular one tastes sweeter – almost pepsi-like in comparison. I will continue to shun it.

Mike Dang (#2)

@deepomega Interesting! I’d still like to try it. Perhaps my perception that American Coke is cloying is not incorrect. I also find it interesting that the Serious Eats article posted by ratatosk below notes that blind tasters overwhelmingly choose American Coke.

deepomega (#22)

@Mike Dang Sure – just like blind tasters prefer pepsi. I read once this is because Pepsi’s sweeter taste is more appealing in a single sip, while Coke is better if you drink a whole can. I’d imagine the same thing applies here. And to clarify – I shun American Coke. Mexican Coke is the best.

sea ermine (#122)

So the first time I had Mexican coke it was given to me in a glass (like, a drinking glass rather than a bottle) and I wasn’t told I was drinking anything different than regular coke. The only reason I know it was Mexican coke is because it tasted differently to me and I asked why it tasted that way.

They aren’t radically different but cane sugar definitely has a different taste than high fructose corn syrup.

Also great, Mexican coke with a little lemon squeezed into it.

mayonegg (#1,245)

I am part of the small-but-mighty group of fans! Fortunately, I live close to a Mexican grocery where this stuff is abundant and cheap. I don’t even care if it tastes different–I just feel better knowing that I am putting slightly-less-bad-for-me stuff into my body.

Also, I feel like it’s wonderful for hangovers. Might be just me, though?

@mayonegg I have ridiculous cravings for Mexican coke after hot yoga. (Luckily, there’s a taco place with Mexican coke in the little glass bottles near my hot yoga joint.) So I imagine it’d be fantastic for hangovers.

snowe (#4,421)

I can almost guarantee they taste different. HFCS adds a funky taste to things, but you often don’t notice it until you try the same product without it.

My first job as a teen was working for my aunt in a food science lab. She was working on a chocolate milk study (yes that’s a thing!); part of the project was running taste tests with different sweeteners. Real sugar was a clear winner over the other varieties.

garli (#4,150)

I like seltzer 10000 times better in a glass bottle so they might be onto something. If only it didn’t also cost a bunch more.

garli (#4,150)

@garli Not to talk to my self, but on a totally different note how much do you hate when people tell you “oh you can’t taste x”. Yes? I can?

gyip (#4,192)

Coke totally tastes better in a glass. It’s also better in a can than from a plastic bottle.

Science?

@gyip I refuse to drink Coke from a plastic bottle. Yuck. Gross. (And to be clear: it’s not a “I think plastic is evil thing”– because I drink seltzer willy-nilly from plastic– but Coke tastes gross from plastic.)

Is there Mexican coke in cans? (Maybe in Mexico? I’ve never been. I have no idea.) Because that would be fantastic.

mf (#5,094)

You can also get Coke made with cane sugar at the grocery store around Passover (corn syrup isn’t kosh-for-pas). Just look for some Hebrew writing on the cap. I lived in Maine (where there are not a lot of Jews), and they still had it, in the “ethnic” section.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

I can’t be the only person who saw this item on twitter and assumed it was about drugs right?

@EvanDeSimone shhh everyone’s looking at you now

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

@stuffisthings Nothing i’m not used to. Can i plead to much Vice media in my newsfeed?

eraserface (#1,628)

You feel less full after drinking cane-sugar soda. I hate the fact that this means my body has been wired to like the sated feeling you get with HFCS.

ratatosk (#3,495)

serious eats did an experiment and found that the US versus Mexican Coke question is a good way to separate people who buy things based on taste preference from the people who buy based on their good feelings (boosters): http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2011/09/the-food-lab-drinks-edition-is-mexican-coke-better-than-regular-coke-coke-taste-test-coke-vs-mexican-coke.html

Does European Coke use cane sugar too? Or possibly even… beet sugar?

My understanding is the only reason HFCS is so cheap and prevalent in the US is because of corn subsidies, so Europeans should be on the same page as Mexicans (and Africans and Asians and Antarcticans for that matter.)

karenb (#2,685)

it must be the glass bottle, because no one is raving over “Canadian Coke” despite the great alliteration there, and IIRC all soda (pop) bottled in canada uses cane sugar.

sea ermine (#122)

@karenb I think it’s just way less available in the US and so Americans don’t compare the two as much. I haven’t had Canadian coke but I’ve had coke in spain (which also uses cane sugar) and it tasted just like Mexican coke, and like Mexican coke was better than US coke. I’m sure Canadian Coke is also the same.

@karenb I’ve been in Canada and noticed the difference! :) There is a difference, too, between Canadian and Mexican Coke. Mexican tastes more lemony to me than Canadian does. Mexican Coke, however, is much easier to get where I am since Costco carries it.

jquick (#3,730)

You can buy mex coke at costco’s.

Actually, I do notice the taste difference. However, part of this is that I am extremely sensitive to HFCS (due to cutting it out as much as possible because of my PCOS/insulin resistance that had me diagnosed as borderline diabetic at one point). I find products with a lot of HFCS taste syrupy to me, almost cloyingly so.

Mexican Coke, which our Costco carries, is the only way I’ve been able to drink Coke again without getting glycemic headaches (think a migraine that migraine meds don’t touch). I hadn’t had Coke since I was about 18 by that point, in my mid 20s. I’m really glad to see them step back on the switch to HFCS.

In Iceland, I met a dude from North Carolina who was downing Coke like there was no tomorrow. He explained that American Coke uses HFCS and thus tastes like crap, so he was making the most of Coke with real sugar while he could. I was FLABBERGASTED.

Anyway, after Iceland we were off to the US, so one of the first things I did was buy a Coke (can). I can’t say I noticed a huge difference flavourwise, but I thought the Coke weighed heavier in my mouth than normal Coke. Ick.

(I’m from New Zealand, btw.)

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