Saturday, July 31, 2010

How to enjoy Coke

Ever since I was a teenager, I have shunned trends, logos and labels. For some odd reason, there was a period of a few years where this belief did not translate to my love of Coke. I believed that as Coke was something I loved and cherished and they had a beautiful logo, it made sense to wear a Coke t-shirt. Eventually, I couldn't reconcile this with my anti-corporate sentiments, so I rid myself of the Coke clothing. What I could not rid myself of though was my love for the product and nor did I want to.

While I make it a point not to keep Coke stocked in my house, I do indulge myself often enough outside the home. I have indulged myself enough over the years to know all the best ways to enjoy it and also the ways not to. I know the Coca-Cola Company is an evil, multi-national corporation so at first I hesitated about writing something that promotes their product. But for many of us, with all our good intentions and deeds, we can't help but like Coke, so for us, I have written this guide. Hopefully I have written enough truths so that the Coca-Cola Company will not find this to be kind of promotion they are looking for.

Coke in a can

Coke in a can used to be the most commonly found and best method for obtaining Coke on the go. It serves its purpose well, with the aluminium holding and conducting coldness well and keeping the contents refreshing and cold for a decent amount of time. On an average day, I would say I drink at moderate speed and at this rate, by the time I reach the last fifth of the can after consistent gulps, it is just starting to warm up and lose its magic. A fast drinker who can slam a can down in under three minutes is guaranteed satisfaction for the duration of the can.

Coke in a plastic bottle (large)

We usually meet our 1.25 and 2 litre bottle friends at parties or when pizzas are ordered. Cups are required and if we are lucky, ice is also supplied. While from a cup with no ice is not an ideal way to ingest Coke, in group situations, it is the only reasonable thing to do. If the party is any good, you are too distracted by conversation to really put too many expectations on your Coke. When enjoyed with pizza, it works as a fabulous companion, so as long as it is reasonably cold, it doesn't matter where it came from. In all situations, glasses are always preferable to plastic cups for serving.

Coke in a plastic bottle (small/buddies)

I really resent that in Australia, Coca-Cola opted to name the smaller, on-the-go bottles of Coke the "buddy" because Coke in this form is no friend of mine. The plastic bottle is the enemy of maintaining Coke. When you have a beverage that can only be enjoyed in a very small temperature range and only with adequate carbonation, after which point the beverage becomes undrinkable, the plastic bottle foils both of these needs. The plastic fails to maintain coldness and as a result, whatever carbonation is left is not enjoyed. What should be light, cool bursts of refreshment on your tongue and throat end up being hot bombs that sear on their way down. The experience is vastly different from other, colder methods of delivery. From the first sip, straight out of the fridge, this kind is already not good enough.

While visiting Europe recently, I found that plastic bottled Coke was prevalent while cans were scarce. This is a sad state of affairs for those who crave a good Coke and think they can just wander into any store to get their fix. 

A further enemy of this method is its cap. Unlike a can or a glass bottle, with a metal cap, the plastic bottle comes with a cap that can be screwed back on. So not only is this Coke inferior from its first sip, but as it steadily gets worse, everything is set up to prolong this pathetic experience. Unlike with cans and glass bottles, the fact that they are open and un-sealable demands that we drink it in a timely fashion. With the screw back on cap, we find ourselves mindlessly sipping hot, brown, flat crap hours after it was first opened simply because it's still in our possession. It is a far cry from how Coke started out.

Does the improved grip make it harder to throw this rotten incarnation away?

Coke in a glass bottle

Mexican Coke is revered for having real cane sugar instead of corn syrup. Mmmm.

This form of Coke is not often found, but when it is, it's a true delight. The glass keeps the drink adequately cold and the bottle itself in its beauty, does indeed enhance the experience, whether or not it should. My only complaint about the glass bottle is that I find slurping through the narrow neck leads to a lot of carbonation destruction which doesn't occur with a can. With a can, the opening allows the drink to flood in and what wont make it, gently falls back. With a bottle, particularly the glass, I find my lips completely covering the opening and during the transference of the liquid, my upper lip gets sucked into the bottle. This exchange seems to cause some stress on the Coke and some bubbles are killed in the battle over my upper lip. This process also slows the consumption, bringing us dangerously close to warm and un-carbonated: a place we don't want to be.

Coke from a fountain

This blog does not endorse the consumption of Diet Coke as pictured. Pepsi is preferred to this undrinkable swill.

Growing up, the Coke you got from fountains at fast food joints was questionable. The young palette untrained, it could only go by what it saw going into the cup and that was a stream of brown and stream of clear. The Coke was being watered down before our eyes! The humanity! As a Coke enthusiast, I eventually learned that no, this was not a Coke travesty but in fact Coke in its purest form and just as God intended it to be. Coke doesn't get any fresher than Coke at the fountain. The syrup is in one chamber, the cold soda water in another. When the trigger is pulled, they meet at the right proportions and poured over ice, magic is made and the ice keeps it at it's optimum for the longest of any other method. The more ice, the better, unless you take too long to drink it and it all melts, thus watering down your drink.

As a child I would often ask for no ice, thinking I had won. I would get that ENTIRE CUP filled with Coke. Ha! But I was yet to learn of quality over quantity. A large amount of un-chilled Coke simply wont cut it today.

*An important note about Coke with ice: While chilled Coke is only enhanced with ice, warm Coke is another horrible matter entirely. Often at a restaurant you will order a Coke, they will place a warm can on your table and a glass filled with ice. I always head into this situation with hope, but the result is always the same: warm liquids melt ice. What results is Coke that is fast watered down. With the Coke so many more degrees warmer than then ice, this happens instantly. I also believe this mismatch of temperature causes a sort of fright to the Coke, subsequently, on impact with the ice, the bubbles are scared right out of there and you will find not only is your Coke watered down, but also flat. You will, however, find this miserable beverage cold if nothing else.

Frozen Coke

The mention of frozen Coke may be controversial. Some Coke enthusiasts may find its inclusion as much of an abomination as the mention of Good Charlotte in a conversation about punk. With my preferences set long ago, the appearance of Frozen Coke was not even on my radar. I tried it one day while hanging out with my friend who was working at a gas station who informed me that he couldn't give me anything for free except the Frozen Coke. Being a teenager and poor, I took the offer because it was free, but a new Coke experience revealed itself to me.

Given that Coke is such a precarious drink, always on the brink of being awful, Frozen Coke appears doomed from the offset as carbonation simply cannot exist under these frozen conditions. And yet, something about the sharp crystals of ice seem to perform the same task as carbonation. While not the same, this is still effective. The other benefits of this style is dipping the straw down to the bottom where the syrup is slowly pooling. It's like you are getting the pure Coke syrup as it has separated from most of the water. Frozen Coke is a journey with  straw movements and time giving you a range of goodness. It is only once too much ice has melted into any remaining syrup that what's left becomes undrinkable, but I am usually almost done by then. Frozen Coke is a well priced and often overlooked treat for the Coke fan. I also find them incredibly satisfying when hungover. 


Of course taste is in the tongue of the drinker, so you may disagree with some of what I have said based on your own preference. There are a few nutters who simply love flat Coke. I feel that I like Coke the way it was intended, as shown in all advertising: ice cold and carbonated. Bikinis, Santa and rollerblades may come and go, but those two things remain constant.  It is on this preference that I have based my research. I hope it gave you something to think about when you next enjoy a Coke.

Um, it actually depletes whatever hydration you did have, but whatever.

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