In April of 1985, both the dumbest and smartest move in soft drink history was made. If you look at the soda shelf in your typical grocery store in 2019, there’s going to be a country mile of flavor combinations, diets, pseudo diets, and countless rows of other bullshit. Thirty years ago however, sodas weren’t so much additions to the market as they were replacements. Coca-Cola introduced a new formula of its flagship soda pop that was hawked by pop culture icons like Max Headroom and Bill Cosby (in retrospect, this should have been a sign) telling us that new Coke would be even better. You don’t need our soda blog for this particular history lesson, as it’s already been done to death. New Coke really pissed people off, and within months they brought back the Classic formula…and the greatest conspiracy to make billions of dollars in nostalgia profit went off without a hitch, as Coke has been king ever since. Fast forward to the present day, and Coke is back on its bullshit in the most wonderful way.
New Coke is making a comeback in its original 1985 packaging with a ball-bustingly limited release. Let’s get the most pressing fact out of the way early, I really did pay 20 damn dollars for everything that’s in the picture above (plus a handsome box fit for displaying my capitalistic ignorance on any mantle piece). This Stranger Things commemorative gift set was $20 for a slightly modified label on a pair of “regular” Coke bottles with two cans of New Coke thrown in for “free” like its some fucking favor for the low brow single digit IQ’d members of society like myself that purchased one. Another disclaimer: I don’t care about Stranger Things, and I’ve never seen a single frame of the show. All I know is one of the particularly fugly boys from that cast has a new show taking advantage of the unemployed, and if this is real then fuck him and fuck that stupid show. I’m only in this for the chance to taste New Coke and see what all the fuss was about, especially as I never took advantage of the Coke II experiment from the turn of the century. Even with the safety net of Coca-Cola Classic just a few feet away in my pantry, how would New Coke stack up? Let’s open up a ten dollar can of soda and find out.
New Coke looks and smells indistinguishable from the Classic formula, which I suppose was an intended point. From the anecdotal research I’ve done on New Coke, a lot of people were more taken aback by the marketing than the actual drink itself that things were changing for the worse. Still, the taste certainly does offer a new experience. Coke Classic is meant to be enjoyed with hearty bold sips or gulps as the rich, not nearly as sweet flavor is best enjoyed in large doses. New Coke seems to require more of the Pepsi approach. New Coke is definitely sweeter, but also has a distinct lack of carbonation in comparison to what I’m used to. I have no idea if the carbonation is in fact different, however both my wife and I agreed that New Coke tastes a little “flatter” but not necessarily in the bad way. I’d keep a sleeve of this around the house if they ever choose to go the route of a full release again, but I can also see why Coke fans were so disturbed about this mid 80’s change.
Verdict: New Coke is an enjoyable alternative to the classic king of the colas, and the experience was a history lesson in a glass for each facet of the soda drinking market. The packaging and price point for this experience was a hefty kick in the balls, but one of the world’s most profitable companies in history usually knows what it’s doing. Moreover, during this Stranger Things promotion, they can carry on laughing all the way to the bank. Truth be told, New Coke is not a terrible thing to drink…but if Bill Cosby was filling my glass and telling me everything was going to be changing for better, I’d probably have a fucking issue with it too.