Coke vs. Pepsi- Which is better and why? A continuing saga.... (click here for Part 1)
Hands down, neither one is champion. It boils down to personal preference, but caffeine free Cola is like decaf coffee-you just don't drink it unless you need to for medical reasons. I'd give Coke the edge just on taste alone.
Cane Sugar(how it's meant to be).
There was a lot of speculation back in the 1980's that Coke changed to "New Coke" as a clever marketing ploy to distract people from the fact that they were going to switch from sugar to HFCS. While that is total bullshit(Coke switched to the new formula because Pepsi consistently beat it in blind taste tests(Coke almost always wins when the labels are prominently featured)), it does raise an interesting question-does Coke(or for that matter, Pepsi) taste drastically different if the sweeteners are changed? The answer? A resounding hell yes.
A few years ago Coke decided to start allowing their bottlers and retailers to import Coke from Mexico-where it has remained sweetened with sugar. I had to have some, so me and the wife went to Costco(the only source I knew of at the time), and plunked down $18 for a 12 pack(!!!) of 12 oz. glass bottles. It was totally worth it. Coke with sugar is like suckling from the teat of a coffee goddess while someone tosses bouquets of cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans about your head and shoulders. I realized at that moment that HFCS Coke tasted very much like 2 things-the burnt, slightly off sweetness of HFCS itself, and Phosphoric Acid. Coke has such a complex arrangement of flavors it's no wonder there were cook books dedicated to using it as an ingredient. Since the HFCS doesn't drown out everything else, you can actually smell the vanilla and cinnamon as you take it into your palate. You can detect the sweetness of the sugar and the sour of the citrus, and then you feel the sting of the acid on your tongue.
Pepsi(Hecho en Mexico) and Pepsi Throwback(one in the same, as far as I can tell), on the other hand, doesn't get much better in it's sugared form. Don't get me wrong, it's still decent, but I actually think it's better with HFCS. Pepsi's primary appeal over Coke is it's incredible sweetness-so adding the burnt sugar taste of HFCS is kind of like plopping a toasted marshmallow in your hot chocolate-a regular marshmallow is fine, but a toasted one just makes it that much better. If I had my choice, Coke would be sold exclusively in glass bottles made with sugar, and Pepsi would be in any bottle made with HFCS.
Pepsi is much better out of the fountain then the bottle, or Coke from the fountain, except in one instance. McDonald's is that exception. McDonald's Coke is the second-best Coke in the world(behind Mexican Coke), and the best fountain drink I've had in my life. The only thing that could possibly make it any better is if it were sweetened with sugar instead of HFCS. I don't know what it is about McD's Coke, but I'm almost positive they tweak it in some way to make it better. Whether it's a higher syrup to water ratio, extra sodium, or simply more cinnamon(makes it more savory), or a combination of all of the above, McD's Coke is far and away better then any other fountain Coke I've ever had. Again, people bring up the fact that Coke may have changed it's formula when switching from Coke to New Coke back to Coke Classic, but it's nothing more then speculation. However, I'll add on to that speculation and say that either McD's has either maintained original Coke formula, kept New Coke, or combined the two to make something all it's own.
New Coke lived on in many countries after the backlash-but it did eventually find new life in America-through Diet Coke. Diet Coke has always been sweetened with Aspartame, but a few short years ago, they tried something new. There was a new alternate sweetener on the market, and it didn't carry quite the same bitter aftertaste of aspartame-Splenda. Diet Coke with Splenda came out, and to make sure it was very distinct on the tongues of discerning pop-drinkers the country over, they made Diet Coke with Splenda using the "new Coke" formula. It tasted like a Coked up version of Pepsi-of you will. Imagine a flat coke with the same acidic bite as regular Coke, and you have a pretty good picture in your head.
Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi are kind of on even ground with me, but I found Diet Pepsi to have a bit more of an artificial taste to it. Diet Pepsi offered far more flavor options, and as usual Pepsi won out in the added flavors department, even in the Diet world. Diet Pepsi with a flavor would be my go to Diet Cola, but really if I needed to drink a diet soda I'd choose diet root beer or diet Dr. Pepper. Their flavors just tend to mask the bitter aftertaste of artificial sweeteners far better then a cola ever could.
Overall, I think Coke is still the clear winner, but if I could my hands on a glass bottle of Vanilla Coke made with sugar I'd be in heaven. Hopefully Pepsi's success with their throwback line will inspire Coke to do the same with theirs, but it doesn't look very likely to happen.
No matter what your preference, both will always be available-so drink up and enjoy.
Originally when I discussed added flavors, I did leave out one abomination-Coca Cola Blak. Coca Cola flavored with coffee extract was completely awful. It was like drinking a coke that someone had spilled coffee grounds into. Bleh!!! It did come in an awesome bottle though...