Soda Wars: Regular vs. Diet


Coca-Cola: I love the fact that Coke-Cola has managed to tie itself into the concept of “America,” and waving flags, and the 4th of July, and…  polar bears.  And such.  And hey!  Do you remember their old ad campaign?  “Coke Is It.”  That slogan always cracked me up.  It’s vague, and yet ridiculously imposing at the same time.  Coke…  is IT.  Wow.  The slogan may as well be, “SUBMIT TO COKE, NOW,” or, “DID YOU THINK THERE WAS ANOTHER OPTION BESIDES COKE?  BAW HA HA HA HA HA!  PATHETIC FOOLISH SLAVES!”

Anyway…  Regular Coke is tasty, yet weird.  Because when you think about it, Coke is…  odd.  It tastes like nothing else besides…  Coke.  But as for Diet Coke, I realized upon writing this column that I drink diet sodas all the time.  But even though I drink them, I do so unthinkingly.  I just drink them because I no longer want to drink regular sodas, because that inevitably leads to fatness and overweight-ness.  And so what I learned here is that you don’t want to pay too much attention to the whole diet soda taste experience.  Because when I actually paid attention to drinking Diet Coke, I was like, “Wow, this does indeed taste like sugar-water mixed with crushed up aspirin.”  And that ain’t good.  Regular grade:  A-minus  Diet grade: F.

Tab: …Tab is really only available in diet form.  Also, it’s pretty hard to find these days.  There’s a reason for that.  The reason is that Tab tastes like alkaline battery fluid mixed with chewing gum.  That’s not really what I look for in a soda, but whatever.

But back in the day (i.e., the 1980s), Tab was the only soda around that had no sugar and no caffeine whatsoever.  And though I personally am not diabetic, my sister actually is.  We weren’t allowed to have soda in my parents’ house, but there was a special exception made in the case of my sister, and so there was traditionally a six-pack of Tab lying around in our kitchen.

….And so, when I was in the midst of my fourteen year-old torpor phase, and unable or unwilling to walk the half block to the store to buy a real soda, I would often come home from school, drink an entire six-pack of Tab — which was pointless, since it had no sugar and no caffeine — eat a bag of Doritos and collapse on the couch and watch episodes of “Saved by the Bell” back to back to back.  And then my parents would come home, see this, and yell, “Why’d you drink all the Tab?!  Do you want your sister to die?  Go to the store and get more Tab…  now!!”  To make up for this, I would occasionally get out of work or school by pretending that my sister was in the hospital for a diabetic attack — which I am probably, and rightfully, going to hell for.  Grade:  D-minus.

Mountain Dew: Wow.  Mountain Dew is really sweet.  Geez.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a can of it in my real life outside of reviewing it for this website.  Sugar-y!  Caffeine!  I only drank part of the can, but still, I was running around my apartment for a half-hour, saying things like, “I feel crazy!  Yet great!  Yet also still crazy again!”

I mean, thank God real Mountain Dew isn’t like this stuff.  If it was, we’d have a lot more mountain goats careening wildly off of cliffs while on sugar highs, and more bald eagles finishing twenty page term-papers in 5 minutes at four o’clock in the morning, and a lot more bears saying stuff like, “Did you ever really look at your hands?!  …I mean, just look at them,” and anyway okay I’m done with this joke now.

Diet Mountain Dew is less horribly sugary, but still tastes not very good.  It has that whole aspirin-problem (viz, Diet Coke above).  So it’s less sweet than the real stuff (good), but also worse-tasting (bad).  This is a sort of pick-your-poison type of situation, and I don’t really know who to declare the winner here.  Regular grade:  C-plus.  Diet grade:  C-plus.

Dr. Pepper: …This used to be my favorite soda.  I think I drank approximately 12,134 cans of it during college.  And then, one day, some random friend of mine told me the following:  “Hey.  You know what the main ingredient in Dr. Pepper is?  …Prune juice.”  Thanks, random friend!  So now, when I drink Dr. Pepper, it tastes like prunes to me, which must have been what it always tasted like, but I never would have realized that on my own.  Super.  Anyway, as for Diet Dr. Pepper, it actually tastes surprisingly un-gross.  It doesn’t taste like regular soda, but it also doesn’t taste bad, which is impressive.  Maybe prunes are just so powerful that they can mask even the bizarre flavor of artificial sweeteners.  All hail prunes!  Regular grade:  A-minus.  Diet grade:  B-plus.

Oliver Miller has an M.F.A. in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College and has been published in numerous magazines, including Nerve and McSweeney’s.  Currently, he writes for The Faster Times, and is also working on a book of reviews.

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That Guy
That Guy
11 years ago

it sounds like you rather talk about your personal life and problems then talk about the real issue at hand


[…] Pepsi: According to my past review of sodas, I have not yet covered the important topic of Diet Pepsi.  What a shocking oversight!  […]

13 years ago

You didn’t cover very many choices. Also diet soda is not just about “fatness & being overweight”. For those who don’t realize most soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar in a can. Being Diabetic, I enjoy having a soda with my food without skyrocketing my bloodsugar. My favorites are Diet Pepsi which far surpasses Diet Coke in taste and Sprite Zero which even my college boys like. So if you want to report on an issue, investigate it much more thoroughly. Diet sodas are a friend to the Diabetic community. Look at all the angles.

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