It all started in 1985 when – in an effort to save money – Coca-Cola stopped using real cane sugar and reformulated the iconic drink to be made with high-fructose corn syrup. The U.S. government subsidizes corn growers so much (some $40 billion since the mid 90s) that HFCS is cheaper than sugar, and when you are producing on the scale that Coke is material costs are crucial to the bottom line. What does this have to do with Mexican Coke you ask? Well, the bottlers south of the border never made the switch to HFCS, so people (like myself) feel that Mexican Coke has a better taste than American Coke. I think the Coca-Cola made with real sugar is less sweet tasting and has a smoother finish than HFCS Coke and thus is superior. There is also some Coors beer action going on (ever see Smokey & the Bandit? They’re thirsty in Atlanta and there’s beer in Texarkana) because Mexican Coke is harder to get.
The best part of the Coca-Cola HFCS vs. sugar cane debate is that the bottler in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio (located in Bedford Heights) refused to make the switch to corn syrup and still uses real sugar. Nice! So if you live in Cuyahoga County, check those labels for the presence of “sucrose” and you are golden. Coke does switch their formula to real sugar once a year (look for the yellow cap) for the Jewish holiday of Passover (observant Jews can’t eat corn, which includes the dreaded HFCS during that time). It is also interesting to point out that the original (and oldest) Dr. Pepper bottler in Dublin, Texas (near Fort Worth) still uses real sugar in their formulation. Pepsi also has a card to play in all of this “real sugar” madness with the recent release of Pepsi Natual. I haven’t had a chance to test it out (I’m a Coca-Cola man), but like where they are going. The company also recently came out with (or is coming out with) “throwback” versions of Pepsi and Mountain Dew. I would think that Mountain Dew tastes better with HFCS, not that I have had any in the last 20 years.
How do you get your hands on some of this tasty Mexican Coke? If you live in New York there are a few options. Bodegas in places like Sunset Park, Washington Heights, etc. often stock Mexican Coca-Cola as well as other versions of Coke from South American countries. The beverage store New-Beer on the Lower East Side will occasionally sell the real-deal sugar cane Coke. If you live in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico or California Costco sells Mexican Coke by the case. I have my friend Kate from Texas bring me four bottles at a time. Hope she doesn’t read this and see that I could get my Coke on the LES. Wait, that doesn’t sound right.