Last month, Diet Coke announced that everyone’s favorite can o’ chemicals was getting a big makeover in the form of four fruity new flavors in glamorous, redesigned cans. Why, you may ask? For the same reason any brand does anything these days: to appeal to millennials. “Millennials are now thirstier than ever for adventures and new experiences, and we want to be right by their side,” reads Diet Coke’s press release. Basically, Diet Coke is trying to do everything shy of actually coming into your home and removing that can of LaCroix from your 23 to 37 year-old Millennial hands.
Here at The Prompt, we decided to taste test all four new flavors and see if they pose a threat to our current beverages of choice.
The panelists tried each new flavor, as well as good old regular Diet Coke,and answered questions about the taste. We ranked each flavor on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best possible rating.
John: Diet Coke tastes like internalized body shame.
Jacqui: It’s like I’m 6 again. Or 10, or 14.
Lauren: Like being at Subway, 6 hours into a long drive.
Jay: Fake sugar. I can always tell.
Scott: Tastes like water that someone stared at really, REALLY hard while thinking “Coke, Coke, Coke” over and over, then added brown food coloring.
Jillian: Chemical Coca-Cola.
Suggestions from the group included movie theater popcorn, Wendy’s, “something with kale and quinoa in it,” low-fat hot dogs, and lettuce.
John put it best: “Diet Coke is neither good nor bad, it is merely a grim constant.” If nothing else, the original Diet Coke provides a solid baseline for our tasters to compare the new flavors with.
John: Lime syrup, followed by a swig of bad ginger ale, and then nothingness. It’s genuinely unsettling to drink, but I imagine could be very comforting if I was in bed with a severe illness.
Jacqui: Where’s the fucking ginger?! This is legit just Diet Coke where if you close your eyes, you can briefly hallucinate a hint of lime. It’s like they made this for the can alone, so you could have green mood instead of a red mood, or spice up your Christmas party. Should just be called Diet Coke, or Vague Posting.
Lauren: This just tastes like regular Diet Coke with a TINGE of lime. Definitely not getting any ginger. It’s not bad, but it barely tastes different from regular Diet Coke, so I fail to see the point. On the positive side, the green stripe on the can is glamorous.
Jay: Ginger flavor is a lot lighter than I imagined. More like Diet Coke that smells like ginger. Oh, and lime I guess.
Scott: I admit to being anxious when I opened the can, because “Ginger Lime” sounds like an Herbal Essences shampoo. It kinda tasted like ginger ale, but I also don’t think either taste like ginger. No taste of lime at all unless I gulped it straight from the glass after I poured it, when the fizziness seemed to taste more like lime than the soda.
Jilllian: Tastes like flavors of the Orient rippling through the Coca-Cola river.
John suggests toast or crackers to go with whatever raging illness causes you to drink this. Jacqui recommends “something just as disappointing flavor-wise, like the disgusting pepperoni pizza Hot Pockets we used to eat.” Lauren and Jay both voted for Pad Thai, and Jillian went with bibimbap. Scott gave the ultra-specific recommendation of “chicken marsala served on a bed of risotto, with a side of roasted potatoes.”
Expectations were high for this flavor, and it proved to be the biggest disappointment in the group. As Jacqui said: “My dark n’ stormy dreams were up SO HIGH for this. No, it’s not ginger beer, but I thought they’d make it VERY ginger if they were going to put it in the name, so it would be a way cheaper alternative to ginger beer. This one’s dead to me.”
The rankings for this one were all over the place. Three of the tasters absolutely HATED it, giving it our only “1” scores of the experiment. Jillian and Scott both gave it a 6. Jacqui gave it a NINE.
John: This tastes like you couldn’t afford good mango ice cream, and then your dumbass roommate left it next to a bunch of shrimp in the freezer. Twisted was the only fair adjective to use. This is inhumane.
Jacqui: It actually smells like mango! And tastes like mango!!! It’s so good, but it’s numbing my tongue—is that weird?
Lauren: Oh, god. I was expecting this to be as subtle as the Ginger Lime, and then I just got punched in the face with mango. This tastes recognizably mango-y, but it’s absolutely disgusting.
Jay: The Diet Coke flavor is missing! It just tastes like diet [AMBIGUOUS TROPICAL FRUIT] flavored soda.
Scott: I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a mango, so I can’t say if this tastes like a mango. I went to Wikipedia for help and it said mangos generally taste “sweet,” which was not helpful. (It also said eating the skin of a mango can give you contact dermatitis, so that’s something.) This tasted… good?
Jillian: This is the liquid version of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s Summertime.
Our testers suggest: spicy kimchi, Taco Bell, vodka, a handful of Starbursts, hot peppers, spaghetti, or an actual mango.
This was absolutely the most polarizing flavor, and it’s hard for me to understand where the people who liked this are coming from. The taste sent actual shivers down my spine. As John so aptly put it, “I fear this will be fed to me via a tube in a government prison someday.” (I am assuming Jacqui will be the one forcing it down our tubes. Let’s all be nice to Jacqui.)
(Note that this is slightly higher than the average group rating for regular Diet Coke!)
John: This tastes like a trendy bar’s house-made blood orange soda that they’re weirdly proud of. Like a San Pellegrino, but objectively worse—which is to say, pretty good!
Jacqui: This is just orange soda that’s brown. The “blood” in “blood orange” is literally a buzzword, so I’m renaming it Viral Orange. Millennials value truth and honesty, so just rebrand this one to be “orange soda.”
Lauren: The words “Zesty Blood,” when put next to each other, are really unappetizing. As for the taste, I’m kind of getting an orange Popsicle vibe, but more chemically.
Jay: Good! Again, feel like the Coke flavor isn’t exactly represented. But the orange is!
Scott: I was excited when I cracked open this can because I love orange soda, and blood orange has such a strong flavor. This did not have a strong anything. I had to swish the soda around in my mouth, like someone who misunderstood the instructions on mouthwash, in order to get any hint of flavor from it. And that hint of flavor was more like “meh-range” than “orange.
Jillian: I forgot “blood orange” = “orange,” and so this tastes a lot like going to Burger King and mixing every soda from the fountain.
John went with roasted chickpeas, and Scott recommended “fresh salad, with greens and goat cheese, topped with a slice of mandarin orange,” because they’re both #boujee like that. The rest of our tasters craved simpler fare: Good Burger (Jacqui), Burger King (Jillian), mac and cheese (Lauren), and pizza (Jay).
Jay says “It’s basically orange soda” and most of the group agrees. Multiple testers said they would drink this again. So if you like orange soda, this is a winner!
Scott hated it, and Jacqui was not thrilled, but the other four tasters rated it very highly. So… we have a winner!
John: This tastes identical to a normal Cherry Cola, but with a dusting of that gnarly aspartame aftertaste—just enough kick to remind you you’re alive, but in kind of a bad way.
Jacqui: For me it’s like I don’t even need to add the Disaronno because they already did it, except wait—it’s non alcoholic. The cherry is way too feisty.
Lauren: Ahhh, yes. That’s the stuff. I used to love Diet Cherry Pepsi and Diet Cherry Dr Pepper, so this is right up my alley. It may just be that cherry is the best flavor at camouflaging the artificial, nasty diet soda taste. I could definitely see myself drinking this at a rest stop.
Jay: Cherry Coke ova here!
Scott: This tasted… sweet. Not overly sweet, but a bare hint of “sweet” that didn’t have any real flavor. Certainly not like cherry, definitely not Feisty anything, and definitely not like Cherry Coke.
Jillian: I could do without the other flavors’ adjectives. But in this case, I can see why it’s “Feisty” Cherry and not just cherry. There was definitely a little… tang? to it.
John recommends you pair this with “one of those slightly-too-sweet barbecue sandwiches doused in hot sauce,” while Jacqui suggests “leftover cold duck from a Chinese place, complete with congealed fat.” Scott went with “a big bowl of chips on Game Day.” I’m saying chocolate ice cream. Jay and Jillian went with pizza. I’m up for a Feisty Cherry Pizza Party!
This was the clear winner of our taste test, although Jacqui prefers the old Cherry Coke. Which also begs the question: if this is the best one, but Cherry Coke/Cherry Coke Zero/Diet Cherry Coke already existed before, then why are we here?!
“Maybe they should just start putting cocaine in the soda again.” — John
“I have to say that these were among the most unpleasant burps of my life.” — Anonymous
This was a roller coaster for our taste testers. I asked the group to reflect on the experience and provide some comments as to whether the new Diet Coke flavors will meet the mark in appealing to Millennials.
John: Feisty Cherry is the best one, for sure, and it just tastes like normal Cherry Coke. Maybe they should stop trying so hard to appeal to millennials, or maybe they should just start putting cocaine in the soda again.
If there’s one thing Millennials love, it’s juggling three or four different stimulants to make it through three or four different weird half-jobs to pay rent on three-fourths of a bad room in a city they hate.
Jacqui:These will be gone by the end of 2018, no question. Is Coke serious here? Here’s a tip, marketers: If you want to appeal to Millennials, get the white male boomers out of development and let the Millennials chime in. Talk to me when the aspartame is gone; Millennials are too woke for Coke.
LL: I do love the colorful, fruity looking cans they came up with, but then each one pours out in that brownish Diet Coke hue and the excitement is gone. These will not be replacing my LaCroix stash any time soon. But I’ll look for Feisty Cherry on my next road trip.
Jay: I think some of these flavors are fun, but people love straight up Diet Coke. I wonder how many people will even entertain the twists. And me? I still can’t stand diet soda.
Scott: Only Mango Coke had any flavor and to be honest, that’s just weird to drink in America. If you’re going to try and promote flavors, make them flavorful. No one associates Diet Coke with flavor, so I guess Coke’s not really engaging in false advertising, but it still seemed a weird concept to have “new flavors of Diet Coke.” If Coca-Cola wanted to capitalize on the healthy but flavorful trend a la LaCroix, they should have done it under the Powerade brand, split it into “Power-Carbo-Nade (For Men)” and “Fizzy Powerade (For Women),” and tried to brand it as something other than soda.
I give these a month or two before they’re pulled. I had to go to six different stores to find these, and when I did, I pulled them from an endcap that was perfectly merchandised — i.e., no one had touched these at all.
Jillian: Soda is inherently evil; this we can all cop to in these modern times.