New Coke - Stranger Things Special Edition
I had been wondering what I would choose for my first article. I didn't want it to be too mundane, but I also figured that the longer I thought about it, the more likely that I would just never choose anything. So here we are with a flash-in-the-pan event that will most likely be forgotten by the end of the year. But these are the things I like to document, since it's fun to browse back on them years down the line.
So the story of New Coke is fairly well known, but that won't stop be from re-repeating it here. Back in 1985, Coke wanted to remain competitive with Pepsi. Pepsi's cola offering was a bit sweeter, and Coke figured they would shake things up and try to match that. They borrowed much of the flavor from the Diet Coke recipe from three years prior and swapped out the cane sugar in favor of corn syrup.
Despite some initial success, the regular Coke taste was just not something to be tampered with, and Coke rolled back the changes. The original Coke came back as Coke Classic, and 'New' Coke just remained under the original title for a while, later becoming Coke II. In 2002, that was finally taken off shelves and we just had classic (and a million flavored options). Coke Classic also retained the corn syrup vs cane sugar as a cost savings measure, allowing the Quaker Oats guy to make a career out of dibeetus testing supplies.
Thus it remained hidden...until today (well not today, but a week or so ago). As a promotional tie-in for Season 3 of Stranger Things, a limited run of New Coke has been produced and is being sold off in collector kits. This worried me a little since limited items as well as collector items tend to be tricky things to get...usually. These were in a way, but not in the usual fashion. The good news is that there ended up being plenty to go around. However no one knew that, and I figured it would be like the Pepsi Perfect limited run from Back to the Future. Those were sold out instantly, and pretty much into the hands of scalpers, who hopefully invested that money in a quality air conditioning unit, as they will need it for their personal spot in hell.
The release wasn't without its hiccups though. The online ordering process was brought to its knees by the sheer volume of traffic. For hours, the site would routinely throw 503 errors, or just flat out hang. I wasn't originally too invested in getting a kit, but I figured I may as well try since the site would sometimes load and continued to show remaining stock well after the initial opening. In fact the site is still selling New Coke packages as of the time of this article.
So when ordering, I figured I'd certainly want one to try, and one to keep on the shelf. I have a small collection of unused sodas and drinks, so these would make a nice addition. I also figured I would order another in case I could help someone else out. After finally getting to the cart, it would keeps hanging right when I went to checkout. The final attempt seemed to work, and my PayPal account showed a debit, but I never received a confirmation. To save time I had used the guest checkout, and I was feeling a bit foolish now.
The next day, I called in and waited on hold for 20 minutes. They said they had no record of my order, so I went though and did it all over again now that the website was a bit more stable. I was still concerned that my original order had been charged, but they assured me that it would reverse in 72 hours. I did notice that there was an order number on m PayPal receipt, so I looked that up, and it all seemed to still be in effect. Weeks go by with no word and then I finally got a shipping confirmation...six shipping confirmations.
Yep, there they are. I was surprised that they shipped as-is without any outer boxes given the collectable nature, but the contents were well padded. Oddly enough there are six spots inside. So for the $20 asking price, it would have been nice if they filled out those two remaining spots especially since only the cans are actually New Coke, the other is Coke Zero and Classic (all contain Stranger Things branding in any case).
The bottles/cans are actually very nice. The New Coke can is fairly faithful to the original, save for the necessary updates to copyright dates, and the promotional copy on the back. All of the items have the TV show logos. The Coke Zero and Classic Coke bottles are tiny though. I'm used to the Mexican bottled ones which are at least a normal serving, but these feel like they would be barely a taste. It's all and well though, as I won't feel a need to open them. I can get Regular and Zero anywhere, so there's no sense breaking the seal.
So of course the biggest question is: what does it taste like? I don't recall the original release, as I was around five years old, and we were in the middle of moving to another state at the time. Soda also wasn't a huge part of our household, as milk and juice was usually more prevalent. Since New Coke and Coke II continued until 2002, I suppose I had ample time to try it, but I guess I just never did.
It was with some slight hesitation that I cracked the seal on the unopened can. The thought that this cost $5 was mildly concerning, but then I remembered how much I spent on the Halloween and Christmas Pepsi from Japan, and it then didn't seem so bad.
An initial smell test didn't betray its flavor too much, so I took a proper sip. It took a few tries, but I slowly got a feel for its taste. You can certainly see how its origins were with the Diet Coke formula, but the sweetness from the corn syrup is definitely doing its best to mask that. One things that always put me off of Diet Coke, was the sensation of almost too much carbonation. Like I was simply swallowing wet air. It sounds stupid trying to explain it, but New Coke doesn't have that problem. After a few more sips, I'm actually starting to prefer the taste over the Classic formula.
I've made it a point as of this year, to try and cut out soda except in special occasions like this. So the urge to open up more cans and enjoy them will be firmly squashed. If somehow these came out last year and had a normal release, or at least showed up in drug stores like Crystal Pepsi, I would most likely have gotten quite a few more. I could also see it as a great option during a summer cookout.
So despite the cost and hassle getting them, I'm glad that I was able to experience something that has long been lost to time. The backstory is interesting, and I suppose I should actually watch Stranger Things at some point, since it's certainly right up my alley. Again, cokestore.com/1985 is the address to get them as of now. It's limited, but apparently not *that* limited.
Shoot, I was supposed to make my first article about the POGs revival...