I’m usually a tea drinker. I’m one of those people who has a shelf of over two dozen tea varieties who rolls her eyes at people who don’t know how to use loose leaf. I’m such a tea drinker that I have an electric tea kettle.
For those of you outside the US who don’t understand this, most Americans can’t operate electric tea kettles. I’ve witnessed it, and it’s embarrassing, sometimes tragic. Yes, I have seen electric tea kettles melted onto stove tops.
I do work rough hours at a grocery store, though, and that means a lot of coffee and energy drinks. It also means that if I leave my decorator hole for caffeine, I’m easily susceptible for new product lines.
Which takes us to last year’s explosion of Diet Coke flavors.
It’s important to note that I don’t like diet soda. It tastes gross and current science supports my belief that it’s not good for you. But I was seduced by the exciting flavors and the slim cans. Product designs work, people.
Thanks to the offering of single cans at my store, I tried each flavor and, surprisingly, liked a couple of them. Even more surprising? It was the flavors I wasn’t expecting to like.
Coke recently put out two new flavors, and I’m in need of a blog post, so I decided it was time to rank these suckers. I included two Zero flavors, cherry to compare it to Diet Feisty Cherry, and Orange Vanilla, because it’s also new and sounded really gross.
I tested them by trying each flavor to make notes on the flavors and then trying them a second time to establish the rank. I got really nauseous and had to take a breather before trying the Orange Vanilla and then all of them yet again to rank it properly.
Without further ado, I present to you my Diet Coke flavor rank.
#8: Twisted Mango
I cringed every time I drank this. Like, there were moments when I had to pause testing because my palette got desensitized, and I STILL cringed when I drank this.
It smells great. Very mango. I don’t have an idea in my head of what artificial mango smells like, but I eat a lot of mango, and I was convinced. This was what truly killed me with this, because that smell was SO. HOPEFUL.
The taste was bad. The moment it hit my mouth it was bad. It’s like they replicated the taste of mango from memory because they didn’t have a real mango on hand and figured the Diet Cokeness would cover the fact that it’s not actually mango, just a memory.
#7 Strawberry Guava
Keep in mind I’m not entirely sure what guava is. I have had guava-filled pastries before, and they were delicious, but I don’t know how accurate those flavors were. I had to Google guava to find out what it looked like, and if I had been shown that picture out of context, I would have laughed at how clever it was to Photoshop watermelon and pear.
This soda smelled delicious. It was some goddamn strawberry. Not even the nasty strawberry cake strawberry. I’m sure it’s the same artificial strawberry flavor that’s in strawberry cake, so I think the guava tempers it.
The flavor is a full-on nope. I attempted to wash the flavor of the Twisted Mango away with it and failed. It’s better, but only marginally so. I get a sensation of guava pastry in the sinuses, but the flavor is strawberry pop rocks in the worst way possible.
#6 Orange Vanilla
I wasn’t expecting much out of this Zero offering. The concept of a diet cola that a creamsicle got dropped into appealed to me in no way, so I’m honestly impressed it got this high of a ranking.
The scent was somewhat creamsicle, although the vanilla was faint enough that I had to confirm it by smelling the Zesty Blood Orange to confirm it. It wasn’t bad, but it reminded me more of the frozen cocktail creamsicle than the kids’ treat. I haven’t had either in at least fifteen years, so I can’t explain why it hit me like that.
The taste was decidedly not creamsicle. I don’t know, I wish I had a Vanilla Diet Coke to compare it to, but I’m already 8 Diet Cokes in, and I can’t stomach driving up to the shitty Chevron or the shittier Shell to buy another. It doesn’t taste at all like the Zesty Blood Orange, and that’s a bad thing.
#5 Ginger Lime
This was the most disappointing flavor, so it was hard not to rank it at the very bottom. Arguably, though, the already-listed flavors were worse, I just expected them to be not great. This one.
I love ginger. I put it in everything I can. I eat straight crystallized ginger. All those things people say oh no, that’s too spicy? I love those things. And when I opened the can, I got nothing. Very lime, no ginger.
I even smelled some ginger to confirm this, just to make sure it wasn’t my fault.
The taste? It’s not Diet Coke, but I can’t say how. I couldn’t distinguish the flavor as lime, and there was not a ginger to be had. It didn’t even tingle as much as some of the other flavors. It was also the least sweet, which I’m now thinking is an essential to diet soda.
#4 Zesty Blood Orange
This was the first one that I liked. I think I would have liked it even more if it had a stronger citrus scent, but it was weak in that department.
The flavor was gentle and lingering. I describe it more as citrus than blood orange, but I don’t know how blood orange tastes different from any other orange. It could be exactly blood orange, and I don’t realize it. In a later taste against one of the cherries, it was more obviously orange. It also burped orange, which isn’t something I would normally tell people, but it seems applicable here.
#3 Cherry Zero
There wasn’t a distinct difference between this and the Feisty Cherry. It smelled the same. It is slightly richer and less tingly, but I probably wouldn’t notice if they were each in a glass, and I drank out of the wrong glass. I ranked the Feisty Cherry higher because I liked the tingle.
#2 Feisty Cherry
This is exactly what I want a diet cherry cola to be. The taste was spot-on fake cherry. Fake cherry is one of those tastes that is its own beast unique from the real thing. I love cherry, and it tastes nothing like cherry, but I don’t think of them as being related, so it’s okay.
The flavor was strong. It tingled so much it made me sneeze, and it continued to tingle afterward. I am impressed.
#1 Blueberry Acai
This guy right here.
I have a love/hate relationship with blueberry flavoring. I love actual blueberries, and I don’t dislike fake blueberries, but blueberry filling is waaaaaaaaaaay too sweet. If it’s not balanced right, it’s a disaster.
It smells strongly, but not of blueberries. Acai is another one of those things I don’t actually know — does anyone? I feel like it’s a fad for health nuts who think pomegranate is too commercial — so I attribute the scent to acai.
The flavor is delightful, it IS sweeter than the others, but just slightly. As I mentioned earlier, I think diet soda must be sweet, so it was a boon here. It has a distinctly blue flavor, more in energy drink than berry sense, but I’m down for that. Bring me more Blueberry Acai.
And occasionally Feisty Cherry.
Probably just those two, though.