Oh, diet soda. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
So, you know how they say that you would need to drink upwards of 15 cans of diet soda a day to actually get cancer from the sweeteners? Well, my body is riddled with cancer (not really, get off my back American Cancer Society.) But I do loves me the diet soda. I used to abhor it, as it was all my very health conscious mother would ever let us have in the way of carbonated beverages. I grew up on a steady diet of pilfered diet Mountain Dew, but I secretly pined for regular Sprite, a rare treat that I only got during my once weekly trip to McDonald's with my dad when my mom was working late. Once I got old enough to order my own drinks in a restaurant, or to go to restaurants on my own, I bathed in all the regular soda one could ask for. I would have filled up a hot tub with at shit and soaked in it if I were able. And then, one day when I was probably 15, I ordered diet Coke at a restaurant instead of regular, figuring that the double cheeseburger and large cheez fry I was about to sink my teeth in to probably had enough calories in it without the added sugar from the Slurm.
And I never looked back.
Now I am a confirmed diet soda addict. I would wager to guess that I generally drink between 4 and 7 cans a day, except when I go out. I gave up drinking for Lent this year, so to replace the alcohol with something equally unhealthy, I've taken to drinking about 6 glasses of diet Coke in the course of a night if I'm at a bar. I am probably the only person that leaves the bar far more alert than she arrived. I will say that too much diet Coke can sometimes have the same effect as alcohol as far as making you say things you later regret. If you find me putting my finger in your face and giving you unsolicited advice, please believe me- it's the diet Coke talking.
I am not picky about my diet soda and will drink any calorie free carbonated beverage that I can get my hands on. For the purpose of this review, I will only be reviewing select diet drinks from the fine folks at the Coca Cola company. I'll start with the classic:
Maybe it's the friendly, effervescent logo- so bubbly! See how they mix cursive with your generic block lettering? Truly innovative. Maybe it's the way it tickles your nose in a feeling akin to bending over your stove to light a cigarette- a little dangerous, but well worth it. Maybe it's the way it wakes your up like a morning cup of coffee without the temptation of stealing a handful's worth of those delicious little French Vanilla creamers on your way to the cash register to pay for it.
Or maybe it's that it's a fucking diet Coke, of course it will taste magical.
Diet Coke is pretty much a religion. Those who drink it drink it obsessively and exclusively. They drink it with every meal. Hell, it IS a meal. I think the way they get you hooked is by serving it at restaurants as the only diet option. I bet you'd see lots of diet Sprite devotees if it were the other way around. As it stands, diet Coke is pretty ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive. You can get it everywhere, and since a good 50% of people in this country pretty much have an IV of it hooked into their arm, you can always get a sip if you need a pick me up.
I could blame the caffeine for making diet Coke so addictive, but I don't even think that's it. I once heard someone describe diet Coke's appeal as lying in its consistency, how it doesn't have that thick, tar-y feeling as it slides down your throat like regular Coke. I find that I kind of like the cancery taste of diet Coke; it is kind of refreshing. I find it especially effective in the morning with a big, heavy breakfast, like pancakes and bacon. You can feel the diet Coke dissolving the food particles in your gullet. Mmm, faux metabolism!
For those of you who worry about such paltry concerns as malnutrition and osteoporosis stemming from a nonstop river of diet Coke into your tummy, they now make delicious diet Coke Plus, with added vitamins! Granted, it's not a lot, but any little bit helps. Like someone's going to complain that they overdosed on vitamin E. Now watch, someone will do it. Diet Coke Plus, I can attest, tastes just like regular diet Coke. You can't even taste the vitamins! Give it to the kids at snack time! Yummy!
I do, however, think it is an acquired taste, as people who do not like diet soda will generally cite diet Coke as the worst offender. The best thing to do with these people is to inform them that their opinion is wrong.
Caffeine Free Diet Coke
I had to throw this one in because I find it to taste so inexplicably different from regular diet Coke. It's flatter, of course, but I think that's to be expected when it doesn't have the electric energy of 2000 milligrams of caffeine rushing through it. But it's also sweeter. Like, a lot sweeter. Someone told me once that they used a different sweetener for this because the lack of caffeine would make it taste strange, but I don't know if that person was full of shit because I can't remember who the hell it was. I can say that caffeine free diet, or CFD as I used to abbreviate it in my waitressing days, will definitely do in a pinch, and might be the best thing to mix with your rum. It also has the advantage over caffeine free diet Pepsi, of which my friend Heather says, "It's like drinking air." CFD is substantial enough to drink in lieu of real diet Coke, but it definitely doesn't give you the same satisfying "oh my god my stomach lining it's burning it's burning" feeling that diet Coke does first thing in the morning.
Diet Coke with Lime
Now, is that a sexy graphic or what? Actually, it's giving me a kind of unpleasant mental image of slicing my mouth on the razor sharp ends of the can and then having my cuts doused in lime juce. But I digress.
Diet Coke with Lime is my mom's new favorite drink. A similarly devoted diet soda drinker, Mama always has been a sucker for the added fruit accent. I've sampled it several times and will say this: It'll do.
The problem with these added accents, like vanilla or lemon or sausage, is that not only do they alter the burny feeling that I so dearly love in my diet soda, but they also tend to make it taste vaguely alcoholic. And not in the good way. In the "this vaguely makes me feel like I wanna puke" way. I think that feeling is probably unique to me, as one morning during my waitressing days I caught a big whiff of some cut lemons that were on the verge of turning. Just so happened I had a few too many amaretto sours that night before. Not a good memory. That is what diet Coke with lime reminds me of- an alcoholic drink with a little too much booze that is being masked by a twist. However, I will still drink it, because as I've said before, I will never turn my nose up at a diet soda.
I freebase Coke Zero. I don't remember when I first discovered it, but I can tell you that it was magical. The tides changed. The angels wept. I might have gotten a boner, and I'm a girl. That's how good this shit is. There have been multiple times when I've gotten up in the middle of the night craving a Coke Zero and could not get back to sleep unless I downed one, generally a lukewarm one from my garage. A lack of Coke Zero in my house constitutes a full on red alert EMERGENCY. A few weeks ago I briefly switched to mostly diet Coke- I would stop at a gas station on my way to rehearsal in the morning and pick up a bottle to get me through. But then I poured myself a glass at home and it was like being reborn. "Never leave me again," I said to my Coke Zero, and it didn't answer, but that's okay, he was just playing hard to get. I like that in a drink.
The appeal of Coke Zero lies in that it really does taste, to me, almost exactly like regular Coke. To be honest, if I didn't care about calories and whatnot, I would never have switched to diet in the first place, so I still have a soft spot for the Slurm. But the taste of regular Coke with none of the pesky calories? I'll buy that for a dollar! I am happy to report that the Coke Zero does retain just the right amount of the ever important burn-y feeling. Coke Zero is also particularly delicious served from a 2 liter. Don't ask me why.
I have converted several friends and relatives to the Church of the Coke Zero. Even Raymond, who steadfastly refuses to drink anything diet, will drink it when he's over. My father, who rarely drinks anything other than gallon upon gallon of iced tea, has also been known to partake. If I can awaken even one more person to the wonders of Coke Zero, then I have done my job.
All the Coke Zero subsidiaries are equally delicious, such as Vanilla Coke Zero and Cherry Coke Zero, with the cherry option retaining the most burniness and the vanilla being more delicious. But just plain Coke Zero is really where it's at. I predict that in the future, every softdrink will have a 'zero' counterpart. They've already done it with Sprite, and let me tell you- it tastes nothing like regular Sprite, and it is HUGE in South America.
I'll end with the true pioneer in diet soda technology- Tab. This is what your mom was drinking when she saw your dad across the quad in 1976. With the advent of more delicious and less cancer causing diet drinks, Tab slowly faded into obscurity, but for the truly dedicated among us, it is out there.
I began drinking Tab during Evil Dead: The Musical when I was trying to quit smoking. I figured I would replace one carcinogen with another. I was also itching to have a can around so I could quote Polyester whenever I wanted to ("Look, Francine, I got Tab for our diet!") I was a little apprehensive at first, but discovered that it was pretty much diet Coke in a more attractive can. And really, doesn't that make all the difference? There appears to be a little less carbonation in the tab, and I think the sweetener may be slightly different. But it's pretty much a diet Coke that grabs much more attention than your boring, everyday silver can. And also, it's Tab. Come on. Few things are more awesome than that. I'm pretty sure any cancer causing agents have been phased out, but people must still be apprehensive because it's only available in 12 packs and I have yet to see it sold individually at gas stations. I hear they make a Tab energy drink now. I highly doubt I will ever sample it unless it has zero calories, but I admire the folks at Coca Cola for reclaiming that fierce pink label and making it cool again.
Well, that's enough for now, I'm sure. Comment with how many diet sodas you drink a day! The person who drinks the most wins a vitamin deficiency!