Mexican Coke: Is There Really a Difference?

Mexican Coke has been trending up over the past couple of years. Aficionados claim that Coca-Cola made in Mexico, unlike most American Coke, is tastier because it's made with real sugar instead of the now-pariah high fructose corn syrup. The exception is Passover Coke, which is sold in grocery stores around the country during the Jewish holiday because high fructose corn syrup is not kosher. According to a study released in the journal Obesity, there might not actually be a difference between the two sodas.

After the jump:

"Eso es hecho en Hialeah, no jodas..."

Mexican Coke is increasingly available at supermarkets and restaurants

around town. Michel Sanchez of Latin House Grill food truck told me he

prefers it because, "it's real sugar!" which is a common praise of the

drink. Other fans, such as Latin House Grill's Bella Cespedes, prefer

it because it evokes the nostalgia for home back in Mexico or Central


I'm not a soda drinker, but I enjoy the combination of the glass bottle

and the sweeter flavor of Coke de Mexico with a greasy meal.  And I'm

not alone.  The New York Times Magazine extolled the Mexican Coke trend last


Last week, Obesity released a study suggesting that there may be no

difference between American and Mexican Coke. As I often do, I let

national nutrition expert Marion Nestle break it down for me.In the Atlantic food blog, she says

that the investigators couldn't find sucrose (table sugar) in the

Mexican Coke. This may or may not mean that Mexican Coke is made with

high fructose corn syrup. Nestle is careful to point out in her blog that there weren't enough samples in the study to be certain.

Interestingly, the study also found that there's a lot more fructose

(the health risk in pariah high fructose corn syrup) in sodas than

people thought. The industry standard for HFCS was supposed to be 55%

percent fructose, but it turns out sodas like Coke, Pepsi, and Sprite

contain 65% fructose. Others contain 60%.

I conducted my own absolutely unscientific poll last weekend, purchasing

both regular Coke and Mexican Coke in glass bottles from my local

Publix.  I asked both regular soda drinkers and non-soda drinkers to see

if they could taste the difference in a blind test. Three (33% of my

voluminous sample) of the drinkers could taste no difference. One friend says,

"Eso es hecho en Hialeah, no jodas," or "Yeah right, this is made in


Most of the soda drinkers (55%) preferred the American version. My

theory is that people who are soda drinkers prefer what they are used

to. As my co-worker said, "I ilke that it reminds me of when I was a

kid." One friend preferred what he thought was the greater carbonation

of American Coke: "like a big mouth biting your tongue." Er, ok.

Non-soda drinkers didn't prefer one over the other. Another completely

unsubstantiated theory is that non-soda drinkers like me gravitate to

the smoother, sweeter taste (whether real or imagined) of Mexican Coke.;

It all comes back to the fact that food is about so much more than the

ingredients.The New York Times writer concluded that "I always pay

extra for the 12-ounce bottle that says it's "Hecho en Mexico." I do

this because I believe it tastes better, and I really don't care why."

Is it the power of advertising, the snobbery of cache, the pull of the

familiar and nostalgic? Who knows? Just take it all with a grain of


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Trina Sargalski