The official start of summer is just days away, and TikTok users are eager to find a refreshing drink for the season that's (relatively) nutritious and easy-to-make. Enter: "healthy Coke." As its name implies, this beverage is being billed as a healthier version of a classic can of Coca-Cola, but does it really deliver? We put the bubbly, viral drink to the test.
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According to TikTok user @mandyvjones, who seemingly popularized "healthy Coke" on the platform when she shared her recipe for it earlier this month, she learned about this beverage from her pilates instructor, who whips up the drink "almost, like, everyday." Per Jones, the drink "tastes just like a Coke."
The first step in making a "healthy Coke" is to put a handful of ice in a tall glass and add a "splash" of balsamic vinegar. Jones used a type of balsamic vinegar of Modena—the dark kind you drizzle over a salad or some fresh mozzarella. While she didn't provide any measurements, it looks like her splash amounted to about two tablespoons of the sweet and tangy stuff.
Then, Jones grabbed her go-to sparkling beverage, Guava Sao Paulo La Croix, and topped off the ice and balsamic vinegar base. Despite her specific choice, Jones assured her followers that "any sparkling beverage," regardless of flavor, will do. "It honestly already looks like a Coke," she exclaimed as she poured the seltzer in the glass before giving the drink a stir. "I swear to God, it tastes like a Coke, and it's healthy, and it's good for you."
Of the more than 6.3 million people who have watched Jones' initial TikTok, some say the drink is, in fact, "refreshing," but most noted that, while not terrible, it tastes nothing like Coke. As one commenter mused, "Brown and bubbly does not equal Coke."
Still, with several cans of La Croix in my refrigerator and a fresh shipment of delicious dark balsamic vinegar from The Blue Olive, I figured it couldn't hurt to give this TikTok trend a try. After all, this platform did introduce me to baked feta pasta and pesto eggs, both of which I still make on occasion. Armed with my BV and a Passionfruit La Croix, I prepared myself for a rush of some very potent flavors, to say least.
I'll admit that while this drink wasn't nearly as unappealing as I thought it would be, I most certainly wasn't fooled into thinking I was sipping on a sweet, satisfying Coke. In fact, it tasted as it should have—like someone combined tangy, slightly sweet balsamic vinegar with a fruity seltzer. There was one sip where it seemed like the fruitiness of the seltzer was echoed in the vinegar, but I definitely didn't get Coca-Cola vibes. Despite Jones' promise, my drink was distinctly lacking any notes of cinnamon or vanilla, which are present in Coke and have helped it become one of the most popular beverages in the world. Just as lettuce chips don't taste like potato chips, "healthy Coke" isn't a suitable replacement for the real deal.
As several TikTok users pointed out in the comments, Jones' creation is more like a shrub, which is another name for drinking vinegar. It's basically a concentrated syrup that combines fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Apple cider vinegar, for example, is one of the most widely used bases for shrubs, and it's probably why multiple commenters likened "healthy Coke" to some ACV-based drinks. Others noted that, while not Coke-like, this drink is best made with a fruity balsamic, instead of one that's overly tangy.
Bottom line: I won't be making myself a "healthy Coke" ever again, but there's no harm in trying the drink if you're curious. Just keep in mind that there are definitely better uses for both your balsamic vinegar and La Croix. Drizzle the former on a salad or use it to flavor grilled meats, and sip the latter when still water is just too boring. And if you want a Coke, have a Coke! If sugar is a concern, opt for naturally sugar-free drinks like freshly made iced tea or other no-sweetener sparkling water varieties.