What’s the Deal with…Mexican Coke?

Yahoo Food

Photo credit: Coca-Cola Company

The soft drink Coca-Cola is everywhere. But its cousin to the South, Mexican Coca-Cola, can be harder to find, and for some, is a kind of holy grail of sodas.

MexiCoke, as the glass-bottled version is known to fans, has been profiled in the New York Times, liked by more than 10,000 people on its Facebook page, and has gained a cult foodie following by a certain type of cool customer.

So why is this Coke different from any other, which can be found pretty much everywhere? And is the supposed difference really just an urban myth?

Where It Comes From: No surprise here. Mexican Coke is from—you guessed it—Mexico.

What It Is: Believers claim MexiCoke is a superior version of its American counterpart for several reasons. Some say it has a superior taste. Some like the cool, glass bottle. And still others claim it isn’t the container, but rather what’s inside. In many instances, MexiCoke’s ingredients include sugar rather than the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) generally used to sweeten the American version. And that is a good thing, according to its admirers.

Urban Legend Factor: There has been some question about whether Mexican Coke’s sugar content is apocryphal.

The sugar claim was first debunked in one scientific analysis in 2010, when no sugar was detected in a sample of Mexican Coca-Cola purchased in East Los Angeles. Instead, as reported by Foodbeast, “near equal amounts of glucose and fructose were found—indicators of high-fructose corn syrup.” But that’s one report; clearly this matter merits further serious study.

We have to ask: Does sugar by another name taste as good?

"Mexican Coke has HFCS—sorry to disillusion," Marion Nestle, food nutrition professor at New York University who blogged about the study, told us. “Nobody can tell the difference … It’s all sugars. And the less, the better.”

To add to the confusion, Mexico approved a plan to tax soda, leading the Mexican bottler to announce last year that it would move away from sugar and depend on the cheaper HFCS to sweeten Mexican Coke. Cue Web uproar.

After enraged cries from lovers of the supposed sugar-based drink, the Mexican bottling company, Arca Continental, clarified that Mexican Coke imported to the U.S. would continue to use cane sugar. So Mexican Coke fans who drink it because of the alternative sweetener can rejoice. Maybe.

It also came out last year that Mexican Coke served south of the border was already made up of about half sugar and half HFCS, according to Businessweek. (The Coca Cola Company notes that although the original recipe remains unchanged, the sweetener can vary depending on the country.)

Defining Characteristic: MexiCoke stands out by having the Spanish words “Hecho en Mexico” on the glass bottle. Perhaps that’s the little difference that drives its fan club to seek it out.

The Daily Finance pointed out that the Coca-Cola Company originally distributed the product to appeal to Mexican immigrants who had fond memories growing up drinking Mexican Coke.

"Drinking Coca-Cola from Mexico may remind people of home and thus, their heritage," Coca-Cola spokeswoman Lauren Thompson told us.

Why It’s a Cult favorite: There’s a cool factor, thanks to the retro glass bottle, its hard-to-find status, and its exotic origin outside the United States.

But this might be a case where looks really do matter; there really is something about that throwback bottle.

"H&F Bottle Shop does stock Mexican Coke, and it certainly has a dedicated and growing following," Cate Hatch, manager of the Atlanta-based store, told us. "There is just something nostalgic about drinking Coke from a glass bottle."

How to Buy: Just a few years back, Mexican Coke used to be a fairly rare find, so much so that people would post store locations to the Mexican Coke Facebook page. These days, the beverage can be had at your local taqueria or bodega. Big-box stores like Sam’s Club are also known to stock Coca-Cola de Mexico.

Whether or not Mexican Coke actually tastes better is—and probably always will be—open to debate.