a cola classic

I’ll have a Coke, please.

Anyone who knows me knows what a big cola drinker I am. Maybe my addiction started because all my mother could drink while she was pregnant with me was cherry coke. It was the ONLY thing she could keep down. I remember her telling me stories of when my dad would buy cherry syrup and add it to regular flavored coke. Back then they didn’t have ready-made cherry colas.
What is it about cola that makes it so good? Is it its refreshing, thirst-quenching flavor with all those invigorating tiny bubbles that tickle your nose when freshly poured? Does it have to be Coca-cola? In my humble opinion yes. Although I’ll drink Pepsi in a pinch. Maybe I’m biased. I was drinking home-made cherry cokes really early on it would seem! Or maybe it is because Coke was one of my accounts in my professional days – a perfect match in my opinion given my personal history. ┬áIt really was one of my favorite accounts to work on. Of course, as a vendor, we didn’t do the complete cola flavor. No, that’s a trade secret kept under lock and key. But there is a lot out there where you can learn about the history of Coke or Pepsi without having to know its trade secrets. Surprisingly, I learned that colas are citrus based. I suppose it’s the caramel color that throws me off. It was originally used for medicinal purposes. Perhaps that’s part of the reason for the caffeine. Although, despite some advocates who want to remove or reduce the caffeine for health and nutritional purposes, doing such things would change the beloved flavor profile. I know. Playing around in the lab, one could come close to duplicating the nuances of either of the “Big 2” cola flavors. But to come up with an exact match to either Coke or Pepsi, well that’s more challenging if not impossible. Coke or Pepsi drinkers, such as myself are pretty picky about their drink. If not the case, then making minor revisions to the flavors for either cost savings or to try something new wouldn’t be such a stomach-wrenching ordeal. Remember the New Coke? I was one of those loyal addicted drinkers who took a sip and thought, what happened? How did this new flavor pass triangle? As we all know, New Coke didn’t last too long. They went back to the tried and true and all was right with the world again! Even so, Coke Zero or any of the diet colas are not an exact to the original fully-leaded versions. However these drinkers are willing to make the slight concession in flavor change for the benefit of no calories. I get it.
So in my travels what are some of the unusual things I have come across with colas? In the South, boiled peanuts accompany the effervescent drink… either side by side or actually in the drink. I like boiled peanuts, but I don’t drink and chew them at the same time. That’s just me. My cousins once told me that some people use it as a sun tanning lotion. Really? That would be pretty sticky… not to mention attract every bee in town! I’ve cooked with it plenty. Ever make “beer chicken”? Instead of beer, I’ve used Coke, Sprite and even A&W root beer. Each in their own right offers slight distinctions in flavor to the chicken. Try it sometime! I can only wonder what other creative uses there are for one of my all-time favorite beverages!