Posted by: ktzefr | September 16, 2015

MexiCoke and Memories

Coca Cola Made in Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Coca Cola Made in Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

I’m a hipster.  This, according to a recent article in Smithsonian Magazine.  I’m a hipster because I like Mexican Coke (as in Coca Cola, the sweet, brown liquid in a bottle).  The all-American soda — except it’s not.  The Coke I like is labeled “hecho en México ” (made in Mexico).

South of the border Coke is made with real cane sugar.  Here it’s made with high-fructose corn syrup.  Mexican Coke comes in glass bottles like the ones I remember from my growing-up years.  Here it mostly comes in plastic and cans.  I don’t like foodstuffs in general that come from plastic or cans.  No matter who says it’s all the same or you can’t tell the difference or one way is as good as another…in my book, it’s just not so.  Sugar is sugar.  And glass is glass.  And the Coke I remember from the 1960s is “real” Coke.

According to the aforementioned article, a French magazine back in the 30s speculated that the “beautiful Coke bottle with the contoured curves” was designed like a woman’s body.  But the Coke folks say that isn’t true; it was shaped to resemble the cocoa pod.  Either way, I prefer the old-fashioned glass bottle.

Mexican Coke is my madeleine (remember Proust and his madeleine cookie dipped in tea and how that taste and scent brought back volumes of memories?).  Well…I drink a bottle of MexiCoke and I’m a kid again in Kentucky, slipping a cold bottle from the ice box in our store in the country.  Or sitting in the front yard shade, watching the cars go by…or riding around town in my friend’s Mustang convertible with the top down…or cooling off after the Saturday night dance at Jack’s Blue Room on the Courthouse Square.

And, later, drinking Coke around the world.  I remember paying $2 for a bottle of Coke in the 70s in Venice, Italy.  We hadn’t had a Coke or anything else we were accustomed to for weeks, so we ordered a Coke from room service at our hotel in Venice.  They brought a single bottle to the room on a tray with glasses and real linen napkins.  No ice.  And the Coke was warm.  Two dollars plus tip.  We could have bought a six pack at home for less.  But we enjoyed that Coke immensely and celebrated, flinging open the thick wooden shutters to sit in the window and listen to the music wafting from the houses and sidewalks and gondolas on the canal.  Italy in the air; America in a bottle.

I take a sip of MexiCoke and I remember drinking Coke in Mexico in the 80s because I couldn’t drink the water and didn’t like beer or wine (at the time:).  Coke on the beach in Cozumel.  And, over the years, with panuchos and salbutes at sidewalk cafes in Mérida…with guacamole on the porch of an old hacienda in Chichen…with gorditas in Guanajuato…with nopales in San Miguel.  Mexican Coke.  It’s about summoning up the good stuff.  Memories.  Happy times from decades ago or just last year.  It’s about nostalgia.

And being hip, of course.  At least for some folks.

A couple of years ago I had lunch at Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City.  We’d heard amazing things about David Chang’s restaurant.  But I didn’t know they sold Mexican Coke.  At $5 a bottle!  I opted for water with the pork belly bun.  I’ll pay more for MexiCoke over the other stuff, but not that much more.

Bottom line:  I like Mexican Coke.  But I don’t care whether I’m hip or not.

*****

Coke’s history/story is complicated.  Full of truths and half-truths and gossip.  In Mexico they tell the story of how Coke executives come down every year to bid on the vanilla crops.  (Vanilla is another story — the secretive trade and bidding wars and globetrotting adventures that revolve around a tiny white orchid are fascinating.)  In any case, back in the 1980s New Coke was introduced.  No one liked it.  So, a few months later they went back to the old formula — re-introduced and re-labelled as Classic Coke.  The story goes that the Coke folks wanted to save money by eliminating vanilla as a flavoring, since the price and availability of vanilla can fluctuate dramatically.  Coke came out with the new drink and got rid of their stockpiles of vanilla, but…no one liked New Coke.  The company was forced to then buy back the vanilla at a wildly inflated price, go back to the original recipe, and give it a new name.  And so it goes.  May be true; maybe not.

And there are other stories, other issues dealing with the sugar industry, globalization, health concerns…

*****

Check out the Smithsonian article to read why “The Story of Mexican Coke is a Lot More Complex than Hipsters Would Like to Admit”

 

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. I’m definitely not hip, but love the taste of Coca – Cola from the bottle on a hot sunny Mexican beach.
    It is the best!!!

  2. The man who is reputed to have invented the sinuous Coke bottle is French designer Raymond Loewy. He also designed the Coke fountain dispenser, and, while working for Studebaker, the iconic Avanti automobile.


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