Turns out you can beat the real thing, with something slightly realer. Or so say fans of Mexican Coke, the South of the Border iteration of Coca-Cola that’s already garnered enough press coverage and adoring Facebook fans to rank as a B-list culinary celebrity.
With the Coca-Cola company’s zealous guardianship of its recipe, it's able to keep Coke's culinary DNA 99.9% consistent. But with bottling occurring all over the world, there are the inevitable, if slight, variations—like beneficial genetic soda mutations. One such variation happened to occur in Mexico. Whereas North American Coke is made with high-fructose corn syrup, Mexican Coke is produced with the more available cane sugar, lending a more complex (and apparently addictive) flavor profile to the final product.
“There’s a very noticeable difference,” says Jordan Chambers, Barista-owner of Atlanta’s Steady Hand Pour. “I wouldn’t say it’s less sweet—it’s more like it’s more fresh. It still tastes like Coke. But when you taste them side by side, you notice it coats your mouth in a different way.” What with the extreme secrecy of the formula, we can’t exactly explore the science of it. But it seems likely that the natural Mexican cane sugar both lends some of its own flavors and allows some of Coca-Cola’s other components to shine a bit brighter. The result has been described as spicier, more natural, and, of course, classic.
And that means wherever Coke has culinary applications (beyond making Captain Morgan palatable), Mexican Coke is easily the way to go. Which is no doubt why Chambers and fellow Steady Hand Pour Barista-owner Dale Donchey opt for Mexican Coke for their Cola-Cocktail—surprising given Coca-Cola’s ATL ZIP code (we just assumed Coke was in the water there). “Our flavors just come out better with Mexican Coke,” says Chambers, referring to the Intelligentsia espresso (“typically a dark chocolate, nutty espresso blend”) and house-made Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla syrup that round out the drink. The earthy, creamy, sugary-spice of the drink is unlike anything we’ve ever had; watching the cola and espresso foam up is a joy in and of itself. “It’s very popular,” says Chambers, “especially in our mobile coffee van.”