Taking the Coca-Cola Freestyle for a spin

Giving this newfangled marvel of 21st-century engineering a try.

This is a print version, so to speak, of a video we made for our YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/DialannTV.

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I didn’t used to like Coca-Cola. In fact, I generally avoided soft drinks when I was younger. The fact that my mom never bought any helped. But even if she had bought them, I probably wouldn’t have drunk them much. It was something about the fizz. I can remember a period of time when I would take cans of root beer—one of the few sodas I did drink on occasion—and shake them to get rid of the fizz before I opened them. (Now, admittedly, root beer without the fizz sounds unappetizing.)

So I would have root beer on occasion, especially in the form of a root beer float. I guess I would also have Sprite from time to time, especially with Mexican or other spicy foods, which is still the case today. And I would have ginger ale, which was and is my beverage of choice on airplanes.

But I would never have Coca-Cola, or any type of “cola” for that matter. It wasn’t just the fizz. It was the taste, too. Something about the flavor of those dark soft drinks that I just didn’t like.

That’s why even I found it surprising when I was teaching English in Italy in summer 2005 that I had a sudden fondness for Coke. I’m not sure what it was. Some people say Coke tastes better in Europe because there it’s made with sugar instead of corn syrup. I’m not sure about that. First of all, I never checked the label to see if they really did use sugar instead of corn syrup. But, even if they had, I’m of the opinion that there’s no discernible difference in taste between products sweetened with sugar and those sweetened with corn syrup.

Rather, my guess is that it had something more to do with having a familiar object. Now, I love Italy and the other places I’ve been in Europe, and I don’t feel terribly out of place or homesick when I’m there. But, as comfortable as I am and as much as they may feel like home, they are still foreign countries. And I think in that context it’s nice to have something more familiar every once in a while, at the very least to provide a respite from the mental exhaustion of so many new and unfamiliar things at once.

That was sort of like the previous summer, 2004, when I studied in Tours, France, and traveled some in the United Kingdom and Switzerland, I suddenly started going to McDonald’s all the time. The food was familiar. And it was reliable—I knew I could afford it, I knew how much I needed to eat to feel full, and I knew I would like it. Well, I knew I would be able to tolerate it, at least. Even in 2005 I turned to McDonald’s more than I ever would have in the United States. I recall having a Big Mac for the first time ever at a McDonald’s joint overlooking the Piazza Castello in Turin. (For the record, I have never actually had a Big Mac in the United States. And I probably never will, since I have now completely disavowed McDonald’s.)

So, back to Coca-Cola. My newfound love for Coke was among the many things I brought back with me to the United States. And while working in Washington, D.C., I found more reasons to continue drinking Coke. I learned that much of the work in the nation’s capital—at least the networking that leads to dealmaking that leads to “accomplishment” and “success”—occurs at receptions. Receptions take place all the time and all over the place. They happen before major events. They happen after major events. They happen before and after formal dinners. They happen before and after other receptions. It’s just the way the city works.

The organization sponsoring the reception finds a suitable place for it. It is often a hotel ballroom, though other venues are also likely hosts, such as congressional office buildings or particularly ornate or dramatic lobbies and atriums.

And they always have an open bar, so attendees can drink, for free, as much alcohol as they can hold down. See, that’s the secret to the success of these receptions: you get everyone liquored up so they’ll actually talk to each other. Otherwise, with all their senses and faculties intact, they’d never get out of their comfort zones. Which is how I usually was, teetotaler that I am.

But a Coca-Cola in hand gave me something to hold on to. I would drink it slower than I would drink water, and when everyone else had their drink I had mine, alcohol-free and tasty.

All of which leads me to the subject at hand, the Coca-Cola Freestyle. On Wednesday, 6 July 2011, I ran across an article—I don’t even remember where now, but probably MSNBC.com or CNN.com—about this newfangled soda fountain. The article promised that it could deliver over 100 combinations of sodas and flavors, all from a sleek machine operated by a touchscreen. When I read that one of those combinations was Coca-Cola with orange, I knew I had to try it. So I did, and fell in love with Coca-Cola all over again.

Using the Coca-Cola Freestyle: Types of soda & flavors available

This chart is available as a downloadable PDF on Scribd.

This article appeared on pages 10–12 of Issue 4 | October 2011.

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