I was a Diet Coke loyalist for many years. As a sleep deprived high schooler, there was a point at which I was so dependent on that magical elixir of caffeine, aspartame and some cocktail of unpronounceable chemicals that I actually needed to crack a Diet Coke before bed if I wanted to fall asleep, lest the withdrawal headaches keep me awake. As a weird loner in college with depression and an eating disorder, most of my fondest memories from that period of my life involve sitting alone in my dorm room subsisting almost entirely on Diet Coke and gum. It was a beautiful time to barely be alive.
Throughout all this time, I stood loyally by Diet Coke, even while the rest of the world assured me that Coke Zero tasted better. Did Coke Zero taste more like an actual beverage rather than a potentially toxic, Coke-like substance crafted by aliens in an attempt to drug and enslave the human race? Yes, of course. But there’s a reason Diet Coke has managed to survive the advent of its objectively better-tasting alternative. People who drink Diet Coke like that it tastes like chemicals. It’s more honest. It’s old school. It’s a little gritty. Diet Coke is goth. Coke Zero is for people who want to drink chemicals but pretend they’re not drinking chemicals, people who walk around blissfully unaware of their own inevitable demise and the vast futility of all things. Diet Coke, meanwhile, is for people who hate themselves too much to know if they deserve to drink something that actually tastes good.
At some point, however, who can say exactly when or how, I fell into Coke Zero’s trap. Maybe it was more readily available in the office at one particular job or another, or maybe I just stopped hating myself enough to believe I deserved to drink things that taste good. Either way, I eventually switched teams, and I’ve been ashamed of it ever since. This is why I, unlike most Coke Zero drinkers, welcome recent news of a forthcoming update to the Coke Zero formula. Coca-Cola announced the new Coke Zero this week, claiming the new recipe “optimizes existing Coca-Cola Zero Sugar flavors and existing ingredients.”
Naturally, Coke Zero drinkers are skeptical, especially in light of Coke’s infamously disastrous attempt to improve its OG product with the colossal failure that was the 1985 introduction of New Coke.
Personally, however, I hope they fuck up the new Coke Zero so badly it becomes undrinkable, freeing me from the oppressive yet seductive normalcy of being a Coke Zero drinker so I can return to downing Diet Coke and hating myself, as god and nature intended.