Crystal Pepsi? What??? Yeah, I know, this had to happen at some point. I’m a product of the 90’s and remember very clearly when Crystal Pepsi originally came out so this brings a bit of nostalgia for me. I don’t remember what it tasted like back then, but I remember having a mild obsession.
While I’m not a fan of Pepsi I thought it would be fun to compare the four versions currently available. Regular Pepsi, 1893 Original Cola, 1893 Ginger Cola, and Crystal Pepsi. Did I consider comparing Diet Pepsi? No. I didn’t want to. End of story. Here’s what they look like poured into the tasting glasses:
There are some obvious differences here. Pepsi is a dark brown, as is the 1893 Original (but a little more sinister). The Ginger Cola has more of dark amber look to it. Crystal Pepsi is clear. I’m shocked. Here’s a closer look:
I started the tasting with regular Pepsi. This might be the first time I’ve ever thought about what Pepsi actually tastes like. It’s sweet. Really sweet. What I taste more than anything is sort of a burnt sugar and syrup flavor with a bit of a potpourri aftertaste. Reminds me a bit of ridiculously sweet Earl Grey tea. Could that be bergamot? Beats me. Maybe it was a long time ago but now it’s whatever artificial substance gives the impression for the most reasonable cost. There’s a sharpness to it that I’m assuming comes from the high level of carbonation and citric acid. Or maybe the caffeine. It really coats your mouth and makes you think about what your dentist might be doing at that very moment. Not great, but it’s fine.
Next I moved onto the 1893 Original Cola. I’ve been looking forward to this since I first spotted a bottle in a gas station a while back. This is Pepsi’s nod to the gourmet soda movement where they go back to using “natural” ingredients. In this case, they’re using a natural extract from the Kola Nut. To give you some trivia points, Coca-Cola originally used coca leaves and kola nuts in their soda. Coca leaves contain cocaine and Kola Nuts contain caffeine. Lots of it. By using a kola nut extract Pepsi is going back to the earthy roots of the cola industry. I approve. The drink didn’t taste quite as sweet as original Pepsi, it had a more robust and lasting flavor, and it had some subtle hints of other spices playing off the kola foundation. For people used to drinking the original this might taste a bit strong or medicinal. I liked it. I like the can too.
Next up was the Ginger Cola. Once again this goes back to the kola nut extract, but it plays a less prominent role. I’d say it’s about half of what’s going on in this soda. The rest of the flavor profile is carried by a decent ginger ale. I really like that. Ginger is one of my favorite things to drink. It’s refreshing, it’s cleansing, it can be sharp or mellowed with sugar. A bit of citrus with the ginger wakes up your palate. You can smell the ginger in this soda and the flavor lasts through the whole experience without going to the extreme of a ginger-burn. So, you basically get the earthy/spicy profile of a cola with the heat and intrigue of a ginger ale. This was nice. Once again, a very classy bottle. I hope that Pepsi continues with this product line, even if it does remain somewhat of a boutique for them.
Last, and certainly least, Crystal Pepsi. This stuff is confusing. It looks like Sprite…or moonshine. At first sip it tastes like Pepsi but that dissipates quickly. What you’re left with is this slightly tart, slightly spicy, very syrupy mouth coating. It’s like it never quite committed to being something and fell solidly in the middle of no-man’s land. It’s the soda equivalent of one of Sid’s mutant toys in the movie Toy Story. With the hype and expectation of a limited release throw-back soda from my childhood I might have expected too much, but I thought I went into it with an open mind. Ultimately, Pepsi accomplished its goal. Get people to buy this thing then pull it from the market before word spreads about how disappointing it really is. If you like feeling nostalgic, buy a bottle. Just don’t drink it. Snuggle it to sleep or something, but I CANNOT recommend consuming it. Also, be sure to check out the 90’s themed version of the Oregon Trail that Pepsi put together. It’s hilarious. (edit on 3/6/2017, it appears that the link has been removed)
That’s it guys. No numeric ranking on this one. It’s a simple taste comparison, and you have my clear preferences above. Drink responsibly.