Return of the Real Thing

It’s that time of year, when Coca-Cola substitutes sugar for high-fructose corn syrup to guarantee that “Coke is it” at Ashkenazi seders. This special batch is deliverance from the bitter anguish of Aspartame-sweetened soft drinks at the Passover table and a trip into the past for Coke fans born before the 1980s.

Coke switched from sugar to the more cost-effective corn syrup during the 1985 New Coke debacle and kept the new sweetener when they reintroduced the tried-and-true recipe of Coca-Cola Classic. But Coca-Cola splurges for Jews who abstain from products that leaven, like corn, during Pesach, and whips up a incredibly tastier old-school batch with sugar that typically hits stores mid-March.

Kosher-for-Passover Coke cans are marked this year with “P01CRC” in a black triangle near the bar code, while the 2-liter bottles have a yellow cap with a tiny Orthodox Union mark on the top and an “OU-P” printed on the seal ring. (Bottles with yellow caps featuring a Nascar contest are not kosher for Passover.)

Ironically, Coke is still made with sugar outside of the United States, and the American kosher version uses the international labeling that cites “corn syrup and/or sucrose” in the ingredients; but rest assured that only sugar has been used.

To highlight the flavor difference, a blind taste-test challenge was recently conducted at The Jewish Journal’s offices. Kosher-for-Passover Coke was pitted against its corn syrup-laden sibling.

Out of 10 Jewish Journal staffers, seven preferred the taste of kosher Coke. One staffer remarked that she could taste a spicy, cinnamon flavor in the kosher version; another said the taste difference was “dramatic.” The three who picked Coke with corn syrup did so because it was either “richer,” “sharper” or “familiar.”

Locally, kosher-for-Passover Coke can be found at kosher markets, like Kosher Club and Kotlar’s Pico Market, and some major supermarkets.