Mexican Coca-Cola: A Cult Classic
Mexican Coca-Cola: A Cult Classic
When the Silicon Valley investment firm BlueRun Ventures redecorated its Menlo Park, Calif., office last year, it stacked its entryway with a throw pillow embroidered with a black hashtag, carefully placed vintage typewriters, wireless speakers hidden in chalkboard art and wall-mounted wooden crates that display glass bottles of Coca-Cola imported from Mexico. The soda-as-décor is “a little retro and throwback,” said Cheryl Cheng, 37, a partner at the firm.
Among subcultures that pride themselves on early adoption — techies, foodies, Brooklyn baristas — Mexican Coke is the new black. MexiCoke, as it is also called, is imported from Mexico and is sweetened by pure cane sugar, rather than the corn syrup found in the American version. Devotees say it delivers a sugar-infused, caffeine-amplified buzz, which is a particular draw for stay-up-all-night coders, writers and musicians. For hard-core fans, it’s Mexican Coke or none at all.
More expensive than most sodas, 12- and 16.9-ounce glass bottles of the beverage can go for $3 or more apiece. But its followers splurge because of what they see as a two-pronged authenticity — a nostalgic look and natural ingredients (as natural as a soda can be, anyway). “One of the things that is really important to us is having all high-quality ingredients to our food, and we want that in our beverages as well,” said Tyler Brown, beverage manager for the Umami Restaurant Group, which sells Mexican Coke along with shiitake mushrooms on its burgers at its 24 restaurants. Mr. Brown said MexiCoke is its best-selling drink.
The drink is emerging as a pop-culture reference as well. Last month, the hip-hop duo Leather Corduroys released a new single, “Mexican Coke,” on SoundCloud. The musicians Joey Purp and Kami de Chukwu (whose real names are Joey Purple and Kene Ekwunife) said they chose the title because it signals that they are hipper than most hip-hop artists. “Mainstream would be like American Coke, with artificial flavors, and we would be like Mexican Coke — better packaged, all that,” Mr. Purp said.
Drinking it makes people feel cool, said Warren Kleban, an employee at Automattic, the company behind the blogging platform WordPress.com. At the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, Mr. Kleban works as the “lounge manager,” charged with stocking the office with food and beverages. The staff members plow through cases of Mexican Coke twice as quickly as regular Coke because the bottle has cachet, he said.
Coke has been a symbol of youth culture since it was first sold at a pharmacy soda fountain in Atlanta in 1886. Coke expanded into the Mexican market in the 1920s. The Mexican version, with its sugarcane sweetness, used to come into the United States via unauthorized independent dealers, but Coca-Cola began officially importing it to Texas in 2005 and slowly expanded across the country. The soda is still mostly available in supermarkets and bodegas in neighborhoods with large Hispanic populations.
Coca-Cola doesn’t release exact numbers for Mexican Coke sales, but Lauren Thompson, a company spokeswoman, said the product has had double-digit growth over the last two years. Last year, the Internet was rife with rumors that a new Mexican tax would result in a switch to corn syrup for Mexican Coke. Devotees took to Twitter with expletive-laden protests. But Ms. Thompson said the company did not plan to make any such change to the imported soda.
MexiCoke is especially popular among fussy eaters and locavores. Patrick Hurley, a craft-brewery bartender in St. Louis who writes a cocktail blog called Vegan Drunkard, reaches for Mexican Coke when making cocktails. Regular Coke has “an aftertaste that interferes with the mixers,” said Mr. Hurley, whose website includes recipes for vegan hangover cures.
Amber Young, a 31-year-old buyer for Whole Foods in St. Paul, recently brought a bit of style to her father’s Mexican Coke habit, crocheting a bottle holder for him in Scooby-Doo colors. It took guesswork, she said, to make the soda sweater fit the bottle’s curvy figure. She posted a photo to Instagram with the caption, “#Custom #koozie for my Dad’s #Mexicoke obsession.”