Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The fountain

In three days' time, I've gotten over the caffeine withdrawal -- no more headaches or fogginess -- but I still want a Coke every morning. I actually think about it in the car on the way to work, like, oh, yum, Coke! And then when I remember I can't have one I drive off the overpass and plunge to sweet, sweet death. It's happened twice now.

Since I can't drink one, I will run down the best places to get a fountain Coke. In this time of political upheaval and dissent, the one thing we can all agree on is that the soda fountain is the purest, most delicious form of Coke dispensal available in this great land of ours. If it were in a Texas schoolbook, surely there would be a chapter on soda fountain exceptionalism. Come to think of it, the only way I can think of improving upon a soda fountain Coke is to use real sugar in the mix instead of corn syrup. Lord amighty, I would snap a neck to have a Mexican Coke right now. I'm getting off track here. The point is, all soda fountain Cokes are superior to canned and most bottled Cokes, with the exception of kosher/Mexican/Ghanian Cokes occasionally available in the corner markets. And some soda fountain outlets are better than others. My personal top five:

5. Burger King: generally a good mix although from one outlet to another there's less consistency than I would like. When it's off, it tends to err on the side of too syrupy, so you have to up the ice content to compensate. Not the worst thing in the world, and overall pretty dependable.

4. Subway: I'm not sure why exactly, but the Subway Cokes I get tend to go flat faster than from other places. Otherwise on a flavor basis they're a strong candidate, which is more than I can say for their food.

3. Jimmy John's: I'm basing this on a very small sample size, but the three or so JJ's that I've frequented in my time have surprisingly good mixes. The only knock I can give them is that the refrigeration seems to be slightly lower than optimal, leading to melted ice and a watery Coke if you don't drink it fast.

2. 7-Eleven: as a person who has downed her share of Big Gulps, I can say that 99% of the time the mix is flawless. Of the hundreds of Cokes I've gotten at 7-Eleven maybe three have tasted off -- and not so far off that I didn't drink them. It is rare indeed that I stop at a 7-Eleven and don't get a Coke.

1. McDonald's: the gold standard of fountain Cokes. The mix is always perfect -- the perfect temperature, the perfect syrup balance, perfect carbonation. I have never been let down by McDonald's Cokes, not once. It makes sense that in a place where you know exactly what you're getting every time, you can count on their Cokes being crisp, fizzy, and refreshing every time too. You know how everyone likes BK burgers and McDonald's fries? If I were to live that particular dream I would also have to pull a Coke from the side of the arches.

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