“Ten Things I Know about Diet Coke that I’m Delighted to Share with You,” by Sharon Goldberg

Mar 18th, 2020 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

I am a connoisseur of Diet Coke. A gourmand. A maven. Even a snob. My palate is supremely refined. What a sommelier is to wine, what a nose is to perfume, I am to Diet Coke. I drink it every day. All day. Some days it’s the only beverage I drink. Diet Coke is my wake up call, my “Hello world,” my “I’m ready to interact on a sentient level.” I drink Diet Coke with burgers, with pasta, with salad, with pancakes and eggs, with bagels and lox, with croissants and scones. I don’t drink it with cereal, but I don’t eat cereal. Here’s what I know about Diet Coke:

1.) My nectar of the soda gods is composed of carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame (artificial sweetener), phosphoric acid, citric acid, potassium benzoate, natural flavors, and caffeine. Thanks to the phosphoric acid, Diet Coke offers an added benefit—it removes rust from metal. Just soak the item in a tray of Coke overnight. In the morning, scrub clean with a stiff brush.

2.) Diet Coke has no food value, but it has no calories. Really, what’s more important?

3.) Diet Coke contains 43 mg. of caffeine per twelve ounces, a meager amount, but when you drink sixty ounces per day as I do, it’s enough to deliver a substantial buzz. (If you’re wondering why my hands shake, now you know.) What coffee is to the average American, what tea is to the average Brit, Diet Coke is to me.

4.) The crème de la crème of Diet Coke is fountain Diet Coke. Unless I am desperate, I drink it from the fountain. Only fountain Diet Coke contains the optimal blend of carbonation and flavor. Only fountain Diet Coke delivers the zingy, tingly, fizzy effervescence that tickles my tongue and giggles down my esophagus. Canned Diet Coke is too flat. Metallic tasting. Bottled Diet Coke lacks the freshness, the spirit, the spontaneity of fountain. I can easily distinguish between the three. My partner, Arnie, has threatened to subject me to a blind taste test. I say, “Bring it on.”

5.) Fountain Diet Coke is a mix of syrup (provided by the Coca Cola Company), water, and CO2 (carbon dioxide) delivered via tank and provided through a Coca Cola soda machine. All fountain Diet Coke is not created equal because the carbonation may be askew. If the level gets too low, the Coke loses its sparkly scintillation. Because my palate is so refined, I can tell instantly. On many occasions I’ve informed restaurants that their mix is off.

6.) The best place to buy fountain Diet Coke is any place that offers free refills. The product only costs the establishment pennies per cup, so there’s no reason not to offer free refills. If you drink as much as I do and make multiple stops over the course of the day to purchase fresh Diet Coke, it pays to economize. Just plop your butt down and go for the freebies.

7.) McDonald’s is an excellent Diet Coke source. The Coke there is never flat. If you frequent the drive-through, you’ll meet a friendly clerk who presses a button on the soda machine and delivers a full cup of beverage, never overflowing, with the optimal chink chink chink of ice. A wrapped straw and convenient plastic cover complete your purchase. Often, McDonald’s features a promotion offering “Any size soda for $1.00.” What a deal! The United States promotion is regional rather than national and I’ve availed myself of the large (twenty-four oz.) size in Washington, Ohio, Utah, and Colorado. Look for the offer wherever you travel.

8.) Diet Coke is superior to Diet Pepsi. Yes, I can tell the difference. Pepsi is too sweet and leaves an icky aftertaste. If an establishment serves only Pepsi—a serious liability but de rigeur at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio and Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah—any cola is better than no cola, but it’s a choice I make under duress.

9.) In Mexico, Diet Coke is called Coca Cola Lite. “Diet” is not a term used there to describe low calorie beverages. As in other foreign countries, the sweetener blend in Mexico is formulated for local consumer preference. This preference does not match my preference. Coca Cola Lite is vile. Sickly sweet. Almost a reason to forego Mexican travel altogether. However, after I drink Coca Cola Lite for three days, I adapt. In Australia, on the other hand, McDonald’s serves the same fine, fountain Diet Coke as in the United States, a blessing since I lived in Sydney for three months. Sadly, their largest size is only equivalent to an American medium. And free refills are not an option.

10.) The proper way to drink Diet Coke is over ice (cubes, not crushed) and through a straw. Arnie claims the ice dilutes the Coke. I say the dilution is insignificant; the ice is essential to chill the soda to the ideal temperature. The straw helps to minimize lipstick smearing, as well as tooth enamel corrosion caused by carbonation. And the straw allows one to slowly, slowly sip the soda soupçon by soupçon. Mmmmm. Bon appetit.


Sharon Goldberg is a Seattle writer who was an advertising copywriter in a former life. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, New Letters, The Louisville Review, Cold Mountain Review, River Teeth, Under the Sun, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, The Raven Chronicles, The Manchester Review, three fiction anthologies, and elsewhere. Sharon won second place in the On the Premises 2012 Humor Contest and Fiction Attic Press‘s 2013 Flash in the Attic Contest. She is an avid but cautious skier and enthusiastic world traveler.

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