I accepted the challenge set down by my friend Stu, after he read my post about my world famous creation, the Coke Float. He is from Nottingham UK, not too far from the birthplace of Irn-Bru and, as I found out, the only place in the world where you can find this bizarre but beloved beverage in its native habitat.
What is Irn-Bru? Only the third most popular soft drink in the UK, just behind the international juggernauts Coke and Pepsi.
It has been made in Scotland for over a century and is available internationally, but not necessarily in your corner store. You have to know a guy. Preferably one who rrrrolls his arrrrrs.
It’s pronounced Iron Brew, geddit? Apparently that is the original spelling, but in 1947 the British government was threatening to enforce truth in advertising, and since the soft drink was not actually brewed, they fudged with the name. There really is iron in it, though. But don’t worry, so does breakfast cereal and that hasn’t killed you yet. (Seriously, there are iron filings in breakfast cereal.)
It wasn’t easy, but I tracked down some Irn-Bru so I could repeat my Coke Float experiments. Okay it was a five second Google search, but just because it was easy for me doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard for Google.
“Will you shut up already,” I hear you grumble, “and just tell us what on God’s Green Earth does this stuff taste like?” Don’t worry, I was getting to that.
The taste of Irn-Bru is unique in my vast soda experience: sodas from around the world and various combinations at the D-I-Y soda fountain. It is sweet and fruity, but strong… kind of antiseptic, like cough drops. I rather like it.
There is indeed a hint of orange flavor. Well duh, you say, it is colored orange, but think about that a moment: when flavor and color are mostly artificial, if they coincide it is probably coincidence.
Plus, I was watching a show on History Channel that showed how our perception of flavor is biased by the color of whatever we stick in our mouths. As proof, the guy tasted orange-colored apple juice and he thought it was orange juice. Go figure.
So that means if I hadn’t seen the bottle before I took a sip, I might have thought it tasted like watermelon or kumquat. Oh well. I’ll stick with “sweet antiseptic orange”.
Anyway, back to the experiment. Just as I used Coke to cover the taste of artificial sweeteners in diet colas, I thought to use Irn-Bru to cover the taste of the artificial sweetener in diet Irn-Bru.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get diet Irn-Bru. Apparently it does exist, but the distributor in the USA doesn’t distribute it. That makes him an oxymoron to me.
Thus I decided to use compatible diet sodas that I could get locally. Given that there is no soda like Irn-Bru around here, this posed a special challenge. I settled on a half dozen diet sodas that also averred fruitiness.
Warning: Just like last time — Do not try this at home! Soft drinks are a carefully balanced combination of exotic colors and flavors that come from at least as intriguing chemicals. Mixing them can cause unwanted effects. Irn-Bru in particular is dangerous with a long and checkered history. Apparently that’s how Braveheart got the blue face.
On with the science!
|Irn-Bru + Diet Sprite||lemon-Lime||tastes like weakened Irn-Bru; that sounds like criticism but it’s not|
|Irn-Bru + Diet Sun-Kist Orange||orange||doesn’t taste very good to begin with, Irn-Bru makes it worse|
|Irn-Bru + Diet Canada Dry Cranberry Ginger Ale||cranberry||not bad, actually pretty good (can you hear the surprise in my voice?)|
|Irn-Bru + Fresca||grapefruit||sounds disgusting, does not disappoint|
|Irn-Bru + Diet Cherry 7-Up||cherry||was okay, but the 7-Up lost its cherry (this whole experiment is worth it just for that joke)|
|Irn-Bru + Minute Maid Light Lemonade||lemon||tames the wild pucker of the lemonade and softens the sugary smack of Irn-Bru, but since I like both, I’m going to say “no”; some may like it though|
Irn-Bru makes a pretty good mixer for fruity drinks. Goes best with lemony flavors. Cranberry was a close third. Incompatible with orange and grapefruit. Violates cherry.
And yes, I know cranberry is a berry not a fruit, but since berries are fruits, it’s still a bloody fruit.
I admit I’m a Coke addict. I find Pepsi too sweet and I like the bite of Coke. However, I don’t want all those horrible calories in my drinks. I’ll save my calories for chocolate and ice cream, thank you very much.
That’s why the Coke folks created Diet Coke. But I don’t like the taste of aspartame. So what to do?
Simple! Add a little Coke to your Diet Coke.
A little Coke neatly covers up the taste of aspartame. Yes it adds a few calories. So park your car a few stalls farther away and walk the next time you go to the supermarket, instead of driving around for fifteen minutes looking for a stall that is 30 seconds closer.
Anyway, I was so pleased with my discovery that I started thinking: What other combinations might work? So I did some experimenting.
Warning: Do not try this at home! Coke and Pepsi products are a carefully balanced combination of chemicals with names no one can pronounce. Combining them willy-nilly could seriously affect your health. Like Morgan Spurlock, I have put my body on the line in the name of science so you won’t have to. You’re welcome.
|Coke + Diet Coke||tastes like Coke with strong cola notes and a crisp finish|
|Coke + Diet Pepsi||blech|
|Coke + Diet Dr. Pepper||tastes like mud with a hint of blech then a flaccid finish|
|Barqs + Diet Coke||not technically a cola, but I love Barqs… and this combo works|
|Pepsi + Diet Coke||sweat sock soaked in sewage|
|Pepsi + Diet Pepsi||tastes like Pepsi (good if you like Pepsi)|
|Pepsi + Diet Dr. Pepper||tastes less aspartamey but also less Peppery, I believe the Dr. is out|
|Mountain Dew + Diet Mountain Dew||definitely not a cola, but everyone likes ‘Dew; unsurprisingly, this combo works well|
One conclusion is immediately apparent: Coke products work best with Coke products, and Pepsi products work best with Pepsi products. They must have done this on purpose.
Side note: I’ve left Coke Zero out of my tests because I’ve seen Splenda on the bottle, and sugar alcohols make my intestines blow up like pork sausages left in the sun too long. However, I think the Coke folks recently took out Splenda and put in aspartame, and now Coke Zero and Diet Coke are basically the same thing. That means my testing should apply equally well to Coke Zero. Perhaps if I can secure further funding for my experiments I will retest with Coke Zero.
Oh, and the name Coke Float? That isn’t mine. I always order my creation in restaurants, as in, “Can I get a Diet Coke with a bit of regular Coke in it?” One waiter in TGI Fridays replied after some moments of puzzlement, “Oh, a Coke Float.” So hey, if you are that waiter, please let me know so I can give you proper credit.
And you the reader… if you try these combinations, let me know how it goes.