Let’s face it: America is obsessed with Coca-Cola. It was invented in the late 19th century and has since been enjoyed in 50s diners by poodle skirt-clad guests, at music festivals in the 70s, at the Olympic Games in the 2000s, and still today—136 years after its debut.
As Coke grew in popularity, it lost its sustainability. What used to come in glass bottles is now mass-produced in virgin plastic. It also uses questionable ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup. And while Coca-Cola has goals in place—like reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2023 and moving toward 100% recycled plastic bottles—it still has a long way to go.
But what if you could get the great taste of Coke in a more eco-friendly fashion?
The ‘Healthy Coke’ Taking Over TikTok
A “healthy Coke” recipe is going viral on TikTok that can be created using ingredients you already have at home. And, long story short, it’s left users feeling a certain way.
Last week, Amanda Jones of @mandyvjones posted a video about an alternative her Pilates instructor shared with her. One that gets its color from balsamic vinegar (yes, really) and its fizziness from sparkling water.
“My Pilates instructor makes this drink almost every day. It’s a healthy alternative to a Coke,” she says. “I’m not joking you—it takes just like a Coke, and you’re going to think I’m insane.”
Well, she was right: While the bubbly drink does look a lot like Coke, the responses have been very mixed. The #healthycoke hashtag now has 37 million views and thousands of response videos. Some people agree with Jones and her Pilates instructor, saying the combo is surprisingly refreshing and soda-like. Others… not so much.
Can Balsamic Vinegar and Sparkling Water Really Taste Like Coke?
Despite this sparkling water and balsamic vinegar combo sounding super weird, Alex Dainis, PhD, a science communicator and genetics expert, says the pairing isn’t as uncommon as you think.
According to Dainis, past research found that an enzyme in carbonated beverages activates sour-sensing cells, which give them the taste and tingling sensation consumers love. Balsamic vinegar, on the other hand, can be sweet and fruity. And, the balance of the two can go together nicely.
“This isn’t going to taste like Coke. But it can taste pretty good, because science,” she says in a video. “The idea of mixing an acidic fruity thing [i.e. balsamic vinegar] with sparkling water isn’t new. In fact, there are drinks called ‘shrubs’ that were popular in the UK and the U.S. between the 17th and 19th centuries. Vinegar was one method of preserving fruit, so you could take a vinegared fruity syrup and mix it with water, alcohol, or fizzy water and make your own drink. You’re just more likely to have balsamic vinegar at home than a true shrub syrup.”
So if you’ve been looking for a more wholesome, planet-friendly version of a Coke, it might be worth feeding into your curiosity and giving it a try. Learn how to make healthy Coke below, including tips that increase your chances of making it taste delicious.
How to Make Healthy Coke
Want to make some healthy Coke of your own? Grab a glass, balsamic vinegar, your sparkling water of choice… and an open mind. The general consensus is while it doesn’t taste exactly like Coke, it’s still a refreshing summer drink worth sipping.
High-quality balsamic vinegar
1. Fill a glass with ice to the halfway mark.
2. Put a splash of high-quality balsamic vinegar in the glass. The Brightly team loves this option from Brightland.
3. Take any sparkling beverage and pour to the top of your glass.
4. Mix the healthy Coke together, prepare yourself, and take a sip.
5. Need something extra? Add a squirt of lemon or lime. You can also experiment with different flavors of sparkling water.
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