I am not an observant Jew. To put it more succinctly, I am not Jewish at all. Yet I look forward to Passover each year for one gastronomic reason - kosher Coca-Cola. I am not much of a soft drink lover either, tea and water being my beverages of choice. But when I do drink soda, I prefer ice cold Classic Coke or regular Pepsi to anything else. Both are familiar soft drinks of my childhood in India - delicious tingling beverages that brought much relief on hot sunny days at home, in restaurants or by the shack of a road side vendor.
I was not aware that kosher dietary laws extend to soft drinks until just a few years ago (probably 2001 or 2002). During the Passover week that year, I happened to pass a special table displaying kosher goods for the upcoming holiday at my local grocery store and noticed 2 liter bottles of Coke with distinctive yellow caps among the items. I brought one home purely out of curiosity. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise - it tasted like real Coke, a nostalgic taste no longer found in the modern incarnation of the drink. Having never paid any attention to the ingredients in Coca-Cola, I had no idea why the kosher cola tasted so much better than the ordinary variety. A Jewish friend shed light on the mystery. Kosher Coke is made with sugar - it is indeed the Real Thing. In the mid '80s the Coca-Cola company led the way in switching to high fructose corn syrup as sweetener for soft drinks, ditching real sugar from the ingredients. No wonder the kosher Coke tasted so good - it invoked the happy times of youth. Since then every Passover season, I keep an eye out for this rare commodity - kosher Coke is as rare as it is ephemeral. It makes its fleeting appearance for just a few days around this time of the year and if one is not vigilant, it is gone. Last year I missed it. So, I am determined to obtain a couple of bottles this year. I was at the grocery store this morning looking for kosher Coke. It hadn't arrived. I talked to the manager and he assured me that he has some on order and I should check back tomorrow or the day after. Greedy though I am for this special concoction, I only purchase moderate quantities partly out of consideration for Jewish shoppers and partly because 2 liter bottles are not the best option for our household of just two members, neither of whom consumes carbonated drinks in large quantities. Most years I have only managed to find this large sized packaging. Just once, the store also carried cans of kosher Coke which I much prefer.
If you are too young to have ever tasted soft drinks sweetened with sugar and you didn't know about kosher Coke, do try to find some this week and taste the Real Thing. Read more about this special edition of Coca-Cola here.
Note: This post originally appeared on March 18, 2008. I am bringing it to the front for the Passover week that begins today.