We Settled the Cola Debate—Find Out Which Brand Tastes Best

Coke vs. Pepsi is one of the most heated debates in foodie history. We tried these brands, plus six others, in a cola taste test to put this argument to bed.

Growing up, there was always a major debate in my house: Coke vs. Pepsi. My sisters and I were Team Coca-Cola while my mom was very much Team Pepsi; my dad, on the other hand, was very frugal and was Team Generic, or whatever was on sale—he’d love these 12 thrifty ways to use soda around the house! I’m sure that this scenario sounds pretty familiar.

Since we had our biases, we never managed to settle the Coke vs. Pepsi debate at home. We’d all reach for our favorites in the fridge and claim that the other options were far inferior. But I realized, we never did a test to confirm whose preferred brand was better—we just assumed our favorite was best. But maybe if presented with Coke, Pepsi and Dad’s pick of the generics, I wouldn’t automatically gravitate toward my favorite. But there was only one way to know: to give all of these brands (plus a few new ones) a try today.

As fun as it would be to grab my parents and sisters to give all these colas a try, I decided to recruit a panel of Taste of Home testers instead. I think they’d be a bit less biased than my polarized fam! For this blind test, we gave eight cola brands a try:

  • Blue Sky Cola
  • Coca-Cola
  • Coca-Cola, Mexican-style (there is a difference!)
  • Faygo Cola
  • Fentimans Curiosity Cola
  • Pepsi
  • RC Cola
  • Sam’s Cola (from Walmart)

Let’s see how all these colas stacked up and settle the debate (hopefully) for good!

Honorable Mention (Small Brand): Blue Sky

Score: 7/10

Natural brand Blue Sky definitely deserves a mention in this test. It was the only high ranking cola we tested that’s sweetened with real cane sugar (not corn syrup). Plus, this beverage is made with just five ingredients. Of course, it’s still a soft drink so it’s not healthy, but it seems like the slightly better option if you’re more concerned about what goes into your more indulgent treats.

Flavor-wise, this cola was unique. Testers definitely got that traditional caramel-cola taste, but with a hint of vanilla (psst… learn how to make our Cola Cake). In fact, a few testers said it tasted like a cola-root beer hybrid. Sounds good to me!

Honorable Mention (Major Brand): Pepsi

Score: 7.5/10

As one of the big players in the cola game, I imagined Pepsi would place somewhere in the top. Pepsi got good marks when it came to fizz (our lower ranking colas got poor marks for tasting flat, even straight out of the bottle or can). However, Pepsi missed the top honors in the test because it didn’t pack the same level of flavor as other brands and some testers said it had a hint of diet soda taste. We just wanted more out of this one!

Runner-Up: Sam’s Choice

Score: 8.8/10

Just shy of the top honor was Sam’s Choice, a Walmart brand. My dad would be pretty happy to know generics are nearly as good as big names (and it’s true—generics got exceptionally high scores in our cookie dough test, our ice cream sandwich taste test and our chicken tender test).

Sam’s Choice got high marks for its refreshing quality and fizziness. A few testers even hazard guesses on their score sheets asking if this was indeed Coke. I can attest that this generic cola definitely had some Coca-Cola-like qualities, but in the end wasn’t quite as flavorful as the real thing.

Best in Show: Coca-Cola

Score: 8.9/10

As a diehard Coke fan, I can’t say I’m surprised by these results! Coca-Cola blew past Pepsi and squeaked past a darn good generic to take the top spot in this test. Coke got high marks for its just-perfect carbonation, nice sweet flavor and overall refreshing quality. This is how cola is supposed to taste.

Now, you might be thinking that this panel was loaded with Coke fans, but in reality, even the self-proclaimed Pepsi-lovers on the panel ranked Coke highest in this blind test! Believe me, they were pretty shocked when the brands were unveiled.

The Takeaways

While the biggest name in cola won this test, the major takeaway here was that you shouldn’t leave your personal preferences untested. Like I said, in this test Pepsi fans were surprised by how much more they enjoyed the sample of Coke. However, fans of Mexican Coke (that’s Coca-Cola made with sugar cane instead of corn syrup) were also surprised that when tested blindly, they didn’t care for it that much.

In the end, this was one of those tests that broke down a lot of misconceptions for us. (And also will help me settle that age-old Coke vs. Pepsi drama with my family.)

Got some soda inspiration? Try these soda shop recipes.
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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.