Truth be told, I’m not a Pepsi man. I’m not even really a cola man; I prefer a good Pepper-style soda or ginger ale most of the time. And when it comes to the major colas, I frankly think Coca-Cola is superior.
But when Pepsi put out their “1893” line of experimental sodas, I was intrigued. I meant to try the first two flavors (Original and Ginger) some time ago, but that was around the time I cut back my soda intake significantly and I ended up never having any. But recently, noting the release of two additional flavors (Citrus and Black Currant), I resolved to try all four and write them up.
So here are the four members of the Pepsi 1893 roster. Let’s see if Pepsi bests Coke at branching out into the craft-soda market.
- Original Cola
The scent is as pungent as ever; as I recall, Pepsi has always been a bit more strongly scented than Coke.
Tastes about like Pepsi. Perhaps a touch spicier.
Maybe it’s just I haven’t much soda of late, but does seem to have a bit more zing to it than usual. Not much, mind you – if you didn’t know different, you’d probably assume this is just normal Pepsi – but it is there.
By all means, it’s drinkable. Unless you have some profound antipathy to Pepsi, you’ll probably be quite happy with it.
The can touts the presence of several prestigious ingredients:
- Kola nut extract
- Dark brown malt flavor
- A touch of aromatic bitters
- Sparkling water
- Real sugar
The kola nut I can’t discern the presence of either way. The malt…I’m not getting that much. Maybe a hint. The bitters, barely. I can see it (well, taste it), but again, if I wasn’t looking for it, I wouldn’t guess it.
I do appreciate the use of real sugar. Since I began reviewing sodas I’ve consumed far fewer soft drinks with high-fructose corn syrup, and I’m all the happier for it.
And the sugar is Fair Trade Certified. That’s nice.
Finished. I got a bit of some unfamiliar flavor right at the end there. Possibly the bitters?
Overall, it’s decent. Not a game-changer, and I doubt I’d seek it out over a good craft cola (like Mr. Cola). But if this is what you’ve got access to and you want to branch out a bit, by all means, give it a shot.
- Ginger Cola
As I noted above, ginger ales tend to be more my speed than colas. So let’s see how a ginger cola works out!
Definitely has a ginger aroma to it. Good sign. And I can see that it has the golden color of ginger ale rather than the deeper brown of cola.
I’ve definitely got both ginger and cola flavors here. Not sure yet if one dominates the other.
I almost want to say they mute each other – it’s not as sweet as a true cola or as spicy as a true ginger ale. But let’s drink on.
It almost has a cream-soda quality to it – vanilla isn’t listed as an ingredient that I can see, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
It’s got a certain almost oily sweetness to it – which is better than that sounds. Again, this tastes very much like a cream soda, which is odd indeed. I don’t know if that was the intent, and I rather doubt it was. But that’s what I’m tasting.
All told, it’s not too bad, though I’m not sure it really does what it set out to do. In its own right, it’s a very drinkable beverage…but that almost in spite of itself.
There’s definitely not enough ginger here for it to triumph as a ginger ale. If I was actually grading these (and maybe I should have been, but after three years I think that ship has sailed), I would certainly take off points for that.
Admittedly, there’s a bit of an after-burn, but it’s not the same as a proper ginger taste. That may be nit-picking, but there we are.
Finished. It’s a quasi-cream soda in ginger cola’s clothing. If that appeals, drink up. Otherwise, a good cream soda will do just as well (like, say, Fest’s lovely Bourbon Cream variety).
- Citrus Cola
This promises a “premium soda infused with a grapefruit essence.” So…kind of like Fresca?
Has a bit of a grapefruit scent. just a bit, though.
Huh. That doesn’t taste much like Fresca…and not that much like grapefruit.
It’s a vaguely citric cola. The cola part seems to have been subdued in the crafting process.
It has a very mild citric bite. It tastes like a mix of an orange soda and cola, though not necessarily at equal ratios.
Took another sip and the flavor seems to have evened out a bit. It’s more pleasant – a bit more floral.
Another, and the cola side seems more prominent. Another, and my tastebuds just seem to be confused as hell.
Yeah, I don’t know if my palate is just on the fritz (I have a bit of a cold) or if this is just a weird little soda. But this is, assuredly, a weird little soda.
It also seems to be going flat quicker than the others, which doesn’t help. This kind of flavor needs the crispness of carbonation.
The cola side seems to be winning out in the bottom half of the can. There’s a still a definite additional flavor present, but it’s not quite distinct enough to be identified by the unaware drinker. It’s just a weird tasting cola.
The last inch or so doesn’t taste like much of anything, though there’s a final citric flourish in the dregs.
All told, this is easily the least successful of the 1893 sodas I’ve had so far. I get what it’s trying to be, and props to Pepsi for making the effort, but this one probably needed some more time in the lab before going live.
Also, what exactly is “grapefruit essence”? Is that anything like an extract? Or, perhaps, grapefruit juice?
- Black Currant Cola
Lastly, we’ve got Black Currant Cola; I’m not overly familiar with currants, so I’ll be playing this one more by ear.
There’s a vague, fruity scent upon opening it.
Tastes fairly nice, actually. Not so much like cola. More like…well, presumably, like currants. A bit like a sweeter blackberry.
A straight black currant soda would be pretty nice, honestly. There is, the further I drink, a little more of that cola taste to it, but really, it’s the potency of the fizz that sets it apart from other fruit sodas.
All told, though…pretty nice. It’s sweet but not overly so, and pleasantly crisp. It’s not a new favorite or anything, but it’s quite good.
I almost want to say the taste runs a bit thin at times – at times I feel more like I’m drinking seltzer than a fruit cola – but that may just be a quirk of my palate.
Maybe not. The sensation gets more pronounced toward the bottom of the can – almost as if the flavor has floated to the top. I wouldn’t think that would be the case, but I’m admittedly no chemist.
There’s that flavor again.
Pretty smooth finish. And that wraps up this little journey.
So what to make of Pepsi’s experiment? I wouldn’t call it a bust, certainly; I actively liked the Original and Black Currant flavors, the Ginger flavor was odd, but drinkable, and only the Citrus flavor was underwhelming – and even then, it wasn’t really bad, just not that great.
The soda completist will naturally want to try all of these. But what to recommend to the more casual drinker?
I’d recommend the Black Currant first, because it’s arguably the best of the four, and almost certainly a soda flavor you’ve never tried; I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen another brand of black currant soda for sale, let alone had one. Definite props to Pepsi for choosing that over more familiar flavors.
After that, I’d go with the Original Cola, since it’s above-average for mainstream colas and more readily available than the craft variety. Ginger and Citrus you can pass on, unless they really sound like your…can of soda.