Updated: Jan 7, 2022
The third season of Stranger Things takes place in 1985, the year New Coke debuted. To promote the show, Coca-Cola is once again selling New Coke, the beverage which was for decades seen as a punchline. New Coke originally sold for seventy-nine days before Coca-Cola reintroduced the original formula to a relieved base of sugar addicts.
The recipe for New Coke was much sweeter than the original, and was designed to appeal to a younger demographic, which strongly leaned in Pepsi's favor. Contrary to popular belief, New Coke did not completely fizzle out: The drink was sold alongside the "Old Coke" until 2002, under the branding "Coke II," but was available only in the Northwest and Midwest United States, and some international markets. Until 2009, the original formula would bear the name "Coca-Cola Classic" as a holdover. Here's a ridiculous Coca-Cola Classic commercial from 1989, focusing on trendy clubgoers. Coke was huge in '80s nightclubs! (I'll be here all week.) The jingle is one of the most effective ear worms ever, and will occupy a permanent space in your brain.
These limited-edition cans mark the first time New Coke has been available for seventeen years, which I think is pretty exciting. Granted, I'm easily impressed. Thankfully, these reissues are branded with the Stranger Things logo, so you don't accidentally open your vintage New Coke. Seriously, these would have been way better had they been exact reproductions.
The two cans of New Coke are "complimentary" with purchase of the "New Coke and Stranger Things 1985 Limited Edition Collector's Pack," which sells on the Coke Store website for (wait for it) $19.85. Upon the announcement of the tie-in, the Coke Store website crashed, and many Stranger Things diehards were left as forlorn as original Coke drinkers in 1985. I found out about the promotion a couple of days later, and breezed through the checkout like it was Wal-Mart at 4:00 AM. Did Coca-Cola up its website game? Were a lot of people with short attention spans attempting impulse purchases? Was it all a conspiracy, as some claim of New Coke's quick recall in '85? Not unlike the Tootsie Pop debacle, the world may never know.
Technically, you're paying $19.85 for the Stranger Things bottles, and getting the New Coke as a bonus. (That's like saying the car is free with the purchase of a $20,000 key.) While I've enjoyed the series thus far, I don't care about the Stranger Things bottles. They'll be posted on eBay to help recoup the cost of my New Coke, which I am definitely consuming! It's an expensive pause to refresh, but New Coke will likely never hit the market again, and the last time I had this stuff was back in the '80s. Plus, I've barely had any time to relax in months, and I'm doing something for myself. The cans ship out on the week of June 3, at which I'll update with original photos. Trends don't happen often in my niche, so don't blame me for being a Google opportunist!
This isn't the first time a soft drink has been brought back to capitalize on nostalgia: Hi-C Ecto Cooler, a 1989 lunchbox staple, briefly slimed the market in 2016 to promote Paul Feig's Ghostbusters. That comeback was nothing more than a tease, and Ecto Cooler should be brought back permanently! Crystal Pepsi, the infamous 1992 failure, is alive and well. I hated Crystal Pepsi back then, and still do, but that doesn't stop me from buying it out of principle. And Jolt Cola, another soda from 1985, struck again in 2017. Where will these tasty throwbacks end? Why stop at drinks? If McDonald's brings back the McDLT, I might have to eat there for the first time since 2016.
As of press time, New Coke is available at the Coke Store. I won't link you there, because they're not paying me.
I put the bottles and box on eBay immediately, and left the cans in the fridge while I was at work. (Shockingly, this blog doesn't cover the bills.) I cracked open a can to accompany Adrienne's barbecue chicken dinner. She doesn't do sugar anymore, but took a sip mainly to pacify me. She liked it at first, but thought it had a bad aftertaste. I didn't sense it, but she's more sensitive to sweetness than I am. If I was ever hospitalized, I'd want a Coke IV. (Is that twice as sweet as Coke II?)
It's obvious why this stuff tanked. The flavor is instantly forgettable and lacks that Coke essence. Having said that, it's still better than Crystal Pepsi. I can't help but wonder if Coca-Cola is using this promotion to gauge interest in resurrecting the product: They kinda-sorta brought back the cola/coffee hybrid Coke Blak in some countries, so stranger things have happened. (Get it?)