When New Coke made its disastrous debut

In March, 1985, The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution acquired a supply of New Coke and brought it to The Varsity, the place that sells more Coca-Cola than any restaurant in Atlanta. We wanted to let the Coke faithful sample the new version and compare it to the old.We learned that there are some masterpieces with which no man should tinker. New Coke is back in the news now that it makes an appearance in the circa-1985 scenes from the Netflix series, “Stranger Things.” Here is what we reported back then:

March 25, 1985

The old gentleman scowled from under his fedora and bypassed the crowd assembled at The Varsity to sample the new Coca-Cola.
He was offered a taste of the beverage, which, for the first time since its invention in 1896, has been given a new flavor, but waved it off with his cane.
"It wasn't broke and they ain't fixed it," he grumped.
That was the consensus Wednesday in the fast-food restaurant at North Avenue and Spring Street where patrons sampled the old Coke and the new Coke in an informal taste test organized by The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution.
Of the 72 participants who had a preference, 45 went for the old formula - the world's favorite soft drink.
Several of those were outraged that such an honored institution was subject to tampering, as if someone had painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
"Don't change it," pleaded a neatly coiffed woman in a red blouse.
"Are we gonna have a choice?" asked Walt Mills anxiously.

According to Coke officials, there will be no choice. Coca-Cola bottling companies have already discontinued production of the old brew, and the new version will have replaced its predecessor on store shelves everywhere by Memorial Day.
Any change at all tastes like bad news to some Coke fans.
"I don't think Coca-Cola could be improved," said Mrs. Stanley Pitcher. I don't think there's anything you could do to it to make it better. It's perfect."
"They messed up," said Marvin Lites. "You don't change a thing when you got something as good as Coke."
"You going to have a lot of mad Co'-Cola folks," said Lucy Parker, eyeing the bottle of new Coca-Cola suspiciously. "I think you got Pepsi in there with a Coca-Cola label."
Others agreed that the new "pause that refreshes" has come closer in taste to its archrival.
"Whether that was their goal, I can't say, but it does in fact taste more like Pepsi," said Eric Mikoleit, a Georgia Tech graduate student.

Many said the new drink was sweeter and less carbonated, which accounted for its similarity to Pepsi. Some called that change a bonus.
"I like the new. It's not as carbonated as the old," said Harry Parish, a heating and air conditioning man, stopping for lunch between jobs. "The old one's got a lot of fizz to it."
"It's not as harsh as the old Coke," said Elton Drayton. "This Coke here is real smooth. I like it. You want to give me the recipe?"
Others said the "bite" of the old Coke is what made it special. "It tastes kind of like Chek Cola," Brian Reece said of the new blend.
He said the decreased carbonation makes it bland. "It tastes like every other cola," he said.
"I think everybody's mad," said Nancy Sims, co-owner of The Varsity, where the house cola is Coca-Cola.
''How do they have the nerve to come along and change Coke? It would be like changing my chili recipe. I can't imagine why they changed it. Does anybody dislike Coke?"
Now somebody does. "I guess I'll change to something else to drink," said Louise Acosta, a state employee and resident of McDonough. "I tell you, when I want something to drink, I want a little pick up. And those old Cokes give you a pick up."

Credit: Nick Arroyo

Credit: Nick Arroyo

The new Coke benefits from what one bottling executive called "the new flavor technology" developed during the creation of Diet Coke. The taste has been described by Coca-Cola Co. chairman Roberto C. Goizueta as "smoother, rounder, yet bolder, more harmonious."
President Donald Keough also admitted that the new Coke is "a few calories sweeter" than the old beverage.
John Williams, who says he drinks a gallon of Coca-Cola a day, declared the new Coke "too sweet."
Perhaps it is because Atlanta is the birthplace of Coca-Cola that those tasting the new drink had such a strong attachment to the old.
Reid Boswell certainly seemed serious about the tasting. Boswell set down his own beverage, a Frosted Orange (or F.O.) and held his plastic glass of Coke to the light to observe its shading.
He swirled the contents under his nose, inhaled its fragrance, then swished a small mouthful over his teeth.
"A fine bouquet," said the Emory student. "It's a snappy little taste, but if I had my druthers I'd rather have an F.O."