I’ll admit I’m a sucker when it comes to weird and wild junk food flavors. When I’m traveling and stumble into a new flavor of Doritos, KitKats or other trash I can’t get at home, I just have to try it. So a couple of months ago when I was in Japan and saw a can with a familiar logo and the words Coke Energy written on the side, naturally I was curious.
But now in 2020, it appears Coca-Cola is finally ready to bring Coke Energy to the U.S., starting with a debut at CES. So with a desperate need for some liquid energy, I grabbed my coworker Victoria Song and headed over the Coke Energy booth to conduct an impromptu taste test between Coke Energy and its two biggest competitors: Red Bull and Monster.
At launch, Coke Energy will be available in four flavors: Coke Energy, Coke Energy Cherry, Coke Energy Zero, and Coke Energy Zero Cherry, with the last two being 0 calorie options. (Sadly, Coke Energy Zero Cherry was not available at the booth, so we only got to try the other three).
In a standard can of Coke Energy, the main ingredients providing a burst of vigor are 114 mg of caffeine (which is slightly more than three times what you get in a normal Coke), along with a bit of guarana extract.
Ok, so how does it taste? If you want to see our full takes, check out the video above, but in short, Coke Energy is an energy drink that tries to taste more like normal soda, with a lot of the herby, medicinal notes you get from Red Bull and Monster hidden by that classic cola flavor, along with noticeably more carbonation. Honestly, as far as energy drinks go, both Coke Energy and Coke Energy Cherry taste pretty good.
That said, Coke Energy Zero is a bit of a letdown, because without all that high-fructose corn syrup you can taste more of guarana. This gives Coke Energy Zero more of a metallic aftertaste that makes it taste more like Diet Coke than regular Coke Zero. Still, both Coke Energy and Coke Energy Zero avoid the signature tang you find in Red Bull and Monster, so if Coca-Cola was looking for a way to make an energy drink for people who hate that flavor, I’d say Coke Energy delivers.
As it turns out, Coke Energy has been available in Europe and Asia for months (though there are slight variations in taste depending on region) as part of Coca-Cola’s efforts to compete with drinks like Red Bull and Monster. In fact, while it’s probably not a great indicator of public health, sales of energy drinks in the U.S. have been increasing rapidly over the past few years with a growth of more than 11 percent in 2019.
For me, tasting all three at once basically confirms how much I dislike Monster, and if I can help it, I’ll never drink it again. However, between Coke Energy and Red Bull, things are a bit closer. Previously, at events like CES when I need something to get me through the day, sugar-free Red Bull was often my go-to energy drink. Out of the full-sugar options, I think Coke Energy tastes the best, but when it comes to 0 calorie options, I think I still prefer Red Bull, though Coke Energy Zero isn’t far behind.
Meanwhile, for those of you not at CES, Coke Energy will be available nationwide starting January 20th. And if you’re really thirsty to try Coke Energy, you can even ask an Amazon Alexa-based device to pre-order a case so you’ll have some on day one.