Taste Test: We Tried the New Crystal Pepsi

Lili Sams/Thrillist
Lili Sams/Thrillist

If you start seeing people walking around drinking Crystal Pepsi, don't freak out. You didn't trip and fall into 1993. You're safely 22 years later in 2015, the year that Pepsi finally brought the alarmingly clear cola back from wherever the hell we left it. Everything early '90s is cool again, from Birkenstocks, to Christian Slater, to "Full House." Well, except Kimmy Gibbler. She's still weird.

Legend has it that the original Crystal Pepsi was formulated to taste just like normal Pepsi and later gave way to a citrus-flavored spinoff soda... which leads to the question: what does the new Crystal Pepsi taste like? We got our hands on a 6-pack to party like it's 1993. And we were pretty surprised.

Lili Sams/Thrillist

The first thing you'll notice when raising a fizzing glass of Crystal Pepsi is the familiar smell of, you guessed it, Pepsi. It smells surprisingly a lot like the dark cola that you're used to, except for maybe the slightest hint of citrus and pine that we may or may not be imagining. But the biggest surprise comes when you take a sip, because this new, reborn Crystal Pepsi really does taste like normal Pepsi. Well, kind of.

After sipping Crystal Pepsi and regular Pepsi side by side, it's immediately crystal clear that the new stuff lacks the same level of carbonation as the original, seemingly impacting what you taste. Crystal Pepsi also seems to be missing the same sort of acidic bite you get when taking a swig of the brown stuff, which could probably be chalked up to the key ingredient that distinguishes the two: caramel color. Oh, and remember that fleeting hint of citrus? You might be able to taste it, too, or maybe it's just the soda's clear appearance tricking your brain. But all things considered, well, none of these detract from the flavor.

Lili Sams/Thrillist

The Verdict

Crystal Pepsi -- gone before its time, but now, resurrected -- does not taste exactly like Pepsi.

But tasting the same is probably not the point, now, in 2015 as much as it was more than two decades ago. Back then, Crystal Pepsi's angle was lacking preservatives and artificial colors amid the health-crazed '90s. Today, it's still a marketing thing, for sure, but it's playing on pure nostalgia.

If you pound several Pepsis every day, you'll probably enjoy the similar super-sweet cola flavors of Crystal Pepsi without feeling like you've settled for less. And if you've never tasted a Pepsi at all (that's possible, right?), Crystal Pepsi stands on its own as a cola. 

So, really, what's important here is the simple fact that Crystal Pepsi is back, and it's just as much of a glorious gimmick now, albeit different, as it was when the world first heard the words, "Whoomp There It Is."

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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and has officially had way too much soda for at least 18 months. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.