Dear remaining Great Thinkers: I have solved one of your greatest debates. Nature versus Nurture!
That's right, Thinker Bells and Brain Bois. I've discovered that Nurture is the true winner of whatever y'all were talking about over lab coats and Star Trek-themed cocktails. And how do I know? I love diet soda over the supposedly superior sugar sips. I was raised on the drink equivalent of an empty briefcase in a movie drug deal, despite every aspect of Nature telling me it's radioactive war cancer. I've just solved the human condition, and you know what comes next?
This was the only way to use my advanced degree in ending theoretical squabbles, I swear! Considering that most people either drink the real deal or begrudgingly guzzle gallons of guilt-free Big Gulps because "health", I might be one of the elite few to actually enjoy drinking diet. This list, however, isn't about me. It's not about you, or America, or page views. It's about the truth. It's the cold, hard, unflinching truth, as I see it. Fine, it's about me, and also page views. And DIET!
Before we begin, I'm calling it "pop". I avoided it until now because there are many different ways to say the same thing. You might call it something else, and that's fine. In such divided times, we need to be able to reach across the aisle, hold hands, and understand the owner of that hand we're holding. If we don't, this nation is most surely doomed. Also, you're wrong. It's P-O-P. Snap, Crackle, say what, Mr. Goes The Weasel? It's pop.
"But Joe! I say soft drink."
As opposed to what, a hard drink? Maybe cut back on Happy Hour, Greg. And while you're at it, eat some roughage. This "soft food" fad is just gonna lead to becoming "the bathroom guy" at work.
"Well, my whole family call em soda."
Never has a word been more annoyingly Midwestern than "soda". That long "o" rolls right into the sound a typical South Dakotan makes when they can't decide between Dave's Double or Triple in a Wendy's drive thru. Coke and Pepsi are the inventions of southern folk with a penchant to spike their own drinks with opiates, so just stick to ornate butter statues and county fairs.
One can't contain the surreal nature of a rainbow in seven letters, or the divine mystery of all that is in "God". Don't put baby in a corner with your lame attempts at labels. The powers that be can best encapsulate the drink in the physical ecstasy. That "pop", if you will. Any other name simply isn't worthy. Now that the national taxonomy is all settled for good, behold, the list!
Last Place: Sprite Zero
YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.
Almost Last: Diet Coke Spinoffs, Whatever Fresca's supposed to be
Listen here, Pop companies. On top of crippling student debt, career instability, and a near constant battle between anxiety and depression, I'm expected to solve the problems baby boomers left for me. Don't try and distract me from my checklist with your crap flavors of Ginger Lime and Zesty Blood Orange, and just be thankful that I'm picking your basic Diet over canadian whiskey and crying to that Sarah McLachlan song from Toy Story 2.
Crap, Ginger Lime sounds good, though.
Almost Almost Last through 7. The Orange Ones, Ginger Ales, and that Root Beer with a Bulldog for a Mascot
Y'all are Swipe Lefts, but I did look at all the pictures AND read the faux-cute thing you wrote in the bio.
6. Diet Barq's Root Beer
Saving the day for when you drank seven cups of cold brew and can't possibly intake a drop more caffeine, Diet Barq's is the fleeting nostalgia of childhood without the crippling dependency of addictive chemicals. It's sweet, but not so much that you begin hallucinating. And yet? You still need that overdosing drop of caffeine. So close, Barq's. So close.
5. Diet Coke
My personal favorite is also borderline trash. I am a man of compromise, however, and fifth place will just have to do. I can't quit the taste of metal and brown coloring, despite everything my therapist has warned me about. It's like licking a third rail of flavor and electrocution. Has it inspired the underground torture technique of gargling pennies? Sure, but I keep coming back for that sweet, sweet pain.
5. Pepsi Max
Diet Pepsi has always been good to you, so it's safe to assume he'll still be the same boyfriend he was before, right? And at first, things are even better. He still listens to you, let's you win at racquetball, and that added caffeine really spices things up. But after a while, you never see Pepsi Max. All of a sudden, Pepsi Max has to go to the gym twice a day. Pepsi Max says he has to work late, feeding you the same old lines. All the while, you twitch on the couch from your last Max drip, waiting for that text that never comes. What have you let yourself become, Debra? You said this wouldn't happen again! You said Max would be different!! Call your parents, Debra. Just break away.
(Pepsi Max is good, but too much sometimes)
4. Diet Mountain Dew
Diet Dew is the flavor of an ATV jumping seven Bouncy Castles, and we are all okay with that.
3. Diet Pepsi
Before Pepsi was Pepsi, it was Brad's Drink. Truth be told, it should've been called Chad's Drink. This is the pop for the kind of person who doesn't care that all their peers are "Team Coke". It's not about labels for Chad. Chad just likes a good diet drink, and Chad drinks Diet Pepsi. Be a Chad.
2. Coca Cola Zero Sugar
Your high school sweetheart always has an important choice to make: become a complete schmuck, or improve in ways previously undiscovered by science. Coke Zero Sugar goes the latter. Taking all the lessons of its dweeby Diet years, Coke Zero Sugar learned all the right moves from a gap year in Prague and came back slimmer, smarter, and . . . somehow taller? Maybe it was a posture thing, or maybe it's your current desperation for something better than the can of Diet Rite you're nursing, but one things is clear: You want it back.
1. Diet Dr. Pepper
Legend foretold of a champion, nay, a god among mortals. This heroine would come in our world's darkest hour, the early 2000s, and save us from baggy jeans and Britney Spears B-Sides. Solely able to wield the 23 Flavors of Power, the PhD of Suds struck down mediocrity and assumed the title of "Only Diet Drink to Taste Like the Real Thing". Ascension could've been the Doctor's next move, and we could all merely look fondly upon our short time together. That would have been enough for the hero's legacy, and certainly more than we humans deserve, but Dee P had one more gift to bestow. Diet Dr. Pepper stayed on Earth, and divided her spirit into infinite parts of a whole. We all carry a little bit of Diet Dr. Pepper in our hearts, in our thoughts, in our off-brand YETI coolers. Pour one out for the Doctor, and her great sacrifice.
Joe Brueggemeyer hosts and edits The Marquee podcast with Logan, and has an unhealthy obsession with baking.