‘A Refreshing Salad Drink’: Does Balsamic Vinegar and Sparkling Water Really Taste Like Healthy Coke?

Some swear it tastes like Coca-Cola, others gag in disgust.

A simple homemade concoction of sparkling water with a splash of balsamic vinegar has gone viral on social media.

The recipe for “healthy Coke” was originally shared by TikTok user Amanda Jones, who said she learned it from a Pilates instructor. In three days, the video has been viewed over 5.9 million times. Since then, it’s become a trend on TikTok and beyond as people film their reactions sipping their fizz and vinegar.

“I’m not kidding, it tastes just like Coke,” said Jones, who used guava-flavored sparkling water to make the drink. “And it’s healthy and it’s good for you.”

“That’s too much vinegar,” said Hoda Kotba USA Today host, who mixed it with a black cherry-flavored soda, then gagged in disgust after her first sip.

Dietitian Dr Rosemary Stanton says, “It might be better for your waistline, but it might not be better for your teeth.

“But if you use a flavored club soda and it has sugar in it, it’s bad for your teeth and your waistline.

“Then the only thing you’d avoid is the caffeine, and that’s probably the least of the three problems with Coke.”

dr. Oral health specialist Mikaela Chinotti says that even if there is no sugar in the sparkling water, the drink is still a problem. The acidity in both balsamic vinegar and carbonated water wears down tooth enamel.

“I don’t know where they get the healthy part from,” she says. “Nowhere does anyone recommend drinking any of these things for your health, let alone mixing them together.”

We gave the Guardian Australia office a round of “healthy cola” with plain carbonated water to put it to the test. The verdict: it’s an acquired taste.

“The strangest thing is I can really understand why people think it tastes like Coke… all the bad parts of Coke,” said one employee. Of the eight tasters gathered together, he was the only one who saw the resemblance. “There’s that weird artificial sweet aftertaste.”

“It tastes like salad dressing, like a refreshing salad drink,” said another employee, happily brushing away the entire glass. “I’d drink it if it was given to me, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to make it a treat.”

A few of the staff members expressed disgust after the first sips. “I thought it tasted pretty good at first, but now I find it disgusting,” said one. They were happy to see the rest of their glasses pouring down the sink.

Other staff would drink it again but recommend adding something extra. One made her version at home, with a vanilla balsamic vinegar that “haunted my pantry for years.” Although she compared the result to a pleasant, alcohol-free spritz, she said, “The vinegar had a lot of sediment in it, so… [the drink] was disturbingly grainy”.

Balsamic vinegar is poured into a glass of club soda and ice.
Sommelier Samantha Payne says of the ‘healthy Coke’ trend on TikTok: ‘My first reaction was ‘oh lord, why is this a thing?’ Photo: Blake Sharp-Wiggins/The Guardian

Another staff member said: “It’s pretty good. Surprisingly good. Smells like balsamic vinegar though. I would do it again, for sure. I think it could be done with something else, like a squeeze of lime.”

If you want to try the drink for yourself, sommelier Samantha Payne recommends using sparkling water with a floral or fruit flavor, such as strawberry or raspberry.

“If you think from a food perspective, we poach strawberries and stuff in balsamic vinegar all the time, so we know that works really well.”

“Balsamic vinegar has all that caramelized sweetness built in,” Payne says. Which “gives it that beautiful dark brown color and you get those really nice kind of caramel sweet notes.”

But it’s unlikely she’ll be adding it to a pairing menu anytime soon. “My first reaction was ‘oh lord, why is this a thing?'”

Payne’s verdict is that vinegar-based drinks are not new, especially when it comes to apple cider vinegar and “to some extent” kombucha. In Korea, drinking vinegar, made to be diluted like liqueur, is an entire product category.

“For me personally, I think there are better examples of ‘healthy’ Coke,” Payne says. “They are made by real drink producers.”

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