[Guest Post by Jen Vargas]
I love Coca Cola. I also love its tasty incarnations, Cherry Coke and Vanilla Coke. All of these flavors, swishing around together make for a Cocapalooza in my mouth – this make me VERY happy! Enter, Coca Cola Freestyle. We have history…
My first discovery of this smile dispensing soda machine happened during the IAAPA Expo at the Orange County Convention Center here in Orlando. My curiosity began in 2010. [I wanted to go back in 2011 but our Relay For Life in Hunter’s Creek was happening the same weekend and I couldn’t make it.] But I never forgot about ‘the Freestyle Machine.’ I walked into the exhibit hall, saw a HUGE line and wondered, “What’s that all about?”
I came back two hours later and the line had gotten LONGER! “Ok, I HAVE to find out what the fuss is all about here,” I thought. So I waited… and waited… and waited in the line. After an hour or more of looking at the backs of other people’s heads, I saw it. This standalone, shiny, red touchscreen of awesomeness. A gentleman demoing the machine handed me a small, paper Coca Cola cup and asked me what I wanted to try. Baffled by all the choices (and flashy lights!), I asked for recommendations based on what I knew already. He recommended two flavors; Raspberry Coca Cola and Orange Vanilla Coca Cola. The thought of both sounded gross, to be honest, but I tried them anyway. I figured the guy knew what he was talking about, him being a seasoned mixologist and all. 106 (at the time) flavors to choose from… I needed more time to taste!
To my surprise, the Raspberry Coke was pretty good! The Orange Vanilla Coke however… WOW! That was my favorite! I wanted to try some more flavors, I was so stoked!! Then I looked behind me. It’s like the line never moved! The Coke booth was the place to be at IAAPA 2010! At the time, I still had a few hours left to roam the floor and chat with vendors, so I did. About 30 minutes before the event closed, I took a chance and hopped back in the Freestyle line to sample more flavors. The line was shorter but not by much. Others in line behind me didn’t want to wait and left. The people running the booth were cleaning up while the end of event announcements played over the PA system. As they continued to close, they kept the line moving, allowing people to try samples. I was literally the LAST person that year to Freestyle! I had to try another Orange Vanilla Coke! This time I was recommended to try Grape, Vanilla and Strawberry Sprite. Strawberry Sprite was tasty. I wasn’t a fan of the Sprite Grape or Vanilla flavors but they were worth a shot. After closing, I grabbed a Vanilla Coke for the road, I left IAAPA wondering when I’d see one again (outside of Disney or the other theme parks).
In 2011 and 2012, Coca Cola Freestyle machines started showing up in Burger King, Firehouse Subs, Moe’s Southwest Grills, Hess Gas Stations, even my local Pei Wei Asian Diner! Convenience, thy name be Freestyle!!! Now, I can’t walk a mile or so without seeing one, or even two, in my favorite local restaurants. My next hope is that Sweet Tomatoes (Souplantation for you Left Coasters) gets a Freestyle machine. Perfection on top of perfection… all would be right with the world. More nerdiness? I also love the Push + Play app for my iPhone! You can find a Freestyle machine near you AND play Coke’s snazzy version of Simon!! (Just don’t PUSH!+Play and drive, please.)