We Try New Flavors from Pepsi Next, Paradise Mango and Cherry Vanilla

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[Photo: Robyn Lee]

Pepsi Next, Pepsi's lower-calorie soda, hit the market earlier this year—with 60% less sugar than a standard Pepsi, sucralose and aspartame subbing in for that extra sweetness. The Serious Eats crew had mixed reactions, with some tasters totally unable to distinguish it from regular Pepsi, and others definitely sensing those fake sweeteners in there.

This summer, they've introduced two new flavors—Paradise Mango and Cherry Vanilla. But while I'm generally a fan of more soda options, I have to say that neither is an improvement on the original.

The problem? Both are considerably sweeter than Pepsi Next itself, and with that amped-up sweetness comes more of that cloying fake-sugar taste. Paradise Mango is slightly syrupy, recognizably mango-flavored (whereas some "mango" tastes more like peach or generic "tropical fruit") but in the flavor-additive way of a Sno Cone syrup or over-concentrated Slurpee. If you love mango anything and can take the intense sweetness, you might love it, but even this diet soda drinker found it hard to take.

I'm a fan of both Coke Zero Cherry and Cherry Diet Pepsi, but Pepsi Next's Cherry Vanilla fell short, too. Its problem? The "vanilla" hugely dominated the "cherry," leaving it tasting like a cream soda-cola blend with barely any cherry to balance. I've never found that vanilla tacked onto other soda flavors works particularly well, and here, it too tasted powerfully of sweetener—not a good combo. As of now, we'd say: stick with the original.

Have you tried the Pepsi Next flavors? What did you think?

About the author: Carey Jones is the senior managing editor of Serious Eats. Follow her on Twitter (@careyjones).

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