Soda: Any Tab Fans Out There?


[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

As far as I can tell, Tab's primary role in the pop-culture-verse these days isn't as a soda; it's as a symbol of the '70s and '80s. I've been working through a six-pack this week and, when people catch a glimpse, their reaction is always the same: "They still make that stuff?"

When I imagine Tab I think of a vending machine at my local pool when I was younger and sodas still cost about a quarter. The Coke and Sprite buttons were vivid and clear, but the Tab button was worn and faded, a shadowy pink can hard to discern under cloudy plastic. It's sort of how I think of Tab in general, relegated to the dusty corners of the occasional supermarket, its pinkish-red can looking a little faded even when clean.

But dated or no, it's still possible to get a can of Tab. Our question: is there any reason to drink it?

Tab actually pre-dates Diet Coke by decades, but I have to say that I can't see why with Diet Coke so readily available, anyone would choose seek out Tab. Tab is a little flatter, a little more metallic, and doesn't have that crisp, sharp bite of a Diet Coke. I find that after a few sips I don't want to drink any more.

An informal survey of the Serious Eats editors found us in agreement. Kenji called it "all the bad parts about Diet Coke with none of the good ones." Maggie said, "It reminds me more of Diet Pepsi than of Diet Coke, and I'm not really a Pepsi fan."

The one point I've heard in defense of Tab is that it's a good mixer. But after ten minutes last night with a can of Tab and Maggie's formidable office liquor cabinet, I have to say that I haven't found one spirit that I prefer with Tab to Diet Coke. (It was pretty arduous, as research goes.) Also, I'd feel a little ridiculous ordering a "Jack and Tab."

But if they're still making Tab decades later, it must have some fans. Who's a Tab drinker? Can anyone out there explain its appeal?