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Why McDonald’s Sprite Hits Different

It’s a potent mix of the coldness, the syrup and the bliss of giving up

McDonald’s was my first political enemy. It’s unclear what my path to leftism would have been had I not read Fast Food Nation and watched Super Size Me at age 11 and decided that McDonald’s embodied “The Man.” But now I’ve grown up, identified bigger ideological foes and fallen complacent about the ones that got me thinking about corporate wrongdoings and inequality in the first place. 

Which is really to say, I’m burnt out. Or maybe I’m just lazy. Either way, it feels as though there are fewer earthly delights as simple as allowing oneself to buy food from McDonald’s and truly enjoying it. And absolutely nothing washes down the horrors of factory farming and the correlation between class, fast food and public health quite like the fork-in-a-socket effect of a sip of Sprite.

McDonald’s Sprite, in particular, has such a zest, such a crisp, that it feels as though it’s sanding down the ridges of my brain. 

For years, it was something entirely unspoken, but the moment it was acknowledged, none of us could look back. According to KnowYourMeme, it seems as though the truth about McDonald’s Sprite was unleashed upon the masses in early 2017, when a member of rap group Brockhampton tweeted, “McDonald’s Sprite taste different.” As if a divine revelation, we collectively agreed: McDonald’s Sprite does taste different — just like restaurant ranch is always better than store-bought ranch. Exactly what “different” meant was unclear, reflective of the seemingly intangible quality that separated what’s served at McDonald’s versus what we might buy in a 12-pack at the grocery store. But as we opened Pandora’s box, we began to understand McDonald’s Sprite further. 

In July 2017, @TripleOgi_ tweeted, “McDonald’s Sprite damn near stronger than liquor g” (which isn’t to suggest that Sprite has an intoxicating effect, but rather that it burns like a straight shot of liquor). 

From this point onward, we were given a bounty of Sprite memes. It’s a trend that continues today, delivering on the simple axiom of being funny because it’s true. Even Sprite’s Twitter account acknowledged it.

And as it turns out, McDonald’s Sprite really is different than most other Sprite offerings. Most significantly, it comes straight from the soda fountain, meaning it’s mixed right before you. Per the Frequently Asked Questions section of the McDonald’s website, not only are the lines of the fountain machine delivering the syrup and carbonated water kept chilled, the syrup itself is pre-chilled before entering the fountain. Elsewhere on the internet, people speculate that McDonald’s also uses a different ratio of water to syrup, enhancing its crispiness. 

It’s possible that the Sprite sold at say, Burger King, is no different than that of McDonald’s. In fact, while it’s notable that McDonald’s clarifies exactly why their soda tastes so good, they also state that they’re simply following the instructions set by Coca-Cola, Sprite’s parent company. They do, however, speculate that their wider-than-average straw might have something to do with it. 

But even if you can waltz into any convenience store and get yourself a Sprite with the same ferocity as McDonald’s, the bite just wouldn’t compare. Because the true slap across the face that McDonald’s Sprite offers isn’t actually of sugar and carbonation, but that of nostalgia and late-capitalist ennui. It’s the bliss of giving up. 

McDonald’s Sprite hurts. But that’s how you know you’re still alive. 

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