Although Coca-Cola launched its new Freestyle soda machines in Atlanta and Southern California in 2009, it took two years for the sleek, customizable drink dispensers to arrive in the Twin Cities.
A computer touch-screen on the Freestyle displays an array of Coke brands: Dasani, Barq's, Minute Maide, Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Fanta, Mr. Pibb, Sprite, Powerade, Hi-C, and Vault among them. Touch the icon of your choice, and a screen shows a second array of flavor additions--each beverage can be mixed with vanilla, strawberry, cherry, orange, etc.
Some 125 combinations exist, including beverages not before seen in a retail environment, including Strawberry Sprite, Orange Coke, and Cherry Fanta--even more if you decide to blend 'em in your cup. I pity the customers waiting behind the first kid who attempts to mix a 125-flavor "suicide."[jump]
I tried the freestyle at the Roseville Davanni's and thought it was pretty novel--more from the perspective of sampling flavors than necessarily finding one worth filling an entire cup. (The secondary flavor syrups seemed either too meek or overwhelmingly artificial tasting and sugary.) Being given so many options, ironically made me more demanding: Why didn't they have the grapefruit and pineapple Fantas? What did a gal have to do to get the thing to dispense a little Calimocho?
Coke and the restaurants won't release hard figures about the new machine's expenses, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the freestyles cost about 30 percent more than the traditional soda dispensers. As Davanni's and DQ test the machines, we'll see if they're appealing enough to be worth the extra outlay.
Here's where to find Twin Cities Coca-Cola Freestyle machines:
Dairy Queen Edina, Eden Prairie, and Plymouth
Davanni's St. Paul (Cleveland & Grand), Edina, Eden Prairie, Richfield, and Roseville