The pause that refreshes now comes in strawberry for the first time ever.

In Japan, winter is the season for strawberry-flavored sweets. In particular, bakeries and confectioners rush to get out all sorts of strawberry-and-cream desserts in time for Christmas, since their red-and-white color scheme matches the holiday decorations. So Coca-Cola Japan is a little late to the party with its late-January launch of its brand-new Coca-Cola Strawberry.

But hey, better late than never, and so we rushed out to grab a bottle from our neighborhood convenience store for 140 yen (US$1.30). The Japan-exclusive beverage is Coca-Cola’s first-ever strawberry-flavored cola, and was designed to appeal to young women who aren’t regular drinkers of the company’s original flavor. In keeping with that, it comes in a pretty-in-pink package, but after noticing how it looks, and hearing the familiar fizzy pop as we twisted off the cap, the next thing that grabbed our attention is how Coca-Cola Strawberry smells.

For a brief moment, the scent reminded us of cherry Coke, but there it was: the distinct tart twist of strawberry. Granted, it’s closer to the smell of strawberry candy than an actual piece of the fruit, but still, it’s an enticing aroma.

However, when we poured it into a glass (because we’re fancy like that), we learned that Coca-Cola Strawberry is the same deep brown color that the regular flavor is. Before taking a sip, the only clue that you’re in for something new is the smell.

When the liquid hits your taste buds, again there’s a split-second where you might think you’re drinking cherry Coke. Before that thought can fully form, though, the combination of sweet and sour clicks as strawberry. Despite how sweet Coca-Cola Strawberry smells, though, it’s not syrupy or cloying in flavor, and the base cola flavor isn’t drowned out by the additional strawberry elements.

In the end, the best thing about Coca-Cola Strawberry is that it’s a legitimately enjoyable soft drink. In contrast to rival Pepsi Japan’s more out-there ideas, like Pepsi Ghost or Pepsi Shiso, Coca-Cola Strawberry is something we’d actually recommend as a refreshing option for whenever you’re feeling thirsty, not just a weird experiment to experience once and never revisit.

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