A cola specifically for karaage is exactly the kind of drink we want.

Pepsi is always hard at work creating Japan-exclusive colas, with past flavors including cherry blossom, Christmas cake, and, well, “Japan” flavor.

This week, though, they released what might be their most tempting concoction yet: fried chicken cola.

This isn’t Pepsi that tastes like fried chicken, though. It’s Pepsi that’s supposed to taste good when paired with fried chicken, specifically karaage, the Japanese style of fried bird that makes use of seasonings like garlic and ginger.

What’s more, Pepsi is so confident in the synergy this new cola creates that it’s given it the name Pepsi Zero Karaage Senyo Cola, or “Pepsi Zero Cola Exclusively for Use with Fried Chicken.”

▼ There’s even a picture of karaage on the label, to make doubly sure you don’t make the grave mistake of drinking this without having some fried chicken handy.

Yes, that’s right, this is part of the zero-calorie Pepsi Zero lineup. Now, some might say that if you’re already eating fried chicken, it’s sort of silly to start counting calories for your drinks, but the way we figure it, any beverage-based calories we can avoid is that many more calories of karaage we can afford to eat, so we see the Pepsi Zero-ness of the karaage-use cola as a plus.

Fried chicken and cola align pretty closely with our regular diet, so it was easy for us to make room in our schedule for a taste test after picking up a bottle of karaage Pepsi for 140 yen (US$1.05) at the store. Since we were feeling classy, we poured it into a glass, and were surprised to see that it’s clear, like the short-lived Crystal Pepsi.

▼ A special shout-out to all of you who are feeling waves of ‘90s nostalgia and can hear “Right Now” playing in your heads.

Though it looks like water, karaage Pepsi definitely tastes like cola. It seemed less stickily sweet than the standard cola flavor, though, and the scent was less cloying too. To make sure, we also opened up a bottle of Pepsi Nama Zero (a.k.a. “Raw Pepsi”) to compare, and sure enough, it tasted and smelled sweeter than the Pepsi Zero Karaage Senyo Cola.

Now it was time for the real taste test, so we brought out a plate of karaage. For this stage, we did the tasting in reverse order, starting with a pairing of Pepsi Nama Zero and fried chicken. This immediately triggered all of the hybrid junk food guilt/pleasure centers in our brain, as it flooded our taste buds with sweet and oily sensations.

Then it was on to the Pepsi Zero Karaage Senyo Cola…

…and there was a noticeable difference! The lighter sweetness of the special karaage-use cola worked as a natural counterbalance to the fried chicken’s fat content, and the crisper finish than what you get with regular cola felt like it was cutting through any excess oiliness in the food, and the mental effects of the drink’s less saccharine smell added to the effect.

The end result is that Pepsi Zero Karaage Senyo Cola lets the flavor of the chicken, not just its grease, shine through while providing a still-refreshingly sweet palate cleanser. Psychologically, it lessens the “guilty” part of the guilty pleasure, helping a meal of fried chicken and cola feel more like the virtuous pairing it should be.

Taking a look at the ingredient label, we were happy to find that Pepsi Zero Karaage Senyo Cola does indeed have lower quantities of artificial sweeteners than the non-fried chicken-calibrated Pepsi. The karaage cola also has added dietary fiber, which helps it cut through the chicken’s oiliness

Dietary fiber, by the way, can also promote digestion, so that’s something to be aware of if you’re chugging down a lot of this new Pepsi. That said, if you’re using “Pepsi Zero Cola Exclusively for Use with Fried Chicken” as intended, that would also mean you’re chowing down on a lot of fried chicken, with all the greasy goodness that involves, so staying within reasonable range of a bathroom is probably a wise idea anyway.

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