Is it better to say "Cola" or "Coke" when ordering a Coca-Cola drink in a restaurant/bar?
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closed as primarily opinion-based by tchrist, Matt E. Эллен♦, FumbleFingers, MετάEd, choster Jul 5 '13 at 3:33
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"Coke" is used as a name for a particular brand of cola called Coca-Cola. If you mean that particular brand, it is best to say Coke or Coca-Cola.
The word cola is a general word meaning any drink like Coca-Cola, including that and other brands. See http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/cola?q=cola If you mean such drinks in general without needing to specify a particular brand, it is best to say cola.
If people do not use those words with those meanings, it can make what they mean unclear and therefore require that someone else ask for clarification. It is an example of the difference between referring to something in general and something in particular.
In the UK it is illegal to sell someone Pepsi if they ask for Coke without first asking them if the substitution is acceptable. The Trading Standards Institute (and the licensed trade) refer to this as "Passing Off"
Hence, to answer your original question, I would recommend asking for a "Coke" or a "Pepsi" if you have a strong preference. In the UK, I've rarely heard people ask for a "cola" (in 20 years of bar work), so if you don't have a preference, just say "Coke".
I say Coca-Cola and make sure they do not serve me Pepsi or Lite which I detest.
Many bars in the Netherlands will serve you Pepsi if you order a Cola. It will certainly be dependent on country.
I also do not want to order Coke due to the drug connotation