Is it better to say "Cola" or "Coke" when ordering a Coca-Cola drink in a restaurant/bar?

closed as primarily opinion-based by tchrist, Matt E. Эллен, FumbleFingers, MetaEd, choster Jul 5 '13 at 3:33

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    Cola is generic. Coke is a trademark, although Pepsi-only establishments tend to serve Pepsi without any comment. If you want Coca-Cola particlarly, ask for that. – Andrew Leach Jul 4 '13 at 12:30
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    It depends on location. The US has been studied well. When ordering people hardly use 'cola' as a generic; they'll say either Coke or Pepsi if they want that brand (except in the South where you just use 'Coke' for -any- kind of soda. – Mitch Jul 4 '13 at 13:06
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    I’ve never heard anyone ask for a “cola”. – tchrist Jul 4 '13 at 14:37
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    @tchrist I have heard it a lot. In Czech, Russia, Poland and I think in Germany etc. this is the first name for this delicious product. In fact "Coke, "Coca", "Koka" or "Kouk" is unheard of. There is a delicious alternative called "Kofola". You can order it like a draft bear from the barrel. – Derfder Jul 5 '13 at 6:37

"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.

  • And yet according to this answer Which is correct: “soda” or “pop”?; coke is often used in place of fizzy/pop/soda drink. – Mari-Lou A Oct 15 '13 at 19:24
  • It is but, it is not literally a word for such drinks in general. That is a case of people taking the name for a particular brand and using it to mean all such products in general. The same as people saying Kleenex instead of tissues or, saying Hoover when specifying a brand of vacuum cleaner is not necessary. – Tristan Oct 16 '13 at 21:24

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".

  • Really? I was quite surprised when I went to university in the UK (98-2002) because people kept asking for colas. I had not heard the term used before but it seemed to be quite widespread in York at the time. – terdon Jul 5 '13 at 15:46
  • Perhaps it's a regional variation within the UK. Having lived in North-East, East, East Midlands and Southern England, I'm certainly used to that. Alternatively, it could be a social difference. I would imagine that people with minimal disposal income would be more likely to buy supermarkets' own-brand colas, and hence use the word more. Interesting! – Phil M Jones Jul 8 '13 at 13:51
  • It was explained to me by a Scottish friend as the generic term. Perhaps it is a Scottish phenomenon more than a Yorkshire one, but it was definitely the term used at the campus bars. – terdon Jul 8 '13 at 14:03


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

  • I’m pretty sure that the name of the country is the Netherlands, not *The Netherlands. It isn’t the title of a movie or something. We don’t normally capitalize the articles that we place before proper nouns. – tchrist Jul 4 '13 at 12:40
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    tChrist: There is a good Dutch expression for that: miereneukerij ;) – mplungjan Jul 4 '13 at 12:44
  • @mplungjan cercare il pelo nell'uovo is an Italian one! :) – Mari-Lou A Jul 14 '13 at 22:37

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