In a market dominated by Pepsi, Sprite and Dr. Pepper, domestic sodas reign supreme. However, this isn’t the case everywhere. Many countries have hundreds of unique soft drinks which represent the native flavors of their culture. The best part? You can find many of them at your local international market.
While some of these are becoming more popular here, others remain fairly obscure. I’ve taken the time to review eleven of these strange sodas, so put down the Coke and reach for one of these instead.
Bundaberg Ginger Beer
Scent: Freshly-cut ginger with just a hint of sweetness
Taste: Very sweet, smooth and bright. Bundaberg is flavored entirely with fresh ground ginger, and the brewing process is very similar to traditional beer. It’s slightly fermented, so it has a sort of pickled ginger taste. It’s complex, unlike most of the other sodas on the list; there is nuance and depth here that doesn’t appear in the artificially-flavored sodas.
Try this if: You’re tired of how empty and flavorless Canada Dry is.
Scent: Wow, that’s fruity. Smells like fresh-cut passionfruit with a hint of carrot juice.
Taste: This one starts out sharp and acidic, but mellows out into a nice tropical cocktail of flavors. It tastes more like juice than soda, which works really well.
Try this if: You can’t decide between a bottled fruit smoothie and a soda.
Scent: Sharp, citrus, slight hint of vanilla
Taste: Immediately citrus. It sort of tastes like a cream soda and orange juice mixed together.It’s sharp, tangy, slightly bitter. If you don’t know what to expect (and I didn’t), it can kind of take you by surprise. The closest thing I can compare this to is a fizzy lemonade with vanilla notes.
Apparently, the main flavoring is a plant called Lemon Verbena, which is a leafy herb that tastes like lemons.
Try this if: You get the chance. It’s a fantastic soda, especially if you want something bright and vibrant.
Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola
Market: United Kingdom
Scent: Very aromatic. There’s a waft of cola, but it’s very herbal. Slight hint of ginger. Smells like Christmas.
Taste: I love this one. I can’t quite pin down the flavor, but there’s a very earthy cola thing going on at the start, and then it just explodes into some sort of herbal concoction. The ingredients include ginger, speedwell, juniper and yarrow extracts, and everything shines through beautifully.
Try this if: You don’t drink Coca-Cola because it’s too mainstream.
UCC Melon Creamy Soda
Scent: Smells like ice cream and melons. This is a good sign.
Taste: That’s surprisingly good. It tastes like honeydew melons and ice cream. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a soda with evaporated milk in it to be that good, but this is pretty fantastic.
Try this if: You feel like drinking a big bottle of ice cream. And who wouldn’t want to do that?
Market: Mexico, and anywhere with a sizable concentration of hipsters.
Scent: Smells like a Coke. Caramel, maybe?
Fizz: It is literally as fizzy as Coca-Cola.
Taste: These are becoming so popular that I had to throw it in here. This is the only Coca-Cola variant you can buy in this hemisphere sweetened entirely with actual sugar, so the recent push against high-fructose corn syrup has brought these to store shelves nationwide.
Here’s what I think: It’s a Coke. It’s from Mexico. It’s a little bit smoother and there’s less of the awful acidic aftertaste that normal Coke has. But, at the end of the day, it’s still Coca-Cola. That said, I actually prefer this one, if only because it comes in that cool glass bottle.
Try this if: If you feel like sticking it to the man for using high fructose corn syrup but still want to drink something mainstream, this one’s for you.
Scent: It smells strongly of pineapple.
Taste: You know how Fanta Orange doesn’t quite taste like oranges? This is that for pineapple. It’s crisp, light, and fruity.
Try this if: You want something that tastes almost, but not entirely unlike, pineapple.
Market: United States/Latin America
Scent: If you’ve never smelled a tamarind, this smells sort of fruity, a little bit acidic and nutty.
Taste: Tastes sort of like honey roasted peanuts, but it’s also got some citrus undertones to it. There are some fruitier flavors in there as well, but they sort of blend into the background. Tamarind soda is a bit of an acquired taste, but it’s still worth a try.
Try this if: You see a bottle. You can usually find it at your local supermarket, in the Mexican food aisle.
Market: United States/Latin America
Scent: It smells of nothing.
Flavor: It tastes… very faint. Slightly acidic, but not overpowering. It’s very sweet. The overall flavor is weaker than Sprite or 7-Up; there’s just very little lime flavor here. If sweet lime juice is your thing, this one’s for you.
Try this if: Honestly, don’t. This one isn’t really worth the time or money. You can do a lot better with Fanta Lime.
Market: Latin America, United States
Scent: Very faint coconutiness
Flavor: Smooth, slightly acidic. Not really tart. Very sweet. Faint coconut flavor. Honestly, it doesn’t really taste of anything other than cheap coconut water with a little more sugar. Maybe a little bit of cream soda flavor to it, a slight hint of vanilla.
This one seems almost proud of being artificially-flavored, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean it tastes bad, it does taste very one-dimensional. It has the essence of a coconut without any of the depth.
Try this if: You’re stranded on a deserted island without any actual coconuts.
Scent: Smells like tinned lychee.
Fizz: High. (The marble helps.)
Taste: It tastes like ramune with an artificial lychee flavoring added. If you’re not familiar with Ramune, it’s a bitter lemon-lime soda in Japan, known for the weird bottles. Anyway, it’s not that sweet, it’s got a faint berry taste that comes through every now and then, but otherwise it’s just sweetened carbonated water.
Try this if: You find the Shirakiku brand. It’s a lot sweeter and fruitier. Otherwise, it’s just sort of mediocre.