(Over)indulging in some of the classic local dishes and delicacies is surely one of the best things about visiting a new place.
But do you ever take a second to nose around the soft drinks aisle in corner shops, bodegas and abarrotes while you’re abroad? If you don’t, you should. After all, there’s a lot to be said for giving some of the local fizzy drinks a try while you’re traveling. From carbonated cans of celery soda to cherry-flavored cult classics, here are 25 of the best to look out for on your next trip.
Top Picks for You
Throw away your Vanilla Coke because Mexico’s very own ToniCol is all the carbonated vanilla cola (or, to be precise, cream soda) you’ll ever need from now on. But, be warned, you won’t find it everywhere. Produced in the western state of Sinaloa, look out for these squat bottles in abarrotes across Jalisco and Sinaloa. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to find them in Mexico City metro stations too.
INSIDER TIPThe best version of ToniCol comes, as expected, in a glass bottle.
Italian tastes run toward the bitter when it comes to soda and while the ubiquitous foil-topped cans of San Pellegrino can demonstrate that pretty well, the sweetly-bitter flavour of herbal soft drink Crodino arguably does it even better. Now part of the broader Campari company, Crodino is deeply orange in colour and ideal as an aperitif.
INSIDER TIPIf you’ve developed a taste for bitter Italian beverages, consider trying a Chinotto too.
Guaraná Antarctica tastes like, as the name suggests, guarana—but comes from, as the name doesn’t quite suggest: Brazil. It’s also something of an energy drink, thanks to its main ingredient, although it’s not quite strong enough to have you bouncing off the walls. In fact, it’s really quite refreshing.
Fun Fact: The drink is also produced in Portugal, Japan, and Argentina.
Many a visitor to Peru has returned home singing the praises of the classic Peruvian soft drink, Inca Kola, and it’s seemingly radioactive yellow glow. It is ubiquitous; you’ll find this sweet, bubblegum-y “champagne soda” served morning, noon and night and it’s considered the “national drink” of Peru. However, it was invented by an Englishman.
Dandelion and Burdock
Trying to explain the appeal of an aniseed-ish drink like Dandelion and Burdock is a challenge, although the appeal definitely is there—it’s been consumed in one form or another since the Middle Ages on the British Isles. But still, a dandelion is a sunshine-yellow weed and burdock is…well, what is burdock?! Spoiler alert: it’s another plant. However, commercial D&B’s (like Ben Shaw’s) rarely use either one in their recipe nowadays, instead relying on artificial flavorings; cast your doubts aside and give it a try.
Lemon and Paeroa
WHERE: New Zealand
World famous in New Zealand, Lemon and Paeroa—also known as L&P—is a Kiwi classic. Delicious as both a mixer and a soft drink in its own right, the lightly-bubbly, lemony flavor, as well as a historic can-do attitude, helped convert this drink into a countrywide favorite.
Once banned in the States, bright-orange Irn Bru—which was stylised as Iron Brew until 1946—is to Scotland what tea is to England. Well, sort of. Either way, it’s the most popular soft drink in Scotland, even beating out Coca Cola for the top spot. As far as the taste goes, some find it reminiscent of cough medicine, while others swear by the supposedly bubblegum-flavoured stuff. However, thanks to the recently imposed UK sugar tax, Irn Bru probably won’t be its deliciously sugary same ever again.
Fun Fact: Irn Bru even has its own tartan pattern!
Ramune brand beverages are popular in both their native country of Japan and overseas, thanks to both unique flavors and unusual bottles. Their Codd-neck opening mechanism—you have to push down on a marble to open the drink—often thwarts first-time Ramune drinkers, but the varied flavors, such as kimchi, teriyaki, and wasabi, make taste-testing them well worth the time and effort.
Fun Fact: The name Ramune (ラムネ) comes from the Japanese transliteration of “lemonade.”
The national drink of Austria, Almdudler was originally created as an alternative to alcoholic drinks but has now seen popularity as, somewhat ironically, a mixer for wine. Often described as a sort of fruitier version of ginger beer, Almdudler is made from grape and apple juices, along with a vast blend of natural herbs.
Produced by a brewery and sold in beer-like bottles, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Bavarian Bionade was actually a beer. However, while it may be made in much the same way—water, malt from barley, and sugar are fermented to create the drink—it’s far from alcoholic. In fact, Bionade is said to be an au naturelle, healthier (albeit maltier) stand-in for your soda, and the flavours reflect that: think elderflower and orange-ginger.
Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer
Often confused with root beer, birch beer is actually made from extracts of both birch tree bark and sap, as well as a variety of other herbs. Popular in the northeastern U.S., hence the Pennsylvania Dutch brand, back in the 17th century, you could even find alcoholic versions. Instead of reducing the birch bark to oil, it was fermented instead.
WHERE: Newfoundland and Labrador
Pineapple Crush has developed a cult following in Newfoundland and Labrador over the years, given that it’s the only place where the OG Browning Harvey version is produced. While the pervasive appeal of pineapple in this Canadian province remains a mystery, as the tagline famously states, ‘Newfoundlanders love, love, love it!’
WHERE: East Coast Africa
Popular in numerous countries along the east coast of Africa, including Kenya and Tanzania, Stoney Tangawizi is a very strong ginger beer (tangawizi is the Kiswahili word for “ginger,” after all). Just don’t confuse it with the similarly-named, but much sweeter, South African Stoney Ginger Beer, which doesn’t have quite the same spicy ginger kick.
Unlike most of the other entries on this list, India’s masala soda is best-served street-side from a plastic cup rather than a bottle. Sure, you can get some commercial takes on classic masala soda—literally, soda with spices, often combined with syrups and citrus flavors—but you can’t customize them to your taste as you can in traditional soda shops.
INSIDER TIPOther Indian sodas to check out include the mango-flavored Mangola or Coca Cola-rivalling Thums Up.
Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray
WHERE: New York City
Head to Jewish delis across New York City and you’re likely to come across the drink that’s sometimes described as the “weirdest in America,” aka Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda. So far, so not weird-sounding. Yet that all changes when you realize that this peppery-tasting drink is actually celery-flavored. Yes, that celery.
WHERE: Middle East
It might seem odd to attribute an ostensibly British fizzy drink like Vimto to the Middle East—it was created in Manchester, after all—but that’s the place in which it’s ascended to cult status. Now widely associated with Ramadan and imbibed as an energy-boosting, post-fasting beverage, the sticky purple soft drink combines grape, blackcurrant, and raspberry flavors.
Fun Fact: In the UK, a “Cheeky Vimto” cocktail involves port and blue WKD, but sadly no real Vimto.
Gazoz, in its purest form, is just soda water and simple syrup. Popular way back in the early 20th century, one of the most famous commercial brands of gazoz is Uludağ Gazoz, which you’ll find on shelves across Turkey. However, the artisanal roots of gazoz—once produced on a local level—are finding their feet again, with boutique producers springing up across the country. And the flavors? Your options are endless.
Jamaican in origin and popular across the Caribbean, Ting is as fun to say as it is to drink according to fans of this fizzy grapefruit soda, which can be mixed with vodka for a Ving or rum for a Ting ‘n Sting. Nowadays, you can even find it sold and produced in the UK too, although Jamaican grapefruits are still used.
Rich in flavor and deep brown in color, like most malt drinks, Pony Malta from Colombia is an acquired taste. However, to get the most for your Malta, make sure to drink it slowly and extra cold. You’ll also find Pony Malta sold across Ecuador and Peru.
Fun Fact: Malty soft drinks are popular in several Latin American and Caribbean countries. In Cuba, you have Bucanero, while Puerto Rico and the DR have Malta Goya and Tiger Malt is popular in Barbados.
For a fancy twist on orange soda, many turn to Orangina, the French soft drink made from a combo of orange, lemon, grapefruit and mandarin and sold in distinctive squat bottles which mimic the shape of a real orange. However, Orangina was actually invented by a Spaniard, was originally called Naranjina (which makes sense—naranja is Spanish for orange) and first found fame in North Africa.
INSIDER TIPIf you’d prefer a French lemon beverage, try Gini instead.
Cherry can be a divisive flavor when dished up as sodas or sweets; although, when it comes to Cheerwine, people evidently love that black cherry taste and supercharged fizz. Served predominantly in the Carolinas and Virginia, but also a cult favorite in other U.S. states, Cheerwine apparently pairs well with BBQ.
Moxie is as regionally-beloved as Cheerwine, prolific in pop culture and was one of the first sodas to be mass-produced in the States. However, in August 2018 it became the latest in a long line of sodas to be bought out by Coca Cola. What does it taste like? Well, the flavor of this Maine favorite is tricky to describe, but it’s more bitter than sweet.
Described by Buzzfeed as a ‘hipster energy drink’—although one that’s surprisingly low in sugar—Germany’s cult-favorite Club-Mate soda is a caffeine-charged must when in Berlin. You can even try it combined with another German favorite, Jägermeister, in a mix that’s dubbed “Jäger-Mate.”
Fun Fact: Club-Mate is derived from the South American yerba mate plant.
Sometimes described as the Slovenian Coke, Cockta is an amusingly-named soda that started life back in the 1950s. However, while it was originally intended to rival Coca Cola, Cockta is no copycat. In fact, it’s made from a blend of numerous herbs, the principal one being rosehip, which gives it a distinct and initially evasive flavor profile.
Bundaberg Ginger Beer
Bundaberg Ginger Beer is an Australian fizzy drink that can now be found in supermarkets around the world. Served in a bottle which looks almost unnervingly like something you’d find in an apothecary, Bundaberg Ginger Beer is naturally-fermented and full of ginger chunks. Bundaberg also “brew” a number of other sodas too, with flavors like blood orange and guava.