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Liquid Diet

Ow. As it turns out, losing a lot of weight quickly can cause problems.

In my case, I ended up making my gallbladder very mad at me. He was really resistant to change, and not down with the whole self-reinvention thing. Since we don’t get along anymore, and I’m bigger than he is, I had it removed a few days ago. Who’s the boss now, Gallbladder!? All told, it’s been one of my better break-ups, but ending a 31 year relationship is going to be pretty rough no matter how easy you take it, and I’m not feeling 100%, yet.

I’ve been drinking a lot.

Doctor’s orders mainly. I was advised to get a lot of liquids for a while. But fret not, faithful readers looking forward to another Adventures in eating! Coincidentally, I managed to stumble across a stockpile of odd beverages in some of the stranger recesses of the market. So, this liquid diet just got interesting!

And when I say a stockpile…


… I do mean a whole bunch. I don’t think this is what the doctor had in mind.

In fact, since I have 10 beverages to share with you today, I’m going to change up the format a little bit, or I’ll never get through it all. No pictures of my reaction shots, just the product shots and descriptions. Really, I’m just doing this so I don’t have to edit 100 pictures of my dumb face (You’re welcome). I’ll try to keep it entertaining though.

Honestly, I have no idea where to start. So, eeny meeny miney…

Yerba Mate Soda

Materva, Yerba Mate Soda

First impressions: I’ll admit, immediately, that I’m doing this backwards. I’ve never tried Yerba Mate before, and here I go trying a soda version. That’s like seeing the sequel before the original. Even after I taste it, I’ll have no idea if it faithfully recreates the flavor. I bought this at the Mexican pantry at the Pike Place market, where about 50% of these drinks came from.

The can looks a little like a communist uprising, but in beverage form. I think the overall effect could be improved with a Che Guevara icon. I do like that the ingredients are listed on the front. There’s something honest and charming about that.

Smell: Bubble gum. You ever smell a Big Red soda? That’s what this smells like. Creamy and fruity. The main fruit I smell is green grapes, but there’s something I can’t quite place with smell alone.

Taste: A drawing of the taste profile would be football shaped. A quick swell of flavor and it’s gone instantly. After about 4 sips, I start to be able to place it.

The grape smell becomes a very sweet white wine flavor. The creamy fruitiness is tropical. Creamy tropical fruit. What is that? Is it… bananas? Yep.

This drink tastes like a cream soda made with sweet white wine (grape juice) and bananas. Does that sound gross to you? Well it’s not. It’s pretty good.

6 out of 10

Brasilena Coffee Soda

Brasilena, Coffee Soda

First impressions: Despite being a Brazilian-style coffee soda, the bottle is labeled “Product of Italy.” It’s filled with opaque, black liquid, and the person on the bottle looks a little like Parker Posey. Nothing particular interesting about those facts, but I bet you scrolled up to look at the picture again.

Smell: Slightly burned coffee. Like the waiting room of a Jiffy Lube, where the pot has been cooking unattended all day, but you drink it anyway, because you need something to do while you keep your mind off the screaming 4 year old sitting backwards in the chair in front of you and wiping his snotty nose on the back of the seat. Wait… what’s going on? Oh yeah, coffee soda.

Taste: First I taste sugar syrup, and the carbonation tricks my tongue into thinking it’s Pepsi. Then coffee comes in faintly at the end and disappears quickly. 70% sugar, 30% coffee. It’s not flavorful enough to be an interesting coffee drink, and not carbonated enough to be a passable soda.

It tastes flat in every sense of the word. I’d rather it was strong, and potentially awful, coffee flavored. For me, boring is worse than bad.

2 out of 10

Iron Beer Soft Drink

Ironbeer, Soft Drink

First impressions: Original 1917 flavor! By my count 1917 was 96 years ago. So, while that is indeed “more than 80 years”, I feel like they could afford to be a little more precise. I’ll just assume this particular can is about 15 years past the expiration date.

Smell: Well, that’s surprising. With a name like Ironbeer, I was not expecting to smell a light, summery scent. It smells like an orange creamsicle with various other spices. I can’t imagine the manly blacksmith on the front drinking this.

Taste: Tastes like lime sherbet melted into a Dr. Pepper, slightly diluted with some fruity tea. This drink is both delicious and ridiculously misnamed. There is nothing Iron-like or Beer-like about it. Although I did notice that it’s packed by Sunshine Bottling Company. That makes sense.

7 out of 10


Sanbitter, San Pellegrino’s little red bottle.

First impressions: Sold next to the San Pellegrino sparkling lemonades and other similar beverages is this little red guy. Perfectly designed to max out all my curiosity sensors, it’s almost entirely unmarked, except a star and some fine print on the cap, and the embossed glass lettering: SANBITTER. I like bitter things.

It’s also so cute and tiny, you just want to pick it up and squeeze it. Adorable and fancy, I must try it!

Smell: Once the cap comes off, little champagne-style bubbles start to form. They release an odor very similar to cherry Robitussin (Yeah, the cough syrup). I’m getting berries with an aftersmell of slightly caustic pharmaceuticals.

Taste: Based on the smell, the taste doesn’t disappoint. I get cherry cough syrup right away (but thinner and sweeter), and it finishes with mashed grapefruit rinds and rust. Extremely bitter! The bitter is complex and concentrated, and could benefit from dilution.

2 out of 10 on its own, but I’m not going to lie, I still like it. It’s interesting. I think it would perform well as an additive/mixer in other drinks.


Cuzcâtlan, Cola Champagne

First impressions: “The Flavor of Our People” is the loose translation of the slogan at the bottom. The country pictured is El Salvador… I’ve always wanted to know what Salvadorians taste like. This drink looks significantly more like champagne than cola. Let’s find out.

Smell: Creamy again. Like the others sodas from the Mexican market, this one has a a heavy vanilla base. The odor is faintly reminiscent of latex, grapes, and bananas. It’s like a rubbery, tropical cream soda.

Taste: It tastes very similar to the Yerba Mate Soda (Materva) above, but more vanilla, and not as much bananas. A big gulp reveals a definite grapey flavor too, so I guess that’s where the “champagne” in the name comes in. No cola flavor whatsoever. If I assume Cuzcâtlan and Materva are attempting to create a similar flavor (which I think is a safe assumption), Materva wins.

5 out of 10

Inca Kola

Inca Kola, The Golden Kola

First impressions: All right, I’m just going to assume that this is going to be another cream soda. Apparently every cola sold in Latin America is, in fact, a creamy, fruity beverage having nothing to do with cola. I guess I’m fine with that, but it would have been nice to know before.

And, that background looks like Saved by the Bell as drawn by Quetzalcoatl.

Smell: Big Red, Oranges, Lemon, Vanilla, Berries…

Taste: Pretty much the same, but faker. It’s what cream soda would taste like if it was made by Red Bull. The fruity flavor is basically Smarties or Sweet-Tarts. Similar to all the others, but more cloyingly sweet and abrasive.

Boo. Give me something different to drink.

4 out of 10

San Pellegrino Chinotto

Chinotto, San Pellegrino

First impressions: I have no idea what to expect. Sparkling Flavored Beverage, so it tastes like sparkling? That looks like an orange to me.

Smell: Anise, liquorice, raisins and dark fruit, and some citrus.

Taste: On the first try it tastes like I-have-no-idea followed by bitter. The second try… Maybe oven-roasted orange, or a rye bread with marmalade? Words fail. The bitter is definitely orange-peel-based, which is more of a familiar flavor than the other bitter drink. It’s a powerful, mellow, grown-up flavor. A welcome change from those increasingly worse cream sodas, and I like it.

Indescribable, but very good.

7 out of 10 perhaps even better as a mixer.

Elderberry Bionade

Bionade, Elderberry Flavor

First impressions: There sure are a bunch of hippie buzzwords on this bottle. It could be delicious or awful.

Smell: Old pink lemonade. Stale.

Taste: Water, primarily. It’s pretty disappointing. Sugarless cranberry juice, apples, and weak black tea. Not a lot of fermentation flavors, nothing particularly gross or great. A large mouthful yields a hint of a wheaty beer flavor, but apart from that, it’s flat and plain.

3 out of 10

Guarana Brazilia

Guaraná Brazilia

First impressions: “The best from Brazil” Guarana soda was right next to another brand advertized as “The most popular in Brazil.” I was so torn with indecision, but then I noticed that this one cost about half as much. To compensate for the fact that it’s made in New Jersey, the designers decided to boost the authenticity by apparently printing the can with iguana skin.

Smell: Strawberries

Taste: Strawberry Kiwi Lemonade, with fizz. Not much to talk about here. About as exciting as a pineapple Shasta.

Adding Chinotto to the mix really improves the flavor. I drank most of it that way.

4 out of 10

Mr. Q Cumber

Mr. Q. Cumber, Sparkling Cucumber Beverage

First impressions: I don’t know if I want to drink a cucumber. I don’t hate them or anything, it’s just not a delicious refreshment in my mind. Might as well be a lettuce soda.

Smell: Wow! That is straight up cucumber! Freshly cut and bottled.

Taste: Double Wow! That’s amazing! I had assumed that his would either be boring or bad, but I’m surprised. Unless you absolutely hate cucumber, even if you’re just not a huge fan, I would recommend you give this drink a try.

It tastes exactly like sugar and cucumber, and it’s really good. The flavor is strong, crisp, and surprisingly delicious. It’s basically just a 7up, but with cucumber instead of lemon-lime, and I love it.

8 out of 10

One more thing. I mixed the Mr. Q. Cumber with San Pellegrino Chinotto (50/50), and the result was fantastic. (Here’s a recipe, written in universal internet language:)

Chinotto Cucumber happycat

It’s my new favorite cocktail–bitter, sweet, savory, and complex. I’d order it at a bar, if I thought they might have the ingredients on hand.

But for those home mixologists inspired by this post, be careful with your indiscriminate mixings. A seemingly similar mix of equal parts Mr. Q. Cumber and Sanbitter is the most vile concoction to touch my tongue in a very long time.

Well, I’m all out of beverages. That was fun.

empty bottles

See you next week.


Check out more “Adventures in eating.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Liz permalink
    January 19, 2013 8:58 pm

    I’ve had Mr. Q. Cumber before! I think I got it at the Safeway in North Bend. I’ll look for Chinotto. It’s the same flavoring as Campari.

    • January 19, 2013 9:06 pm

      I got the cucumber drink at Safeway, too. I saw it there, after I got all the other mystery sodas, and thought I’d give it a shot.

  2. January 19, 2013 9:40 pm

    Thanks for the internet recipe! Hope you get to feeling alright in short order. I really like San Pellegrino lemonade. They actually sell it at my Wal-Mart. I know, moving on up to the East Side.

  3. January 19, 2013 9:52 pm

    I like this post. We play this game at our house too.

    From your description of the mate soda, it’s as much a sequel to yerba mate as Blues Brothers 2000 is sequel to Blues Bros. Sounds like they took a traditional drink that has served as a cultural staple for generations of adults and switched it up for some wider appeal to sweet-craving masses. The original isn’t anything amazing, but carries with it a sense of identity and nostalgia. The new one wouldn’t be bad if it existed in its own right, and maybe even has some fun elements, but once you try to pass it off as related in any way to the original, it becomes oddly…offensive?

    Your Cuzcatlan champagne soda’s tagline is a *precise* translation, not loose.

    I feel like if I had to invent a fake soda to epitomize disgustingly hippified/hipsterfied Pacific Northest (imagine it appearing in an Onion article on something ridiculously Seattle-centric, or on Portlandia), I’d describe the Bionade. But whatev…I purchased huckleberry soda at CostPlus last week on a lark. I can’t criticize.

  4. Tiffany permalink
    January 20, 2013 9:36 am

    Have you had the “Dry” brand sodas? The rhubarb tastes exactly like a pine tree. (I couldn’t finish it.) I wonder how their cucumber compares.

    Get well soon!

  5. January 20, 2013 12:09 pm

    Shane likes to get odd beverages when we go to the Central Market or Uwajimaya. Usually he ends up hating what he gets but occasionally he stumbles on something good.

    I had yerba mate once and hated it. What you described doesn’t coincide with my memory of the real stuff. As I recall it was very bitter and earthy, tasted like dirt to me.

  6. Carlos Alfonso permalink
    February 4, 2018 10:56 pm

    Sorry for leaving my reply after several years, I’m from El Salvador and I never saw Cuzcâtlan Cola Champagne in my entire life. Where that beverage is produced? as I have realized there are brands in USA called Kolashanpan (produced by La Cascada, though not the real La Cascada) or Kolashampan “La Original” (produced by Bravo) both with maps of El Salvador in red, white and blue and another brand Super Kolashampan (Produced by La Salvadoreña) also with a map of El Salvador but with the colors of our flag as the brand you posted, maybe some entrepreneurs wanted to take advantage of the nostalgic market as there are Salvadorians living out there. I was trying to see if our Kolashanpan was sold in USA (Kolashanpan is a made up word pronounced almost the same as Cola Champán, Champán is spanish for french Champagne), but i think it is not available there, I was just talking about it to an American friend but couldn’t find a legit. Now, what we have here as I said is Kolashanpan produced by Embotelladora La Cascada, old logo was red, white and blue, with years at some point they used the map of the country, with the same colors as original logo, nowadays they don’t produced it in glass bottles, besides a can presentation, rest of presentations are all PET bottles with a sticker with some drawings in honor to La Palma, a little town famous for its craftwork. Just wanted to reply even if it was out of time, because you mentioned you wanted to know how Salvadorians taste like but sadly that beverage is not Salvadorian. There is another local brand Tropical (From El Salvador, not Tropical from Honduras or Mexico) which was acquired by Coca Cola company and added to its local portfolio which also has a Champán flavor, besides grape, strawberry and cream. Look for them if want to taste real salvadorian beverages.

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