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…
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
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
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, 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
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.
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
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.
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, 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:)
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.
See you next week.
Check out more “Adventures in eating.“