Different soft drinks are popular around the world. On a trip abroad you may encounter interesting beverages that you’ve never heard of before — do try them out.
A soft drink is a drink that usually contains carbonated water (although some lemonades are not carbonated), a sweetener, and a natural or artificial flavoring. The sweetener may be a sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, a sugar substitute (in the case of diet drinks), or some combination of these. Soft drinks may also contain caffeine, colorings, preservatives, and/or other ingredients.
Soft drinks are called “soft” in contrast with “hard” alcoholic drinks. Small amounts of alcohol may be present in a soft drink, but the alcohol content must be less than 0.5% of the total volume of the drink in many countries and localities if the drink is to be considered non-alcoholic. Fruit punch, tea (even kombucha), and other such non-alcoholic drinks are technically soft drinks by this definition, but are not generally referred to as such. Unsweetened sparkling water may be consumed as an alternative to soft drinks.
Soft drinks may be served chilled, over ice cubes, or at room temperature, especially soda. They are available in many container formats, including cans, glass bottles, and plastic bottles. Containers come in a variety of sizes, ranging from small bottles to large multi-litre containers. Soft drinks are widely available at fast food restaurants, movie theaters, convenience stores, casual-dining restaurants, dedicated soda stores, and bars from soda fountain machines. Soft drinks are usually served in paper or plastic disposable cups in the first three venues. In casual dining restaurants and bars, soft drinks are often served in glasses made from glass or plastic. Soft drinks may be drunk with straws or sipped directly from the cups.
Soft drinks are mixed with other ingredients in several contexts. In Western countries, in bars and other places where alcohol is served (e.g. airplanes, restaurants and nightclubs), many mixed drinks are made by blending a soft drink with hard liquor and serving the drink over ice. One well-known example is the rum and coke, which may also contain lime juice. Some homemade fruit punch recipes, which may or may not contain alcohol, contain a mixture of various fruit juices and a soft drink (e.g. ginger ale). At ice cream parlours and 1950s-themed diners, ice cream floats, and specifically root beer floats, are often sold. Examples of brands include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, Sierra Mist, Fanta, Sunkist, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, and 7 UP.
Sure, practically wherever you are in the world you can ask for a Coke and know what you’re gonna get. Though why not go for something else that you may not be able to get at home?
There are a couple of different kinds of soft drinks; common types include colas and fruit drinks (often orange or other citrus fruits). Also energy drinks may be regarded as soft drinks.
Carbonated soft drinks are also known as soda or pop in some parts of the world.
The volume served in restaurants varies considerably around the world, at one extreme, in the USA, sizes can vary from 0.3 liters to 1 liter (or even 2 liters in cinemas) and are refilled at no extra cost in some parts of the country, while at the other end in the Netherlands you will be served a 0.2l bottle which you will probably empty before your meal has arrived and will have to purchase a few more.
The very same beverage may also taste differently depending on the country it is produced in. For instance, soft drinks produced in the United States and Canada are usually sweetened with high fructose corn syrup which gives them a slightly different taste from the ones produced with regular sugar like in most of the rest of the world. In addition to this there are of course “diet”, “light”, “life” and other variants of the same product (explicitly marketed as a better version in one way or another) where aspartame, Acesulfame K or stevia has been used instead of sugar.
Per capita consumption of soda varies considerably around the world. As of 2014, the top consuming countries per capita were Argentina, the United States, Chile, and Mexico. Developed countries in Europe and elsewhere in the Americas had considerably lower consumption. Annual average consumption in the United States, at 153.5 liters, was about twice that in the United Kingdom (77.7) or Canada (85.3). From 2009 to 2014 consumption dropped over 4% per year in Greece, Romania, Portugal, and Croatia (putting these countries at between 34.7 and 51.0 liters per year). Over the same period, consumption grew over 20% per year in three countries, resulting in per-capita consumption of 19.1 liters in Cameroon, 43.9 liters in Georgia, and 10.0 liters in Vietnam.
Soft drinks are made by mixing dry or fresh ingredients with water. Production of soft drinks can be done at factories or at home. Soft drinks can be made at home by mixing a syrup or dry ingredients with carbonated water, or by lacto-fermentation. Syrups are commercially sold by companies such as Soda-Club; dry ingredients are often sold in pouches, in a style of the popular U.S. drink mix Kool-Aid. Carbonated water is made using a soda siphon or a home carbonation system or by dropping dry ice into water. Food-grade carbon dioxide, used for carbonating drinks, often comes from ammonia plants.
Drinks like ginger ale and root beer are often brewed using yeast to cause carbonation.
Of most importance is that the ingredient meets the agreed specification on all major parameters. This is not only the functional parameter (in other words, the level of the major constituent), but the level of impurities, the microbiological status, and physical parameters such as color, particle size, etc.
Some soft drinks contain measurable amounts of alcohol. In some older preparations, this resulted from natural fermentation used to build the carbonation. In the United States, soft drinks (as well as other products such as non-alcoholic beer) are allowed by law to contain up to 0.5% alcohol by volume. Modern drinks introduce carbon dioxide for carbonation, but there is some speculation that alcohol might result from fermentation of sugars in a non-sterile environment. A small amount of alcohol is introduced in some soft drinks where alcohol is used in the preparation of the flavoring extracts such as vanilla extract.
Here are some soft drinks that can be regarded as local specialties in one way or another.
Bonbon Anglais — a very sweet soda from Madagascar
Krating Daeng — a Thai energy drink, that served as inspiration for the nowadays world-famous Red Bull
Milkis — an iconic South Korean soft drink including milk and with several different flavors
Calpis — a Japanese yoghurt-flavoured soft drink available both pre-mixed in bottles from convenience stores and vending machines, and as a concentrated syrup to be mixed with milk or water
Ramune — a Japanese soda with a older style bottle. Also known as marble soda due to needing to dislodge a small marble to open the bottle.
100 plus — A Malaysian isotonic drink.
Almdudler — herbs, apple and grape juice make up this Austrian specialty, the original and generic copies are now available well into the North of Germany
Bionade — A soft drink made from a fermenting process similar to that of beer, different flavors are available, but all are organic. Originated in Germany and was the main beverage for the Hipster crowd during most of the 2000s
Club Mate (pronounced kloob mah-tey) — (or a generic clone) a German beverage based on The Andean Mate tea, though notably sweeter and carbonated. Commonly used as a “mixer” with Vodka; somewhat culturally associated with the Hipster and Hacker crowd (has mostly replaced Bionade in that regard)
Faxe Kondi — including caffeine and glucose, this Danish specialty is something between a soft drink and a sports drink
Irn-Bru — a specialty of Scotland with 32 different flavoring agents
Julmust or Påskmust — root beer’s Swedish relative, available during the Christmas and Easter seasons.
Kofola — a Czech cola drink (also sold in Slovakia), with a peculiar taste and remarkably less acid than the big brands
Orangina — France’s iconic soft drink with a high orange juice content
Hartwall Jaffa — Finnish Orange soda, similar to Fanta
Rivella — a Swiss specialty and based on milk whey. Yes, you read that correctly.
Sockerdricka — dating from the 19th century, this Swedish “sugardrink” tastes somewhat like 7up
Spezi — a cola/orange mix from Germany, started out as one drink and is now a generic term for several brands of this mix. However, the original manufacturer still operates under the original name and especially in Southern Germany many people still know a jingle the company used decades ago. Original Spezi contains actual orange juice (though not all that much of it), but in a pinch most restaurant will just mix orange soda and coke to get a similar if inferior result
Globally available soft drinks also have flavor alternatives such as vanilla and cherry that you won’t find in many countries other than the US.
A&W Cream Soda — what the name says, soda with cream taste
Cott – a brand native to Canada. Usually seen as a discount brand (and in some places only available in the “dollar stores”), but Cott is the only large brand in Canada with a cherry-flavor soda.
Dr Pepper — looks like cola, but has a quite different taste. Marketed as an “authentic blend of 23 flavors”, people can find marzipan, cherry and cola overtones in its taste. Outside the US, it’s available also in parts of Europe including the UK and the Nordic countries.
Big Red – a “red cream soda” from Texas
Cheerwine — a classic North Carolina cherry-flavored soft drink. Despite its name, it’s not alcoholic.
Hawaiian Punch — a fruit soft drink, originally created as an ice cream topping of seven fruits
Jarritos — a soft drink with different fruit flavors sold in glass bottles. Popular in Mexico and can also be found in Mexican restaurants in the US.
Root Beer — recipes vary for this dark-colored beverage, but commercial versions are made with sugar, sassafras bark or roots, to this comes other products of trees and spices and herbs
Vernors — A ginger ale from Detroit, Michigan, and one of the oldest actively produced sodas in the United States.
Rojita – “red” beverage with a rather artificial taste that takes getting used to
Kola Shaller is Nicaragua’s domestic Cola beverage, that tastes nothing like the Atlanta based beverage.
Guaraná Antarctica — Brazil’s signature soft drink, made with guaraná
Inca Kola — a Peruvian specialty, tasting like bubble gum
Postobón – a Colombian brand, best known for apple-flavored Manzana Postobón and also offers other fruit flavors as well as the “champagne cola” Colombiana
Regional non-alcoholic drinks
Schorle (Spritzer) is a refreshing drink made from fruit juice (and also wine) and can be found in most German restaurants and bars. Most common is Apfelschorle made with apple juice and sparkling spring water. Apfelschorle is also commonly available pre-mixed in stores. Traubensaft (grape juice), red and white are also popular.
Apple juice, sometimes called cider (take care as non-alcoholic and alcoholic versions can be found); particularly in the Northeast, a fresh dark variant can be found
Around the world
Chicha, a purple or yellow maize-based drink from Latin America.
Horchata, several different sweet chilled beverages made from grains or nuts, found in many Spanish-speaking countries.
Lassi, particularly Mango lassi, a yogurt-based drink found in Indian restaurants around the world.
Ayran, yogurt-based drink found in Turkish establishments – especially kebab places.
Sea buckthorns made from berries of a shrub (Hippophae), known as shājíshǔ (沙棘属) can be found in North West China and Siguniangshan National Park, often made a little sweeter by adding other fruit juices; or in its bitter form, known as Sanddorn on the island of Rügen, Germany, and most other German islands which is best drunk hot.
Soft drinks can be purchased at a lot of different places; supermarkets, kiosks, street vendors and restaurants among others, and the prices often vary a lot. Big bottles bought in a supermarket are usually the cheapest alternative, while a glass of the beverage in a restaurant is the most expensive. Also, vendors at places like airports and sports venues often charge as much as they can. In some European countries, for example Germany, there is a – sometimes quite significant – deposit on the bottles (and crate if you buy in bulk) which you can claim by returning to any shop also selling similar drinks.
A few destinations have major soft-drink-related attractions.
Birthplace of Pepsi in New Bern, North Carolina
Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas
Sculpture gardens at PepsiCo headquarters in Purchase, New York
The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia
Coca-Cola Stores in Las Vegas, Nevada and Orlando, Florida
California Citrus State Historic Park, Riverside, California.
In low income countries, watch out for fake products. Where water bottles are refilled with undrinkable tap water, there is also a risk that soft drinks are not what the label says.
In warm parts of the world and otherwise where you’re losing a lot of fluid through sweating, water is a better way to keep yourself hydrated.
Overall, over-consumption of sugared, fizzy and phosphates drinks are bad for your teeth, bone and health in general in the long run. Fruit and yogurt-based drinks are a good alternative to pop and alcoholic beverages. Overall, water is the best way to stay hydrated and eating actual fruit is almost always better than drinking juice or juice-derived beverages.
In some public spaces, like transport systems, eating or drinking anything at all may be prohibited. Also, when going through airport security you are just allowed to bring small amounts of liquids in your hand luggage which means that anything you want to drink airside or in the plane has to be purchased there, often at inflated prices.
When eating street food or especially the North American variant of fast food, soft drinks are frequently the beverage of choice (although there are often other alternatives available too).