It’s not always The Real Thing.
Here’s our guide to the upstart colas made to resist the yoke of Yankee imperialism.
Country of Origin Czechoslovakia
Has the drink outlasted the country? Yes (though technically ‘Czechoslovakia’ exists as a holding company to avoid awkwardness over the two countries’ shared embassy in London).
Similarity to Coke 6/10
Tasting notes Herbal, mechanical. Like Jägermeister for cars.
I remember my first sip of Kofola: it’s not, so I learnt later from fellow enthusiasts, something you forget. I was nursing a Gobi Desert of a mouth courtesy of a night’s worth of that other great Czech beverage, Pilsner Urquell, and was desperate for a Coke. However, at the small local bar in Brno where I’d staggered to recover, the cupboard of American global drinks capitalism was bare. Instead, I was offered a thick black concoction poured from draught that smelt like burdock and motor oil. It was sublime.
Kofola was created in 1959, as a subdivision of then-communist Czechoslovakia’s scientific establishment tasked with finding a use for the excess caffeine produced by the coffee-roasting process.
It survived the fall of Communism, the Velvet Divorce that split the Czechs and Slovaks, even a dubious advertising campaign which stated ‘If you love it, you have nothing to question’ – which sounds like a hangover from the era of the Secret Police. Kofola is still available all over the two countries- a taste of nostalgia for many and a hangover cure for all.
Country of Origin Yugoslavia
Has the drink outlasted the country? Yes.
Closeness to Coke 3/10
Tasting notes Sweet and summery, fruity and herbal. Like if Coke had been invented by Laurie Lee.
On taste alone, Cockta is probably the strangest Coca Cola replacement you’ll ever taste. Like if gummy bears had been soaked in cough medicine, or a Red Bull produced by a kindly Gloucestershire farmer’s wife rather than an insanely branded multinational. It’s one of those drinks where even after several tastings you’re still not quite sure if you like it.
The soda was created as an explicit ideological rival to Coca Cola by scientists of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.
Cockta is still about, and is most popular, in Slovenia. Its current branding paints it as if it were some sort of Resistance syrup, a beverage that resulted in millions of Slovenians following their dreams as opposed to the product of a regime determined to control everything, down to the consumption of fizzy drinks.
Country of Origin Peru
Has the drink outlasted the country? It is the country.
Similarity to Coke 1/10
Tasting notes Like getting Acqua di Parma sprayed in your mouth.
In the small but substantial field of sodas-as-nation-building-projects, Inca Kola stands tall. Where the world zigs, Peru zags. While everyone else drinks their cola as some indeterminable brownish substance, the buttercup hue of Inca Kola is a knowing subversion of the form; two proud fingers in the face of Uncle Sam and his access to caramel colourings.
How does it taste? Unhelpfully, a Peruvian might say ‘Peru’. Jorge Luis Borges went for ‘implausible’. All manner of folk theories have tried to unpick its inimitable flavour, most have arrived at lemon verbena, although the easiest thing you can settle on is that it tastes like itself. Which, again, is not helpful, but you’re not reading a wine magazine, so stay with us.
More dominant than the drink itself, however, is the power of the Inca Kola brand within Peruvian borders. For a country of exceptional diversity, porous to seafaring influence for three hundred years, the drink harks back to a mythic state of nature, when the Inca Empire spread across the whole north-west coast of the continent. This is intentional. The world may adopt all other manner of Peruvian dishes, and in turn, impose its own tastes on Lima and Cusco, but – as the ad rhetoric stresses – Inca Kola is theirs. You may not like it, but they love it.
Country of Origin Turkey
Has the drink outlasted the country? No. Turkey is stronger than ever.
Similarity to Coke 8/10
Tasting notes Sour, saccharine, a bit spiced.
Picture the scene: a bewildered Chevy Chase is crossing Times Square one morning when he is accosted by a van full of men waving Turkish flags, chanting ‘champione, champione, ole ole ole.’ Shaken, he makes a beeline for the nearest café, and orders himself a coffee. An ersatz Rodney Dangerfield in a cowboy hat recognises Chevy immediately and sidles on up to him, asking how his wife Yenge is doing.
Chase can’t compute. ‘Yenge?’ he asks. Cowboy Dangerfield continues, asking how his ‘Çoluk Çocuk’ are doing, and telling him about Sergen’s incredible goal last night. ‘Besiktas! Your team! Besiktas!’ Chevy feigns knowledge, before asking the cowboy what he’s been drinking. ‘Cola Turka! Haven’t you had it before?’
As it turns out, Chevy’s yankee-doodle companion has been utterly Turkified by the musky libation he’s been sipping from, a far cry from the insipid trash he’s been drinking all these years. And look how much happier he is for it! Cola Turka was, you see, a drink produced in the wake of the Iraq War by an enterprising Turkish food conglomerate. America had debased its international reputation, and the folks at Ülker saw an opportunity for some Atatürkian mischief, rattling the sabres for what they called ‘a conversation around positive nationalism’. It was good enough for Chevy, who appeared in half a dozen more adverts for the brand, each time edging closer to a one-way flight to Istanbul.
Country of Origin Nazi Germany
Has the drink outlasted the country? Yes, thank God.
Similarity to Coke 1/10
Tasting notes Citrus bukkake.
When the Nazis weren’t busy searching for the Ark of the Covenant, they invested a huge amount of time in inferiority complexes. One particular example was the desire to produce an official, more Nazi alternative to Coca Cola after a us boycott made it difficult to make. The result was Fanta: the only one of our Coke competitors to have really made the big time. You know what it tastes like; your dentist knows what effects its consumption has.
Fanta has numerous high-profile fans. Perhaps the weirdest is Pope Benedict xvi, who was a child during the Nazi era. The ex-pontiff has retained a lifelong love of the one sweet treat he was allowed during childhood. A spokesman confirmed that he drank ‘four cans a day’ and routinely tried to force it on international guests. A spokesman for the company that now runs Fanta brushed off the Bishop of Rome’s enthusiasm by offering to send a few cases to the Vatican, but commenting that ‘we will not be using him in any advertising campaigns’. The name of that company which subsumed the soft drink of the Thousand Year Reich and parred the Roman Catholic Church? Coca-Cola of course.
McDaid’s Football Special
Country of Origin Ireland
Has the drink outlasted the country? Not yet
Similarity to Coke 2/10
Tasting notes It tastes like red, the colour red.
McDaid’s Football Special was ostensibly invented in the 1940s as an ‘exciting’ non-alcoholic drink that could be eagerly chugged by underage sportspeople. Originally named ‘Football Cup’, it was specifically designed to be poured into trophies and imbibed that way, in a frenzy of backwash that passed for bonhomie in the days before high fives were invented.
All of which disguises its other, more practical use as a fluid for delousing sheepfolds. Football Special is not merely fizzy, it rips through tongue molecules like a gushing javelin of abattoir detergent. The result is basically a cream soda, but one with a fizz so tooth-melting in character, that its delayed action aftertaste of creamy vanilla only really emerges once the Mr Muscle-strength carbonisation has wormed its way through the fleshy tubing of the sports-mad Donegal youngsters that form its traditional market.
Despite its aspirational billing as ‘the world-famous football special’, McDaid’s is barely seen beyond the border counties and rarely at all as far south as Dublin, where it exists as a totem of those of country parentage, a gift brought back from intra-island holidays, or a ritualistic, enamel-attacking drink used to hasten the appearance of the tooth fairy. It is still very popular throughout the north and west of Ireland, however, largely due to the lack of a) drinks which taste nicer, and b) industrial cleaners which smell like cream soda. A tonic by and for the Gods.