LIKE “DALLAS”, ONLY WITH SOFT DRINKS

Icelandic Sodas Past and Present
20.8.2004
Words by Paul Fontaine-Nikolov
1. ORKA
The mother of all power drinks. Using the foolproof blend of ginseng, guarana and caffeine, Orka (which means “power”) not only has more drink per volume than competing power drinks, but is also much cheaper. It lacks the overt sweetness of many power drinks and goes well with fish or chicken. A newer version, in a red bottle, tastes like strawberry Faygo - I defy anyone to force down more than one bottle of this concoction.

2. EGILS APPELSÍN
An orange soda which probably owes most of its revenue to “jólaöl” (see Malt Extrakt), this cheeky number is best bought in glass bottles. The orange flavour is light and closely resembles oranges, although the distinct aftertaste of aspartame might put many people off. Great for barbeques and picnics. A newer version, which is also red, tastes like a cross between oranges and lemons, only very sweet.

3. GRAPEFRUIT
That’s right - grapefruit soda. Don’t let that put you off, though; this sharp and not-too-sweet blend is very refreshing. Flavoured with real grapefruit, it mixes well with rum and vodka. Shaking the bottle before opening to loosen the sediment on the bottom is not recommended.

4. MALT EXTRAKT
A truly Icelandic creation. It’s colour and consistency resembles Guiness and it is traditionally mixed with Egils Appelsín to make jólaöl. The taste is very sweet, hearty, and could lead one to think that it is in fact Guiness at the pre-fermentation stage. This is really more of a winter drink and accompanies beef, lamb and pork quite well. Rumoured to contain traces of alcohol, it’s also a good drink to enjoy in the evening.

5. MIX
If Hell served a soft drink, this would be the one. Billed as being a fruit blend soft drink, the overall taste is syrupy sweet with an aftertaste that can linger for days. The different fruit flavours are completely indistinguishable from each other, resembling one of your generic “fruit flavoured drinks” that you find gathering dust on the shelves, only carbonated. In fact, I only list it here as a recommendation to avoid it whenever possible.

All of these soft drinks happen to made by the same company, Egils. It is interesting to note that this company is giving Vífilfell - the Icelandic company distributing Coca-Cola - a run for their money and has proven a worthy competitor. Ironically, the only thing American about Icelandic Coke is the trademark and the syrup. The staff is completely Icelandic and the only money which goes to Coke is for buying more Coke syrup. Vífifell has come up with its own drinks, and my personal favourite in this group would have to be Toppur, a carbonated water beverage low in both sodium and sugar. Try the lemon.

Not all Icelandic soft drinks have fared as well. In the 70s and 80s especially, a series of soft drinks came out which are still the laughing stock of the nation today. While trying to come up with an Icelandic equivalent to Coke is understandable - and was attempted in the form of Ískóla in the late 80s - there are others which can only fall under the category of “What on earth were they thinking?”

At the top of the list in this category would have to be Súkkó. The catch phrase for this mid-80s beverage says it all: “Why buy chocolate and soda separately, when you can get them in the same product?” How the idea of chocolate soda ever made it out of committee is a mystery and its market life - about a few weeks - is probably one of the greatest failures in world soft drink history.

What company would dare produce such a horrible drink? In the next issue of Grapevine, we’ll explore Sól, the company responsible for Súkkó and other drinks, a company that one insider described as “like the TV show ‘Dallas’, only with soft drinks”. Stay tuned.

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