Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Ting and Manao Soda
The U.S. is undoubtedly the world capital of soda. I mean, we invented Coca Cola, the greatest soda of all time. But, then we fucked it up with corn syrup and now you have to track down the glass bottles stamped "Hecho en Mexico" if you want "the real thing". We invented carbonated beverage bottling and nearly all of the name brand sodas that are available worldwide. So why is it that the best kind of soda in the world (aside from Coke) is not available widely in the U.S.?
To my tastes, the perfect soda is slightly sweet from real sugar and refreshingly tart from either real lime or real grapefruit. Ting, Jamaica's favorite soda, is a good example. It is grapefruit-tangy enough and not too sweet to actually quench your thirst. It is something you crave on a hot day, and makes an amazing mixer with Rum, Vodka or Gin. It makes complete sense that Jamaicans love Ting and need not mess with 7UP or any of that syrupy garbage.
But Ting is not the only great, slightly sour soda I have come across in, perhaps not coincidentally, other of the world's hot climate countries. Schweppes Manao Soda, available only in Thailand, is maybe my favorite soda of all time. Debuted in 2003, Manao Soda (Manao is Thai for lime), is uncharacteristically unsweet for a Thai soda, most of which taste like undiluted cordial. And it is made with real lime juice, about which a Coca Cola Thailand represenative says "We believe that this - Prew Sa tung nam tung naur (fresh taste of the real fruit and juice) - has been to our success".
In India, if you order a "lime soda" in a restaurant you get bottled plain soda water with fresh squeezed lime juice and either sugar or salt. The salt bit might seem a bit odd, but if you are in the desert in Rajasthan and sweating more than you can imbibe, the salt begins to make sense as a desperate bid to retain some liquid in your cells. The sweet version of Indian lime soda has been bottled and sold in the form of Limca soda, available in India and some Indian ex-pat hubs like Detroit and Toronto. This stuff is a bit more in line with your average lemon-lime soda and probably there is no real juice in it, but it does have an odd, slight taste of ginger.
The only sodas you can source readily in the States that come to close to that crucial sweet/sour dichotomy are a bit more of the Euro high-end variety: San Pelligrino Limonata, San Pelligrino Aranciata, and Orangina. Oh, and please do get out of my face with that "Fresca" bullshit. That stuff tastes more Crystal Lite than soda.