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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Abbondio Chinotto

Coming back from class
Gleam of glass in my mailbox
Grading tests can wait

What did I find in my mailbox tonight? Why, nothing less than a donation of Weird Soda from our Mysterious Stranger! I am so moved that I wrote the haiku above in honor of this selfless individual who has done so much to further the cause of Weird Soda research. Bless you, Mysterious Stranger!

And what a soda we received! I have never heard of this one. It comes in a small 6.7 oz. bottle, which made me think I had better make sure it's not hooch-based. Indeed, it is not; it identifies itself as Abbondio Chinotto, a "Chinotto Carbonated Soft Drink". The label is definitely the classiest label I've ever seen on a Weird Soda: a nice brown background with yellow, and--get this--gold metallic accents, inclusing the name of the company (Abbondio). Not only that, but some of the text is in Italian. Allow me to quote from the bottlecap:

"Premiata Fabrica, dal 1889 bibite gassate Abbondio"

which the Google rendereth:

"Fabrica awarded since 1889 Abbondio fizzy drinks".

I ask you, can a Weird Soda opera be far behind? ARIA: "O amore gassate mio, quando si burp?"

The front of the label claims that "Since the end of 1800, travellers used to pause for refreshment in Tortona, where they could enjoy 'Chinotto' and it is still served today with this name." Verily, I am trembling with anticipation. Let's read the ingredients to heighten the mood:
Carbonated water, sugar, caramel IV, natural flavors, citric acid, salt.

I must have missed Caramel I-III. Or perhaps it's not a sequel, but rather an oxidation state or some such. And I'm intrigued by the salt. Crack that sucker!

Oh, wait. I don't have a bottle opener at work. Er...keys...teeth...SOMETHING...

Where and when
: donated by the Mysterious Stranger, 4/7/09
Color: appears to be a rich brown. Not quite as dark as Coke or Pepsi.
Scent: can't...get...it...open...
Color (continued): Yep. Still brown. The condensation on the sides of the bottle is pretty.
Scent: (sound of keys failing to open the cap, cursing)
Color (continued further): er...kinda coffeish?
Scent: (sound of power tools, including a Sawzall) OW!
Color (even more continuation): um...the brown kinda fades at the edges of the bottle.
Scent: (sound of carbonation escaping) YES! Now, the scent. It's spicy and sweet, with an interesting sharp floral note, almost like intense roses. Cola-like, but not harsh or acid.
Taste: Aack! A bit like cola right at first, but there is a very rapid attack of the Weird Herbal Bitter Beasties. An intense grassy-bitter flavor broadsides you just as the sweet is getting started. It's tart and bitter, like coffee mixed with lime juice, but with whipped cream on top. Really, really weird. I can't decide if it's more medicine-y or tree barky. The basic taste is pretty cola-ish, fairly sweet, but it has the massive weird stuff overwhelming it about half a second after the cola taste. I can't say I like it, but it's something different. Weird, even.
The sour and bitter linger in the aftertaste, with the bitter remaining longest. At least it doesn't have the heavy, greasy feeling some others have had--that would make this really vile. Instead, it's fairly clean, but the bitter is here to stay.

I'm guessing that the travellers who paused for this didn't exactly do so voluntarily. Or maybe it was something dads did to the kids in the back of the cart who wouldn't quit fighting. "You kids be quiet, or we'll pause in Tortona for refreshment!"

Aftertaste update: The sour has come from behind for a stunning victory over bitter.

Quaff rating: 2. You think "hey, this is a nice cola-ish drWWHHHOOAH! AAACK!"
Cough rating: 2.5. Didn't actually make me want to puke, but a spit-take was a possibility for a moment. Weird facial expressions definitely ensued.

10 comments:

  1. Pretty good wikipedia article about the stuff:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinotto

    The couple of times I've tried it I thought it was very similar to Moxie. I personally prefer a somewhat similar scandinavian soda flavor called Julmust which is much less bitter while still retaining the same kind of edge.

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  2. Just a bit of it. I think it contributes more to the bitterness; the soda isn't perceptibly salty or briny.

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  3. Just opened a bottle, bought at the Italian market in Philly.It taste like nothing I've had before. Bitter and harsh, and yes, a bit salty...

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  4. I bought an assortment of Abbondio sodas at Grocery Outlet this weekend. I had no idea what flavors they were but was feeling adventurous. The Chinotto was so weird that I googled it to find out what flavor it is. I found your review on it & read it to my family. We laughed until we cried. You description was dead on. I think it's the weirdest soda I've ever tasted. Then again, my mom who was from Denmark thought root beer was simply horrid. She said it tasted like something the dentist of her childhood gave her to rinse & spit.

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  5. I'm so glad you enjoyed the review. Yeah, this remains one of the Weirder ones. Not the best or worst, but very Weird.

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  6. Your review is a testament to how deeply colas, junk food and bat eating habits have spoiled people's tasting abilities. First, why compare it to cola? For its colour? I see no other reason. Cola taste? No way. Coffee mixed with lime juice? C'mon. It's a citrus fruit, yes, but coffee is nowhere near. Chinotto imho is just great, and in Italy 8 y.o. kids (as I once was) drink it without problems. Actually, they love it, but they have an educated palate (well most of them, Italy is going downhill fast as foreign influences triumph). They also eat (I have my son as an example) gorgonzola, taleggio, broccoli, mussels, shrimps, oysters, and many other things that the average anglo-saxon kid (and adult) wouldn't even touch, but that's another story.

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  7. I mean "BAD" eating habits, not "bat" .....lol.......

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  8. I'll add to that that Chinotto has plenty of lovers in Italy, also because it is a national soda, alternative to the "globalised" tastes of cola and co, and has something of a "vintage" flavour. It has experienced an incredibile growth in the recent years, as a lot of new brands have appeared on the market, which means a lot of people is discovering it and preferring it to other drinks. I'm an enthusiast fan myself, as I'm the author of the first web page wholly dedicated to chinotto (www.cpenti.it/chinotto/).
    I hope you give it a second chance and learn to appreciate it. Cheers.

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  9. I love Chinotto. There was a little Italian place used to my school where my mom used to buy it for me. Sanpellegrino makes a good one, but I just tried the Abbondio for the first time and I think it's definitely better.

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