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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Abali Original Flavor Yogurt Soda

The Kibbitzer-in-Chief still doesn't like soda. That's OK; it's important to the integrity of the Lab to have someone who is not enchanted by the very idea of the things we are quaffing. I've never quite understood it, though; to me, soda is a source of joy, even revelation.
Well, she has found something this time which may indeed produce revelation. I fear, though, that it may be revelation of the "forbidden, soul-crushing knowledge humanity was never meant to have" variety.
While out and about today, the Kibbitzer made a visit to Persepolis Market, which is a specialty Persian market in San Marcos. The Kibbitzer-in-Chief had some specific items in mind (she came back to the Lab with a variety of interesting things, including pomegranate molasses), but that didn't stop her from acquiring some Weird Sodas when the opportunity presented itself.

There are other things which can be acquired opportunistically. Such as nasty infections.

She called me at my work after she had returned home, and told me that she and the rest of the staff had brought home some Weird Soda, and that they had sampled it.
"How was it?", I asked.
Silence on the phone. I didn't know you could hear someone shuddering with horror. You can.
"You should come home," she said, "and try it."
Images of Invasion of the Body Snatchers ran through my mind. Join us...join us...
"The kids didn't die," she said.
It was then that I knew that this situation would call for my full capacities as the Quaffmaster. This was the real thing--a Weird Soda loose in the field! Less experienced tasters down, possibly injured. A cry for help. My calling.
"That sounds delightfully awful. I'll be home soon," I said.

So here I am, sitting at the counter, with an unopened bottle of Abali Original Flavor Yogurt Soda. The Kibbitzer had mentioned that the soda involved yogurt. Yogurt drinks, as nice as they can be, are not really Weird.
But then she confirmed that it was also carbonated. Carbonated yogurt is emphatically Weird.

I have no fear. NO FEAR.

She also mentioned it being lumpy.


Where and when: purchased May 2009 at Persepolis Market, San Marcos, CA
Color: when quiescent, it is separated into two layers. The top is whitish and translucent--not transparent--and the bottom is opaque, creamy white. This is presumably the yogurt part. The bottle suggests shaking gently before opening. I do so: oh God. There are now little chunks of whitish stuff swirling in the upper part. This is not a homogenous mixture, but it's not like the fruit pulp you see in stuff like Orangina. It's curdled.
Scent: EEEEURGH! Oh my Lord. Bile rises in my throat. The Kibbitzer-in-Chief is laughing at me. It smells--actually, it smells a bit like Biotta. It's the lactic acid, I think, but this isn't like buttermilk or plain yogurt. It's hideous.
A deeper sniff (shiver) reveals the distinct smell of wholesome yogurt underneath, but the top layer of the smell is almost indescribably bad.
Taste: Let me preface this with another excerpt from the phone call.
Me: "Was it sweet?"
K-i-C: "I don't know, it wasn't on my tongue that long."
Junior Assistant Tester: "It was on MY tongue. It was awful."
Here goes. *quaff*
Remember when I wrote about the hypothetical possibility of a cheese-flavored soda? The universe likes its jokes, doesn't it?
The taste is very, very strong: a combination of fairly strong carbonation (and the accompanying acid) and slightly fermented plain yogurt. The yogurt is extremely tart; it's more like buttermilk or sharp cheddar cheese than yogurt.
There are two distinct flavor layers here. The carbonated yogurt is on the bottom. It's strong and very Weird, but tolerable (sort of); very much like salty, carbonated buttermilk. I would never seek it out, but it's not hellish. The top layer, which is to the bottom as a scum of poisonous toxic waste is to the murky swamp water on which it floats, is so awful that it almost defies description. But I'll do my best. There is something about it which is strongly reminiscent of the Biotta Digestive Drink. Since the two have very little in common, I'll have to hypothesize that it is a fermentation product; something in the bacterial waste. But really, I'd rather not describe it. I'd rather not drink it anymore.
Ugh...blech. Maybe if I shake it up a bit.
No, that's worse. This stuff is really foul. Personally, I think it's slightly less foul than the Biotta (in the sense that death by guillotine is better than death by cheese grater); the Kibbitzer disagrees. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to finish the bottle, though.
One more try.
*quaff* aw, crud...
I thought that taking a bigger swig might let me provide a deeper analysis. It almost let me provide a thoroughly visual and tactile analysis of the near-term digestive process. I've consumed about a third of the bottle, and prudence suggests I stop there.

We have learned something important here. If my hypothesis is correct, we may have discovered something in common between several pretty foul Weird Sodas: bacterial poop. The ingredients list of the Abali is succinct: milk, carbonated water, yogurt culture, and salt. That such depths of horror and nausea could be contained within those seven words (if you count the "and") is a testament to the poetic skills of the bottler.

The Kibbitzer-in-Chief is gleefully reminding me that she obtained samples of two additional flavors of Abali, to be sampled in the near future. And yes, I shall quaff them.
Such is my calling and destiny.

Quaff rating: 0.5. I like cheese. I don't like cheese soda, apparently.
Cough rating: 4. I didn't throw up, but I suspect I would have if I'd gone further.


  1. It's a good thing you're done teaching for the summer. I doubt your collegues would admire that "I had to take a day off work to recover from drinking a soda" as an acceptable excuse.

  2. The four of us each tasted it, then left the still-full bottle on the restaurant table. As described above, plus waaaaay too salty.

  3. Way cool website!!

    Yogurt soda sounds like a dumb idea.

    CO2, when dissolved into water makes carbonic acid; a weak acid but likely strong enough to curdle milk.

    I'm glad someone tried the Abali yogurt soda, and may their live's be remembered as a lesson to learn from.

  4. Glad you like the website. It's fun to write.
    I guess I kind of hoped that yogurt soda would be something like cream soda. Boy was I wrong. And I suspect you're right about the acid curdling, although it wasn't particularly lumpy. The curdling might not have been so bad. It was the fermentation which was so unspeakably horrid.

    1. I come from the future to tell you that you are indeed correct about the carbonic acid. When I was young, I would combine sodas in fiendish ways whenever I had the chance. I have a vivid memory of deciding to combine some of all the drinks at my birthday party once, including several kinds of soda and one kind of milk. It curdled right away. It was NASTY.

  5. Actually I drink kefir a lot (the plain trader joe's kind) and more often than not it's slightly carbonated. (Ever so slightly.) It's actually quite nice and refreshing. I had another Afghani yogurt drink thinking it was like kefir and it was salty and awful. It might be the salt.

  6. I like kefir too, although I never noticed the carbonation. The Abali was so awful for me because of the half-fermented taste, although the saltiness didn't help.

  7. I was given a bottle of Abali Yogurt Soda by an Iranian friend about a month ago and have been hooked ever since. I love it. I drink one a day. I have been a kefir and buttermilk drinker for years so I guess that was why I liked it. It is tangy, zingy, fizzy, sour with a bit of a salty taste. It is not sweet or thick. If you are someone that likes (I mean really likes) plain soda water and also likes plain kefir or buttermilk, then I think you may like yogurt soda. The mint flavor is even better. It is only a hint of mint. To be fair my husband thinks it is horrible and couldn't even swallow it.

    The yogurt is not curdled in it, if it was it would be firm. It is smooth and just needs to be shaken into it. When you buy it, it is separated so you have to shake it then wait so that it doesn't explode when you open it. Right before opening, roll it around gently and open slowly. And reshake while drinking if needed. It is not good unless it is well mixed. I Just thought I would share that yes, there are people (other than those that may have grown up on it) that like it.

    1. I agree, it is delicious and I too have been hooked on it since trying it years ago. The mint is my favorite.

    2. My favorite drink...

    3. It's beyond me that people eat blue cheese on their salads and dip their buffalo wings in it but turn up their noses to Abali Yogurt Drink (BTW, it's Persina name is Dough.)

    4. Spot on!! I love dogh/lassi/ayran aka yogurt drink/soda.

    5. I think this is so delicious, Im hooked to two a day..always drink it cold and it will make you happy

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  9. I'm glad to hear that there are some who like it! One thing we value highly at the Lab is diversity of opinion. I think I can even imagine...with some difficulty *grin* this might be a taste one could acquire.
    If everyone liked the same stuff, there would be no Weirdness. So let me clarify--even in the midst of my horror, loathing, and nausea, I salute those who made Abali, as well as those who enjoy it, for encouraging Weirdness in soda!

    Thanks for the suggestions on proper quaffing technique, Leslie. Perhaps I'll try it again.

  10. I like the soda though all others in my family (really) don't. It's definitely an acquired taste, but ultimately no worse than a very strong beer or straight tonic water - but sans the booze of course :-) My theory is it was developed as alcohol substitute for adults, and it works for me! I picked some up recently at the Cedars Market at 7th Avenue and Escondido Boulevard.

  11. Holy crap Quaffmaster...

    If this stuff is a 4 for Cough, I don't want to know what's a 5...

  12. My policy is that a 5 will only be given to something which actually makes me throw up.

  13. It's cute to dramatically talk about how much you hate something, but have a little openmindedness, and you just might find you like it.

    I first had doogh and nearly gagged because it wasn't what I expected. But I came back to it a week later and found I really enjoyed the stuff.

    The other day, I bought yogurt soda (with mint!) and liked that a lot, too.

  14. I can only write about my experiences as I have them; my initial experience with Abali was pretty unpleasant. I'd be very willing to try it again, and plan to do so and post the experience.
    I am very enamored of openmindedness--arguably, being openminded about soda is the point of the blog. I'll look forward to my next Abali experience.

    I do agree that I can imagine how it might be an acquired taste.

  15. My daughter learned to love this stuff through an Iranian friend and sent us two bottles in her Christmas package. We thought it was so horrible that it must have spoiled en route. I Googled it and found this blog. Now I know it's supposed to taste and smell this way and probably won't poison us. Lordy!

  16. My children 8, 10, and 11 all love this stuff more than I do. On the other hand, it is "not my wife's thing". Acid does not curdle the yogurt, as it curdles milk. So, there is no spoiledness. Needs to be shaken hard as Leslie said, but do not open after that. Wait a few minutes, then slowly try. The acrid acid taste is more refreshing than regular carbonated drinks.

  17. I am sipping on some mint abali yogurt soda and i wont lie... it's not that bad... but then again, i find kombucha to be delicious.

  18. i love doogh! maybe it's because i am part Iranian so I've had it since I was little. personally, the mint flavored one is better than original.

  19. I tried abali and originally was surprised by the fact that it is not sweetened. I don't drink much soda, or anything sweet, but that plus the carbonation gave a sourness I was not ready for. I was taken aback. I passed the bottle to my boyfriend (who has blood sugar issues), and he was immediatly hooked. At about this time our gyros and schwarma plates arrived, and I started washing down my food with the soda. I was converted. It was like taking a bite of Athens and going all the way to Tehran in the same moment. Now I love the stuff by itself and I really wish I could buy it at the corner store, because both myself and my man would drink it every day!

  20. I love Abali Mint Yougurt Soda. There is a process that must be done before drinking it. You must shake the bottle and by shaking I mean turning the bottle upside down and then right side up to mix the yogurt and the soda together. Once it is thoroughly mixed, you have to open the bottle slowly, releasing a little gas at a time or it will explode. It tastes a million times better if mixed properly.

  21. Oh my gosh! Abali Mint flavored soda is the BEST thing I have ever had. Seriously. It definitely is an acquired taste, though. I am half Persian, so I have had it since I was little. It is addicting, and I find myself craving it. I even add a little more salt to it, and its perfect!

  22. Also, as the previous commenter noted, you have to shake it before you drink it, to get the clumps out. Then let it sit for a while so it doesnt explode when you open it.

  23. LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT. I am 100 % Iranian and drink Abali soda occasionaly. the mint soda is new hopefully this time I go to Finicia I buy some and try it out. I grew up with drinking this, and now that I'm 25 still love drinking it.

  24. It is wierd for anyone expecting "Soda" as it is expected to be in the west. Sweet. However, once you drink it, and yes you've mixed it before drinking it, you get hooked. I love it and anytime I go to an Iranian restaurant with friends, I love the look on their face when they try a bit of my doogh. It is worth saying that not only you will learn to love it, it is really good for you. Iranians and Russians have been eating and drinking this stuff for thousands of years, give or take a few hundred.

  25. lol, I almost threw up from reading how nasty this was in the review. I can't imagine drinking something like this. This sounds like something someone would serve with hakarl to create the ultimate unsatisfying meal.

  26. It's only in more recent years we have come to expect a soda to be sweet. It's only in more recent years we've gotten used to thinking that salty things are usually crunchy.

    In fact, I think the whole issue of whether anything tastes good to us is how similar it is to our expectations. Go into this drink expecting that it is not sweet, that it is slightly tart as yogurt is, and salty.

    My palate is pretty open. I eat a lot of Indian food with (plain) yogurt, as well as Turkish and Middle Eastern foods which often use yogurt or have it as an accompaniment. People tuned into to Greek yogurt would probably like Abali too.

    I tried both flavors of Abali 10 years ago and it wasn't love at first sip, but with repeat tries it tasted better and better. It got to where I was buying it in multi-packs.

    Now that we don't live in California anymore, I really miss it. The closest I can get is a non-carbonated thicker drink called Ayran - it's rich, very satisfying and filling, and has the same tart-yorgurt flavor as Abali. One really good thing about both Abali and Ayran is that they are both very low in carbs.

    So again, go into this drink thinking "refreshing yogurt" and you'll be more open to its charms.

  27. Oh, and a PS to the above post... you might understand and be mentally "ready" if you try making your own drink.

    Go buy some fresh mint (optional), plain soda water, plain whole milk yogurt (not non or low fat) yogurt. Taste and smell the yogurt, make it your friend.

    If you use it, make sure that mint is chopped or pulsed reeeeeeally fine so you don't have any chunkies.

    We used a blender for this operation but a spoon would work too ... Stir up the yogurt alone first to make it thinner, add mint if using, and then slowly add the soda and stir gently. You get to decide how thin or thick your beverage will be.

    There - now you know what's in it and what to expect, so the smell and taste will be no surprise. Enjoy.

  28. im drinking doogh right now. its amazimg!!! maybe its an acquired taste.

  29. The four ladies that didn't like it is because they were not smart enough to know you need to shake the drink so it can be all in one and not ion layer and lumpy. You need to educate yourself prior to experimenting new items. It is very good and beneficial for you. It has probiotic.

  30. The lumps are not a fault, they're a feature! I make my own with mint, yogurt and carbonated water but that's just because I'm too cheap to but the Fancy Storebought Stuff.


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