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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guest Review: Inca Cola

I am thrilled to relay to you a guest review from a reader who identifies himself as "The Doc". Apparently, The Doc went out and got himself a sample of something called Inca Cola. Here it is, presented with no edits (as it is pretty freakin' splendid as-is): What's up, Doc?

Widely recognized as the national soft drink of Peru, Inca Cola bills itself intermittently as "The Flavor of Peru," which suggests it tastes like human sacrifice, and this is doubly weird given that it was actually created by a British expat in 1935. Therefore, I am eminently certain this will be suitable as a Guest Review of a Weird Soda. However, I think the best summation was an shorter-lived slogan, "there is only one and Peru knows why" (we presume that the executive who came up with that was, indeed, executed), and we'll get to that. It is now distributed by Coca-Cola, who bought it out. For the purposes of this review, I (ab)used my staff members, who are eager to try anything as long as someone else is buying.

Where and when: Last week sometime. You can find it at many specialty grocers; I got this at a Latino supermarket near my office. (We also got Malta Hatuey there. One particularly articulate staff member described it as similar to the fermented prune beverage her mother makes [not kindly] with a note of molasses. This seems congruent with your previous review.)

Color: The beverage is yellow like serum, but this is to be expected given the murderous ritualistic name. Actually, it's yellow like radioactive serum, as if the master of ceremonies had plunged his knife into uranium yellowcake and then into his victim. It is, however, mercifully clear.

Smell: Inca Cola is ostensibly based on lemon verbena, and you can get the lemon note immediately, but a stronger and more dominant note is bubble gum. All the staff agreed it smelled like that, as if someone had taken a bottle of Crystal Light and spilled it on a pack of Bazooka. It is quite strong if you're not expecting it -- not unpleasant, but intense.

Taste: The smell is not deceiving: it tastes pretty much as it smelled. The initial lemon taste is immediately walloped by a Juicy Fruit-like flavor, and this then sort of erodes back into the lemon which has itself eroded into a decrepit bitter citron. It's sort of like being mugged after the mugger offers you a Sprite: the initial taste is nice, then you get clonked over the head, your wallet is taken (in this case around $3 for the sixpack) and waking up you're still reeling from the whacking with the taste of the Sprite getting bitter in your stomach and on your tongue. In small quantities it is actually not un-refreshing, and certainly perks you up, but when quaffed in full vigour will probably just give you heartburn after you finish gasping from the taste assault.

Quaff rating
: 3, if sipped. 2, if consumed recklessly. If sipped, it's rather nice. Otherwise, find some Pepcid and some ice for your head.
Cough rating: Similarly, 1, if sipped. 2, if consumed recklessly. You will probably literally cough at that point.

I can see why there is only one taste of Peru. I do keep some in my fridge for when I need something to perk me up, but that's about the only use I have for it.


I have nothing to add, except that I am kind of choked up. That was beautiful. Beautiful.

Thanks, Doc!


  1. beautiful? It was only slightly amusing in a junior high sort of way.

    1. Says the Anon poster who can't even be bothered with capitalization. You expect Wine Spectator-like reviews from a site called "WeirdSodaReview," do you? The day there are soft drink sommeliers is the day I will take them seriously. I found this very funny & clever. Still . . . matters of taste are not to be disputed. So, there you go.

  2. I've had Inca Cola, I live in the birthplace of Coca Cola and Pepsi and I can say unequivocally that "Inca" is the best d_m_ canned soda on earth.

  3. For a more traditional Incan beverage (one which dates rather further back than the 1930s) I heartily recommend "chicha morada" -- which translates, roughly, to "purple-corn cider." (Not to be confused with "chicha limeƱa" ...or at least the examples of each I've encountered tasted vastly different.) Made 'correctly' (scare-quotes for subjectivity) it is deliciously refreshing; made otherwise, any pleasant flavors present are drowned out by a deluge of bubblegum flavor. I've found even the nasty-to-my-palate variety difficult to source reliably despite living in an area with a significant Peruvian sub-population within its significant South-American population.

    It is definitely worth the effort to track down, however.

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