Kofola's sparkling renaissance


It is well known that Coca-Cola is the most popular soft-drink in the world. In fact, only a few countries can boast a beverage which sells more than the mighty Coke. In my native Scotland, the drink of choice is Irn-Bru, with Scots apparently spending more than 40 million pounds on this syrupy orange liquid a year. My fellow countrymen would proudly tell you how this humble soft-drink 'made in Scotland from girders', as the slogan goes, blew Pepsi and Coca-Cola right out of the water. And here in the Czech Republic too, it is a local fizzy drink that's really given the international giants a run for their money. Kofola's website proudly proclaims that it is the best selling drink in, wait for it, 2 litre bottles in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The humble Kofola dates back to the 1960s, a Communist brainchild born of a 'surplus of caffeine extracted from coffee beans'. Kofola is a sort of liquorice-y, citrus-y, extremely sugary drink which in some pubs is even served on tap - often in enormous glasses. Its drinkers are often, but not always, those with a hangover, or the under eighteens.

I have heard mutterings that the taste of Kofola is akin to that of Dandelion and Burdock. But for me, it stands out as a drink that is utterly beyond compare. Extensive research in my immediate circle has come to the conclusion that it is not a good mixer with anything, nor does it go well with very many foods. But yet, sometimes there is just no substitute for that zing that Kofola, and only Kofola, leaves in your mouth, after a first gulp.

I enjoyed finding a little bit out about Kofola too. Originally invented by pharmacists and biochemists, it actually went down really well with the then Czechoslovak public straight away. In the sixties, it was the only soft-drink around, with Western brands banned by the Communist government. Within ten years it was a registered trademark and reigned supreme. But things looked bad indeed for Kofola after the revolution, with the arrival of Goliaths such as Coke and Pepsi onto the Czech market. Plucky Kofola hung in there, though, and after a bit of rebranding, is enjoying something of a second heyday.

...So, a litre of Kofola does give a litre of Czech beer a run for its money. But I wouldn't be a true Scot if I didn't choose that sickly, bubblegum-scented, orange fizz of ours, Irn-Bru, every time!