Today's Swiss soda beverages are the offsprings of a place where mineral water was only consumed in small doses as prescribed by a doctor.
For centuries, mineral water was only used for healing purposes. Some of the popular springs would even bottle and sell the water at a premium. Only at the end of the 18th century, mineral water was discovered as a thirst-quenching beverage. And for the first time, the syrup was added to create a sweetened beverage.
In 1843, Henri Nestlé set up a factory for "Mineral Water and Carbonated Lemonade" in Vevey, but it did not remain in operation for long. During the 19th century, the beverage of choice was alcohol. But thanks to its prohibition and the steep taxes, alcohol's popularity started to decline. Sweetened mineral waters were rejuvenated in the process.
In Ticino, gazzose sodas were produced since the end of the 19th century. Among the oldest Swiss soda beverages is Elmer Citro, which was launched in 1927. Nowadays, there are several Swiss soft drinks with cult status.
Here are my favorite Swiss soda beverages:
Arguably, Appenzell Flauder has the most distinct taste of all sodas on this list. Made from a secret recipe containing at least melissa balm and elderberries, the genius behind Flauder's unmistakable flavor is Gabriela Manser.
In the Appenzell region where Flauder is bottled, people have long had special herbs for all walks of life: For luck and happiness, for balance, courage, and energy. Based on this old wisdom, she has come up with just the right blend of Alpine herbs to create a Swiss cult soda!
For many Swiss, ELMER Citro brings back memories of school trips to the mountains. After a day of hiking, this lemony fresh carbonated beverage tasted simply heavenly. This Swiss soda has been produced in Elm in the canton Glarus since 1927. Its invention was closely linked to a local spring, which was the case for many Swiss soda beverages with such a long history.
Today, Elmer Citro is part of Ramseier AG. Its iconic status is underlined by the official entry in the Swiss Culinary Heritage database. One of the most popular ways of consuming Elmer Citro is as a Panaché: add one quarter into a glass and fill it up with beer!
Gazosa La Fiorenzana
Exuding a feeling of vacationing in the South, the Gazzose Ticinesi is a traditional beverage with modern style. Bottled in Ticino since the 19th century, this timeless classic has never lost its charm.
Look out for Gazosa1883 from Mendrisio, which dates back to 1883. To put it into perspective: Coca Cola was invented in 1886 - three years later. Another favorite gazosa brand, Gazosa La Fiorenzana, has been bottled in a small town near Bellinzona since 1921.
Go to any bar or restaurant that has a name, and you will find a line-up of charming glass bottles with metal lids. Flavors include anything from lemon to raspberry. But for the original taste, order "La Fiorenzana" with bitter orange flavor.
Rivella Swiss Soda
The fact that Rivella contains 35 percent whey (milk serum) makes it an über-Swiss beverage. What other nation manages to market a bi-product of fermented milk as a soda? This brown-colored Swiss soda tastes slightly sour, but the caramelized sugar nicely balances the flavor profile.
Rivella has been quenching the thirst of Swiss since 1952. This beverage line enjoys 19 percent market share in Switzerland where the annual per capita consumption is 10 liters. Only 20 percent of Rivella is consumed abroad; mainly in European countries such as Austria, Germany, Luxemburg, and Netherlands. Overseas market introductions in Japan, UK, and the US have previously failed.
Rivella AG is a family-owned business that was rated as "Best Employer in 2021" by Handelszeitung and Le Temps. Rivella AG currently has around 250 humans and 10'000 cows on their payroll, producing this popular soda in Rothrist.
Goba Cola is the Swiss Coca Cola
It is a case of "David vs. Goliath": A small bottler from the tiny canton of Appenzell decides to create a Swiss Cola and go up against the market leader from Atlanta, USA!
Called Goba Cola, this beverage was devised by the woman behind Flauder - another innovative Swiss soda! Instead of cane sugar, Gabriela Manser's Goba Cola contains the natural sweetener Stevia. Compared to Coca Cola, this substitution reduces the calories in half.
And, like with any delicacies from Appenzell, there is a secret mix of alpine herbs from the Alpstein region that make this cola a beverage you need to try...
Apfelschorle Carbonated Apple Juice
Schorle is a German name for apple juice mixed with carbonated water. With apples being the Swiss national fruit, does it surprise you that many iconic dishes contain the delicious fruit? Take Birchermüesli, which was originally called Apfeldietspeise ("apple diet meal"). In this agricultural country, apple juice has also been an important part of the Swiss diet.
For this day and age, Schorle hits the zeitgeist. It is lower in calories than apple juice itself as it contains 40 percent of carbonated water. There are two major Swiss Apfelschorle producers: Mosterei Möhl AG in Arbon, and Ramseier AG in Sursee.
The former is located in the heart of canton Thurgau, a place that some Swiss refer to as Mostindien. Being the largest apple-growing region in Switzerland, and also being a bit off the radar for many, are the reasons behind this strange connotation: Apple Juice India.
Using only apples from the region, Mosterei Möhl has been producing their prickley Shorley since 2000. You can learn more about this interesting family business at their MoMö Museum. Similarly, Ramseier Apfelschorle contains only Swiss apples and is 100 percent natural without any added sugars.
Exotic passion in a bottle: Passaia used to be a favorite of mine, and I would even pack some in my checked luggage headed for the US.
This Swiss soda was available from the 1960s through 2022, and it once pioneered exotic flavors in Switzerland.