Give the Coke a rest while you’re in Iceland and try some Iceland-made beverages instead, such as the delicious Appelsín. Just don’t buy Bónus Kóla, the cola drink made by the Icelandic supermarket Bónus. I’ve lost too many good friends to that horrible concoction of a drink. Hop on into the magnificent world of Icelandic drinks. We’ve got all sorts of funky stuff hiding in here.
This list would be a complete abomination if we didn’t start off with Egils Appelsín. It is the Zeus of Icelandic drinks, perched comfortably on top of our Icelandic soft drink Mount Olympus. Appelsín is a fizzy orange soft drink which really hits the spot. Think Fanta – but more carbonated. Think Orangina – but less pulp. Think perfect – but more perfect. It is best enjoyed in a small glass bottle, preferably accompanied with an Icelandic liquorice and chocolate candy? (pssst… Þristur. Go for Þristur!). The slogan is ‘hið eina sanna’ which can be translated as ‚the one and only‘. Generation after generation of Icelanders has been raised drinking Appelsín and we grow to be 82.7 years old on average. If it’s working for us it´s going to work for you!
Now we are heading off into some darker territory as Malt is introduced into the mix. Malt Extrakt is a funky drink of the marmite persuasion – you either love it or hate it. As the name suggests this is a malt based drink. If you think a malt-flavoured soda is a bit weird, well… I agree. They started making it in 1913 and maybe things were just a little bit different back then. Although technically not a beer, it still has a rating of 4% on the website RateBeer. Way to go Malt! Again, this is technically not a beer but it is very slightly alcoholic (about 1 % ABV). It is rumoured that drinking two bathtubs of Malt is enough to get you tipsy. Don’t rely on it for nights out is what I‘m trying to tell you. I know I haven’t been too fair to Malt but many Icelanders swear by it. Malt can be drunk on its own but it’s also really delicious when mixed with Egils Appelsín. This non-alcoholic cocktail is known as jólaöl (christmas ale) and is usually served around Christmas. It really helps to get you through the darkest month of the year.
This next drink is one that you will not find on Icelandic supermarket shelves anymore. Garpur is the name and it is the quirky mixture of mysa and orange juice, resulting in a surprisingly delicious drink. What is mysa you ask? Well, this is where you might lose your appetite. Mysa is acid whey, the liquid that separates from milk during cheese- or skyr-making. The geniuses at the state run milk company (what is this? Soviet Russia?) decided it would be a good idea to mix whey and orange juice. Garpur was marketed as a sports drink and was supposed to combat an influx of unhealthy foreign drinks full of sugar and caffeine. Garpur was the “healthy” Icelandic alternative. 90s kids in Iceland remember Garpur fondly and claim it is the greatest drink ever created. But if we are going to be honest, the cloud of nostalgia might be affecting people’s memories somewhat. It’s not available anymore but you could always try getting a carton of mysa at the supermarket, along with some orange juice, if you’re feeling adventurous.
We don’t plan on leaving Funky Town just yet as we introduce Mix to the fore. Mix doesn’t have many followers but those who drink it are devout followers. It is a quirky mix of pineapple and orange, yet somehow manages to taste nothing like either fruit. Mostly, it tastes like the 90’s. That is why the slogan is ‘engu líkt’ or ‘like nothing else’. In one of the most perplexing marketing moves ever, Egils for some reason decided to put an anthropomorphic tomato and a pineapple on the label. This went on for years, but recently, they simply removed all edible beings from the packaging. Although the packaging isn’t as fun as it used to be, Mix tastes just as good as it used to (if you like the flavour of sugar, artificial colouring, and nostalgia).
If you need a little pick me up during your stay here, try Egils Orka, Iceland’s version of Mountain Dew. If you really like heart palpitations then this drink is for you. It is a very literal name as Orka simply means energy and that’s what you’re going to get. At times, Orka has been a subject of public debate in Iceland as it is supposedly one of the unhealthiest drinks you can find. The Icelandic food and drugs administration is quite relaxed so Egils, the company which makes Orka, does not have to disclose the amount of caffeine in the drink. I’m guessing it’s somewhere between “too much” and “oh, god, why?”. A mix of ginseng, guarana, caffeine, and of course sugar also leads to the fact that the Iceland dentist association ranks it as the worst liquid that you can put into your mouth. But it sure does taste damn good!