BevReview.com has a long history of reviewing holiday themed beverages. Most fall into the gimmicky flavored Jones Sodas like Christmas Ham and Christmas Tree; something to pique your curiosity but not satisfy your taste buds. Recently while strolling through my local World Market (think giant Pier1 but with specialty foods from all over the world) I came across Julmust Christmas Soda. Pronounced "yule-must"). Jul is Swedish for Yule, which means Christmas. The name intrigued me because it isn't suggesting you have a pleasant Christmas, it insists! Jul MUST!
Julmust is made by Guttsta Källa and features a drawing of Santa stirring up some sort of brew – the soda I assume. It was developed in 1910 as a non-alcoholic alternative to beer; which is interesting because it looks a lot like a thick winter ale – which makes sense because it is made with hops and malt from barley.
From their website (which does not contain much English) it states: "Nestled in the quiet Swedish countryside, in the area known as Bergslagen, lays the tiny village of Guttsta and Guttsta Källa AB where water has been tapped from its spring since 1895." Guttsta Källa uses this same natural spring water to make its Julmust soda which is available exclusively during the Christmas season. According to Wikipedia, 45 million litres of Julmust is consumed each December, which is a lot considering that there are only 9 million people in Sweden, and outsells Coca-Cola during the Christmas Season which prompted Coca-Cola to produce its own Christmas soda called Bjäre julmust". Pepsi tried their own hand here in the U.S. with Pepsi Holiday Spice back in 2004 and reviewed here on BevReview.
Enough about the history, how does it look and taste?
The soda has a very deep, almost black, color to it. Compare that to Coke or Pepsi which are more of a deep tan. It really looks like Guinness or a similar thick beer. The drink is very carbonated and when I poured it into the glass I could only get 1/3 of it in before it almost overflowed. The bubbles are so tiny and compact that the head rose very quickly and nearly ran all over the place. I was anxious to taste is and dove right in which resulted in a sticky foam mustache on my upper lip – the mark of a great soda, in my opinion.
The scent of Julmust was hard to determine. The ingredients only state the aforementioned "natural hops, natural malt (from barley)" and natural flavors – which could honestly be anything from molasses to herring for all we know. Their site says it's a well-guarded secret family recipe so the world many never find out. I thought it smelled like molasses and some mystery spices: perhaps cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice? As someone who tends to describe smells as colors, it smelled like purple.
When the foam subsided a lot of it clung to the sides of the glass. A sommelier will tell you that when it comes to wine this means it has "great legs". I am not sure if there is a term for it in the cola world but I will assume it is a good thing.
Now for the taste – it has a very pleasant, cozy, warming flavor. If you could bottle the Christmas spirit, carbonate it, and sell it, it might taste like this: deep cola, mild dark cherry, a hint of ginger, perhaps a bit of cacao. It's what I imagine Vikings would have consumed from an oak barrel during the Norman Conquest of 1066.
This holiday if you are in Sweden or a World Market or even an IKEA, I recommend picking up a bottle of Julmust Christmas Soda and enjoying it with a bowl of freshly popped corn while watching your favorite Christmas movie. God Jul!
8 oz. – 90 calories, 0 fat.
Julmust Christmas Soda
Ingredients: Carbonated water, sugar, natural color (caramel), natural hops flavor, natural malt flavors (from barley), citric acid, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative).
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