Pot Luck

A Cooler Coke: Guaraná Antarctica

Each Tuesday and Thursday for the next five weeks, we'll be taking a look at alternatives to cokes for the sticky Houston summer that lays ahead.

The first beverage we're examining in this series isn't exactly a hidden treasure. Guaraná Antarctica, produced in Brazil since 1921, is not only the second best-selling soft drink in that country (behind Coca-Cola, obviously) but is also one of the most popular soft drinks in the world. It's big in Japan, an expected trait in any product that the American segment of the beverage market never seems to understand.

Guaraná Antarctica comes in a can that has the same color scheme as a can of Mountain Dew: dark green and light green with hints of red and white. This is important because -- as far as we're concerned -- Guaraná Antarctica is the Brazilian equivalent of the stuff that hillbillies put into baby bottles in West Virginia. Why?

It's right there in the name.

Guaraná Antarctica is made with guarana, a small, reddish-brown fruit that contains twice as much caffeine as a coffee bean. You're probably more familiar with it as a dietary supplement or as an ingredient in douchey energy drinks like Full Throttle and Cocaine.

Luckily, drinking a can of Guaraná Antarctica will neither make you look like a douche nor will it leave you with the same uncontrollable jitters that a can of Jolt will. Unlike its American counterpart, Mountain Dew, Guaraná Antarctica isn't overly carbonated or overly sweet. It's better when it's truly ice cold, but doesn't become completely unpalatable at room temperature in the same way a Coke or Dr Pepper does.

Guaraná Antarctica is roughly the same color as ginger ale, with a nose that smacks of sugary sweetness as soon as it hits your nostrils. Happily, the drink itself is much drier (can you describe a soda as "dry"?), with a strong apple flavor and notes of red berries, as well as an odd gingery finish. Overall, it's pretty good and certainly preferable to Mountain Dew or 7-Up (but not Sprite; never Sprite). We can even see one of these mixing very well with a more adult beverage like Paula's Texas Orange or Lemon for a refreshing patio cocktail.

Guaraná Antarctica is available at Phoenicia Specialty Foods for 89 cents, but we bet you can find it in a few other places around town, too.