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A Cooler Coke: Vimto

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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.

If you're like me, you might wander up to the refrigerated drink case at Phoenicia and think that the red, yellow and white can of Vimto sitting on a shelf looks exotic and unique. Especially if the can is turned so that only the French writing on one side is facing you and you're entranced by flowery words like petillant and boisson aromatisee aux fruits written in strikingly mod sans-serif font. So continental! So European!

As it turns out, Vimto is definitely European but certainly not continental. The soft drink was first bottled in 1908 in a small English town outside Manchester. And despite the amount of time I've spent in northern England, my first encounter with Vimto -- which is, by all accounts, very popular in the north -- was in a Middle Eastern grocery store in Texas.

Then again, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this.

Vimto is apparently far more popular in Saudi Arabia than the drink ever dreamed of being back home in England and is, in fact, the most popular drink to finish off a long day of fasting during Ramadan. Witness:

Dowries. Funny. Right?

Anyway, Vimto is roughly the Saudi Arabian/English answer to Big Red. It's the same color and tastes nearly exactly the same, albeit not as strong: blackcurrant and raspberry mixed with spices to the point where you almost think you're chewing bubblegum instead of drinking a soda.

Personally, I hate bubblegum-flavored anything and particularly hate Big Red because it stains your mouth and tongue a horrid red color, so this will be my first and last can of this version as well. But anyone who enjoys Big Red might find a new favorite in Vimto.

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