Essential Sodas: Jarritos Tamarindo

Simon Law on Flickr

In the years following World War II, as Coca-Cola climbed to international superstardom, Don Francisco Hill had an idea. A native of Mexico, a country long enamored with aguas frescas made from water, sugar, and fruit, Hill envisioned a line of Mexican-made soft drinks that would capture the same fresh and simple flavors.

The first of his "Jarritos" drinks, named after the clay jars from which generations of Mexicans had enjoyed their cold beverages, debuted in 1950. It was a coffee soda. Over the next several years, new flavors like tamarind, fruit punch, and lemon would raise the company to a level where it was competing only with Coca-Cola in its home country.

After decades of popularity in Mexico, Jarritos began to filter into the United States in the early 1990s. Nowadays, the flourescent sodas are omnipresent in Mexican restaurants, in the coolers alongside taco trucks, and on the shelves at many big-name grocery stores. Even if you have never tried a Jarritos soda, chances are good that you've seen one.

Experienced Jarritos drinkers tend to have their favorites. I am no exception. To me, tamarind (the second-best-selling of all Jarritos flavors) is the be-all and end-all, the single must-try, the Alpha and the Omega of the venerable collection. A cold tamarind soda is a godsend for the drinker who's looking for a fizzy drink with more to it than just syrupy sweetness.

It also makes for a magical secret ingredient in cocktails (shhhh, don't tell.) A splash in your liquor of choice, and you have a drink that, thanks to tamarind's multi-faceted flavor, tastes more carefully crafted than it is.

Jarritos drinkers out there: how do you feel about the tamarind flavor? Can we crown it king?