Baikal (known in Russian as Байкал “bai-kal”), was first created in the Soviet Union in the late 1960s’ partially as a response to Coca Cola’s rapidly expanding presence throughout the world. Although Coca Cola wasn’t even being sold in the country at the time – even Pepsi beat them to the punch – Baikal’s producers wanted to instill pride in the nation. Thus, they adopted the name Baikal, showing deference to the storied Siberian lake, the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume.
How would I describe the flavor? Different. It had a hint of coniferous tree, processed sugar, and some unusual mix of herbs which I couldn’t quite place at the time. Apparently, Baikal’s ingredients include black tea extract, lemon oil, cardamom oil, eucalyptus oil -what? can we even consume this one? – and eleutherococcus senticosus, aka Siberian ginseng aka devil’s bush, known to be both an adaptogen and part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
You may not think of Russia these days as a soda powerhouse, and that’s possibly because you didn’t grow up in the Soviet Union, or in a Russian-speaking neighborhood. They’ve got quite a loyal following for some drinks – if I can find the picture, I will also write about the neon green tarragon-flavored soda – and the flavors from decades ago sound equally tantalizing.
Does pine-flavored soda intrigue you? Or, have you given up on sodas all together and go straight for the sugar packets?