Chernogolovka (Черноголовка) is a prominent brand of popular Soviet-era inspired sodas produced by Aqualife. Although production began in 1998, their recipes are quite traditional, deriving their tastes mostly from herbal and fruit extracts, just like the soda flavors were during Soviet times. In 2015, Aqualife was the 4th largest producer of soft drinks in Russia (behind, of course, Coke and Pepsi). Their products can be found in nearly any Russian grocery and are the most widely-available type of traditional non-fermented Russian sodas.
The factory, located 45 miles northeast of Moscow in Chernogolovka, a suburb built by the Soviets specifically for scientists and technological research, was built on top of the spring that supplies their mineral water.
Various producers all make the major flavors of the major Soviet sodas, but Chernogolovka is one of the best and most common that you will find. Many of the flavors are fairly specific but most are quite enjoyable.
The flavor Baikal (Байкал), for instance, was developed in 1976 as a Soviet analogue to Coca-Cola. Made with St. John’s wort, cardamom, licorice, eucalyptus, laurel, and citric acid, it’s the closest approximation to a genuine Soviet “cola” on the market. The soda is a dark-brown cola color, but is named for Siberia’s crystal clear Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater deposit on the planet. The soda tastes of evergreen needles.
Tarkhun (Тархун) is another common favorite. The radiant green soda is made with tarragon and tastes of licorice. It’s often compared to absynthe in both taste and color. Like many other sodas, the flavor was originally developed by a 19th century pharmacist to help with digestive symptoms. It tends to be not as sugary as many other sodas and thus can be almost surprisingly refreshing on a hot summer day.
Buratino (Буратино) soda is named after the Russian version of Pinocchio. Pinocchio was originally written in Italy, but when Russia’s beloved Aleksey Tolstoy couldn’t find his copy of the book, he reimagined the story for his children as Buratino (Буратино). Unlike the Western version, Buratino’s nose doesn’t grow when he lies and neither will yours when you try Chernogolovka’s Buratino soda. It’s caramel colored with a taste that’s hard to pin down. It’s usually described as apple, but definitely has caramel flavors as well.
Dushes (Дюшес) is named for the type of pear (Duchess) that is flavored with.
There are many other flavors as well!
One of Chernogolovka’s contemporary ads. The jingle is very catchy.
Americans try several of the sodas listed here.
A 1959 rendition of Buratino: