Icon: Tarkhun

MT
Bright green, the color of the carbonated drink Tarkhun, was never exactly a natural food color, hence its wild popularity among kids in the Soviet Union. What made Tarkhun cool was that it left children's tongues completely green, but unlike today's outrageous food colorings, this drink was made from natural ingredients: tarragon, lemon juice and sugar. Extract of tarragon, known as estragon or tarkhun in Russian, gave Tarkhun its unique taste, slightly reminiscent of anise. The herb grows all over Russia, especially in the Caucasus, where it's more flavorful and juicy. Used to make syrup, it has been one of the staple flavors of Georgian Lagidze waters.

The Tarkhun drink was introduced in bottles in 1971 and became an instant hit. The Soviet Ministry of Food Industry experimented with various products to be used in carbonated drinks, including basil and pomegranate, said Tariel Gadzhiyev, of the company Lolinga, one of the producers of Tarkhun. Tarkhun became so popular that by the 1980s tarragon-flavored vodka was a top seller, along with its nonalcoholic predecessor.

"Unfortunately, its production fell apart during Gorbachev's prohibition era, and was never picked up again," Gadzhiyev said.

Today, at least a dozen companies in the Moscow region alone produce Tarkhun under various brands. As the Russian Institute for Consumer Studies found in 2006, none of them is completely made from natural ingredients as most use chemical flavoring agents. Only the Svyatoi Graal brand was found to use natural flavoring.