A Wine Bar for People Who Only Drink Soda
Soda in Istanbul
After three and a half years of living in Turkey on and off, it seemed as though lively, uninterrupted, and peaceful demonstrations had become a thing of the past, particularly after the violent police response to the 2013 Gezi Park protests.
But on March 8th—International Women’s Day—people flooded the street, dancing, drumming, banging on construction fences. We marched, too, down Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul’s central Taksim district. I didn’t see a single look of fear flash across any face. It went off without a hitch, untouched by the ever-increasing police presence.
All the shouting left my friend and I hungry and parched. After heading for a quick Adana kebab, we set off for a drink. I associate Taksim with long nights spent sipping beer and chatting, so I was looking for something alcoholic. However, my friend preferred a quiet cup of tea. It was the middle of the work week, after all.
We ended up with a compromise of sorts, at the cosy Avam Café. Covered in old movie posters, photographs, and paintings, it looks like a hoarder’s living room. What makes it unusual in the ranks of Istanbul’s hip, radical, and slightly overpriced cafés is the fact it doubles as a bar—for soda pop.
Since I first came to Turkey, I’ve nursed an addiction to Turkish sodas, and at Avam Café—with 31 options—I was spoiled for choice. Their menu gives each soda variety a history and place of origin, much like a wine menu.
In the early 20th century, Turkish companies started producing soda pop in little glass bottles. As Coca Cola and other America soft drinks came into Turkey, the number of domestic companies and flavors grew, as each vied to carve out a piece of the market share. Now, most shops might only stock a couple of brands, but tend to have a generous selection of flavors, ranging from sour cherry to pomegranate to standard lemon. Avam Café, however, searches the country for even the smallest producers, collecting all of Turkey’s soda bounty in one place. (Its penchant for nostalgic decor extends to the bathrooms, where the soap dispensers are old soda bottles.)
Raspberry sodas dominate the menu at Avam. A few brands, like lemon-ginger flavored Beyoglu soda (since 1890) are found all over Turkey. Others are more obscure. Some brands, like the sweet raspberry-flavored Elvan soda from Sanliurfa, date back to the 1970s or earlier but fell out of production—although in the last few years, some of these neglected sodas have been relaunched, capitalizing on people’s appetite for something a little nostalgic and very sweet.
This time, I settled on he banana-raspberry-lemon flavored Bade soda, made in Adana since 1928. It delivered the chilled, fizzy satisfaction of beer, but without the threat of a hangover.