Drinks

Don't Drink Soda? These Two Indian Sodas Might Change Your Mind

February  8, 2017

One weekday last month, while working from home, I ordered some takeout from an Indo-Chinese fusion place a few blocks from my apartment. It was the presence of two sodas on the menu that compelled me to order, because I hadn’t found them anywhere else since moving to New York nearly three years ago: Limca and Thums Up.

Photo by James Ransom

Limca and Thums Up are twin flagship sodas of the Coca-Cola Company in India. The Thums Up can is a beautiful vestibule, a svelte cylinder made of tin; inside is a smoky and dark cola, something like a spicier Pepsi. Its carbonation is an accent rather than a disruptor. Limca offers a markedly different sensory experience: It has a knit of synthetic lemon and lime flavoring, less indulgent and more refreshing. The can is a pulsing, mossy green decorated with citrus rinds that look like doilies.

Both drinks were first bottled and sold commercially in the 1970s. They've maintained a toehold over the Indian market in spite of the presence of their American analogs: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Sprite. I’m not sure what fostered such furious brand attachment. My only guess is that it’s because these two sodas are unmistakably, markedly Indian, a homegrown confection rather than a stranger’s soda waltzing in from outside.

Photo by jasleen_kaur

My Kolkata-born father was part of the Limca and Thums Up generation. In relaying stories of his upbringing to me, he painted bucolic narratives of his life in Kolkata and the prominence of these two sodas within his childhood. His was a soothing ritual of eating street food as a schoolboy and washing it down with a sleek bottle of Limca, treating it as a post-meal tonic. As he grew older, he gained a taste for the rich, piquant cola of Thums Up, too. You could say I inherited this taste from him; it's easy for a son to be drawn to what comforts his dad. Limca and Thums Up sodas were a fixture of another childhood I had: my Indian-American one, an upbringing that involved going to Subzi Mandi for groceries instead of Shop Rite. These two sodas were among the few Indian imports that had made their way into the Little Indias in towns spread across America.

Shop the Story

“Really! They carry those!” my dad texted me the day I told him about the place near my apartment that sold the two sodas he's craved. My father hasn’t had either one in years. Blame his failing health, exacerbated by a cancer that is taking its sweet time moving from one stage to the next, denying him the pleasures he once took for granted. Perhaps it was the unintentionally mis-punctuated, overly exclamatory nature of his text that made me believe I could almost hear him, giddy with disbelief, speaking these words aloud.

Photo by Archie

Sentiment can be a pretty powerful substitute for reason, especially when it comes to what we're told is objectively bad for us. Nowadays, I’m not one to drink soda regularly. Following a textbook American childhood of drinking Sprite and its many sisters, I shirked these drinks by the time I reached high school. I began to fear their pleasures would turn sinister soon enough, gnawing at the architecture of my immune system by the time I hit 30.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Although i grew up in Pakistan, crossover television from India would always bring us wonderfully zany Thums up and Limca commercials in the 80s. I got to have them for the first time when i moved to the US 15 years ago, usually from an Indian grocery store. I prefer Thums Up between the two and i love the smoky cola taste. It has kind of a toasted cinnamon/coriander taste to it in a good way. I may need to stop at my local store today!”
— AJ K.
Comment

But if there’s ever a time to drink Thums Up or Limca, it’s probably when you’re young; the barriers that you body can impose upon you with age will otherwise make it difficult. For the soda-agnostic, I’d recommend you give Limca and Thums Up a chance. Try them once, while your body can still handle them.

Ever have Limca or Thums Up? Let us know in the comments.

13 Comments

Joshua June 23, 2017
I'm a Southern Anglo-American. I tasted Thums Up when I lived in India. I now prefer it to Coca-Cola, and I regularly stop by an Indian grocery to buy it.
 
mys April 9, 2017
Thanks for this article. My father is from India and I vividly remember drinking both of these on trips there. We are planning on going next year and I will be bringing my own daughter this time. Can't wait to introduce a new generation to one of the many food pleasures to be found in India.
 
Panfusine February 10, 2017
aah Limca & thums up! they have a nostalgia value all their own! and then there was 'Gold Spot' for the orange soda afficionados
 
Lost_in_NYC February 9, 2017
2 of my favorite Indian sodas growing up! Preferred Thumbs Up! when I was younger but the adult in me now leans toward Limca when I allow myself one! Still make trips to Subzi Mandi or Patel Brothers for my produce and Indian grub :-) Thank you Mayukh for showcasing some hidden items from our treasure trove of Indian items!
 
txchick57 February 8, 2017
Rubicon Sparkling Passion Fruit. It's just delicious
 
Whiteantlers February 8, 2017
Damn! Another captivating article. I want to treat your Dad to a soda. Thanks for this slice of life.
 
AJ K. February 8, 2017
Although i grew up in Pakistan, crossover television from India would always bring us wonderfully zany Thums up and Limca commercials in the 80s. <br />I got to have them for the first time when i moved to the US 15 years ago, usually from an Indian grocery store. I prefer Thums Up between the two and i love the smoky cola taste. It has kind of a toasted cinnamon/coriander taste to it in a good way. I may need to stop at my local store today!
 
Riddley G. February 8, 2017
Limca is my favorite! When I lived in India, I rarely had lunch or dinner without one.
 
Rima February 8, 2017
I cant write as eloquently or as free-flowing as you do but I always look forward to reading your interviews/analyses/observation articles. Always intriguing and pleasure reading. My born in america "indian" son has been indoctrinated to Thums Up and he prefers it over Coke.
 
Author Comment
Mayukh S. February 8, 2017
Thank you so much, Rima. Means a lot! (I'm like your son.)
 
Rima February 8, 2017
Sheesh! What I meant was "I cant write as eloquently or as free-flowing as you do so wont be able to properly pen it down how impressive your writing is"....more proof of bad writing skills.
 
Arpita February 8, 2017
I love Thums Up! Would you please share the name of the Indo-Chinese place that stocks it? I live in Brooklyn but would consider a schlep just to enjoy that soda.
 
Author Comment
Mayukh S. February 8, 2017
Chinese Club, in Williamsburg!