Following World War II, British legislation required that products be labeled to reflect their actual contents. Scotland’s “Iron Brew” soda, invented in 1901, quickly came under fire. This was not because it didn’t contain iron (it did, and still does), but because it wasn’t brewed. The A.G. Barr company was forced to rename their beverage “Irn-Bru.” The change didn’t faze Scottish drinkers: Today, the soft drink outsells Coca-Cola in its native home.
Irn-Bru’s old slogan, “Made in Scotland from Girders,” is a testament to the drink’s inclusion of ammonium ferric citrate, a food additive containing iron hydroxide. The resulting flavor has been likened to a cream soda mixed with orange Life Savers and a hint of rust. (Whether or not the ingredients actually include girders is unconfirmed, as the recipe is a closely guarded secret.) In his song “St. Stephen’s Day Murders,” Elvis Costello mentions a cocktail consisting of “that drink made from girders” mixed with Jamaican coffee liqueur. While a blend of ferric-citrus sweetness and liqueur might appeal to some, few would argue that an Irn-Bru cocktail could compete with whisky, Scotland’s first national beverage. In Irn-Bru’s defense, the fizzy orange beverage is touted as a hangover cure. And while some insist that whisky can also get you through a rough Sunday morning, at least Irn-Bru doesn’t cause the problem it claims to solve.
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