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Malta Drinks

John Beadle | | Jul 21, 2002 10:46 AM

There was a thread a little while back about Blenheim's Ginger Ale. I thought I'd share my thoughts on another soft drink people might like to try.

There are various non-alcoholic beverages known as "maltas." I first got turned on to these when I lived in a Cuban neighborhood in LA thirty years ago. One particular brand, "Malta Vita," had a very complex flavor. Looking at the list of ingredients I saw hops, honey, licorice, everything but the kitchen sink! I haven't seen "Malta Vita" for some time, although there is another malta from Denmark called "Vita Malt" which has a similar label but is not nearly as good.

The most popular brand of Malta these days seems to be Malta India, which is OK but doesn't approach the sublime level of flavor and complexity I experienced the first time I drank Malta Vita on that day in LA thirty years ago.

The taste for these sort of malt drinks in this country seems to be confined to Carribean immigrants, and you can find them in stores that cater to this clientele, but I have discovered they are very popular among Africans as well. On my first visit to Nigeria eight years ago I found that the local Guinness brewery puts out an excellent Malta (there are numerous local brands as well).

I have discovered a place in Chicago that actually carries Guinness Malta imported from Nigeria. It is a Latin American/African grocery on Broadway a block or two north of Argyle St (sorry, the name escapes me, but it's on the east side of the street). Whenever I'm in Chicago I pick up a case or two, when they have it in stock. They also have some African versions of familiar sodas like Fanta that are subtly different from from the versions here, I suspect because they're made with real cane sugar as opposed to the corn syrup crap they use in this country.

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