You’ll know tarkhuna when you see it, even if you can’t make out the Georgian or Russian writing on the bottle. The leaves often pictured on the label are tarragon, a staple of Georgian cuisine. The bright green color of the drink inside is unmissable, and its flavor—sweet, fragrant, and herbal, with notes of black licorice—is equally unique.
Georgian pharmacist Mitrofan Lagidze came up with tarkhuna in 1887 by mixing tarragon syrup with carbonated water. The soda became a Soviet summer favorite almost a century later, when it was mass-produced in the 1980s and sold throughout the country under its Russian name, tarkhun. (In either language, the word refers to the herb itself as well as the drink.)
Georgians use tarragon to flavor salads, fish, meat, and mushroom dishes. It’s also thought to ease indigestion, menstrual cramps, and insomnia. But though the herb is a completely natural flavor and treatment, there’s nothing natural about tarkhuna’s electric green hue. It comes from a dye. You can see the difference if you make your own tarragon syrup from fresh leaves and mix it with sparkling water to imitate Lagidze’s original concoction. It will come out yellowish, just like his did, but you can add a little food coloring if you want the bright green version.
Need to Know
Order a bottle at a Georgian restaurant or look for it at Russian grocery stores. In Georgia, you can find tarkhuna and other syrup-based soft drinks (often called "Lagidze waters," after the pharmacist who created them) served at old-fashioned soda fountains.
Where to Try It
Acharulebi Lagidzeze24 Rustaveli Ave, Tbilisi, Georgia
The cafe serves plenty of Georgian specialties.
Get a bottle of tarkhuna to go with your khachapuri at this Brighton Beach eatery.