Lose your marbles to enjoy this fizz

The traditional goli soda fizzled out when fancy fizzy drinks took over the market. Now the same goli soda is making a sizzling comeback as a fun drink at restaurants

August 12, 2022 02:49 pm | Updated 03:31 pm IST

Abhishek Patwar, Abdul Khader, Abdul Aslam

Abhishek Patwar, Abdul Khader, Abdul Aslam | Photo Credit: Varun Kumar Mukhia

The goli do “Push down the marble with your thumb and you will hear a pop, this will be followed by a hissing sound, that’s when you can drink the goli soda,” explains Jaganath Dass to diners at Spicy Venue (a restaurant that serves traditional Telugu food in Hyderabad). Goli soda is the latest favourite bottle to pop.

While youngsters enjoy trying their finger strength with the bottle, it is however, not exactly new. The goli soda has only made a comeback, and its resurgence in the fancy avatar after about three decades is a new drink when dining out. Goli soda s a fizzy carbonated soft drink that is usually flavoured and comes in a distinctly-shaped Codd-neck bottle. The drink gets its name from the marble (goli) in the Codd-neck and hence goes by the name goli soda, banta soda or goti soda.  Apart from India, the only country that still has goli soda is Japan, where it is called ramune.

Goli Spark SodaGolis

Goli Spark SodaGolis | Photo Credit: Varun Kumar Mukhia

What used to be a roadside drink, sold on carts or at small kiosks, is getting a fresh lease of life much to the happiness of old timers. Seventy-year-old retired bank manager Ramesh Bharavi says, “Stopping by the carts for a quick cold drink on the way home was a routine thing in summer. It used to be a favourite drink here because it was mostly plain soda with lemon and salt or sugar; no colour, no artificially added flavours. When pet bottles of various carbonated drinks flooded the market, this local drink eventually had to exit.” 

1920’s Goli Soda

1920’s Goli Soda

No wonder he was pleasantly surprised to see a fancier version of the goli soda at a family function. There, not just the old-timers, but young people too seemed curious and excited about popping the marble. “I observed that no one cared much about the name on the label, it was the joy of trying something they saw in their childhood but didn’t get a chance to try,” adds Bharavi. It is insignificant now that a bottle that used to cost under ₹1 a few decades ago is far more expensive now; a bottle of 330 ml goli soda now costs ₹60 and 220ml costs ₹30.

goli soda

goli soda

Mohammed Abdul Khader who started manufacturing Spark Goli Soda in 2019 says it took him two years to get into the business-to-business (b2b) segment. According to him he and his partners Abhishek Patwar and Mohammed Abdul Aslam launched Spark at a time when no local drink with the touch of nostalgia was in the market. Abdul says, “During the COVID 19 lockdown, we couldn’t push our product in the market. We made headway only in 2021 and to our surprise, the product was an instant hit with diners at Spicy Venue where we introduced it first.” 

“For now, we are operating in the B2B segment and will soon introduce online or from supermarkets,” adds Khader. On the disappearance of goli soda, he says, “One factor was the traditional filling system. It was cumbersome and needed a lot of manpower. The expensive production method contributed to its disappearance. After the development of new semi-automatic filling machines with modern technology. it made a comeback.”

Explaining the bottling process Khader says, “Salt and water are mixed with different flavours, and is then poured to fill the Codd-neck bottle. The bottle is then placed into the soda-making machine and the container which holds the bottles is rotated two or three times to diffuse the carbon dioxide, thus pushing the marble up the neck of the bottle against the gasket at the top. The marble acts as a seal.

One for Codd
The Codd-neck bottle is named after Hiram Codd, the inventor. He patented the bottle in 1872.
The bottles, which became popular throughout the British colonial empire, are still in production for two countries exclusively: India for goli soda and Japan for Ramune.
Since children often smashed the bottles to get to the marble inside, so old bottles are tough to find. Making vintage Codd-neck bottles cherished collector’s items
Until the 1900s, when the manufacturing of these bottles started in India, the bottles were imported from Britain. Bottles belonging to India’s pre-independence era are cherished collector’s items.

Spark introduced the first premium branded goli soda In Telangana. Then came 1920’s Goli Soda which operates on a franchise model of business and deliberately kept the price low at ₹20. The other brand that is popular with caterers is Bubble Goli Soda.

The most popular flavours in soda are lemon, orange and masala. The orange flavour is the closest to the popular Gold Spot of the 1980s. Sudhakar Naidu from Hyderabad, an entrepreneur who wanted to revive the Goli soda from the 1920s says “Our price caters to an auto wala to an Audi wala. We operate on a franchise model and are happy with the feedback. Customer feedback is good and we are getting regulars to our stall. The most popular flavour is the traditional nimbu pani and orange.”

While we are at it, the popping of the goli soda also makes for a good slo-mo video on Instagram

While we are at it, the popping of the goli soda also makes for a good slo-mo video on Instagram.

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