Vocab Lesson: Irn-Bru

Where to find Scotland’s favorite soda in Boston.

irn bru boston

Photo by Bruce Peterson

With the exception of the Middle East (which adores Pepsi) and North Korea/Cuba (trade embargoed!), there’s only one country in the world where a local soda rivals the sales of Coca-Cola: Scotland. There, in the land of whiskey, the Scots instead mainline Irn-Bru, a U.K.-produced, neon-orange soda that’s treated like morning rocket fuel for its hangover-curing effects (it’s loaded with caffeine) and unique flavor—vaguely like orange soda blended with bubblegum.

While you can find the cult favorite at local Euro-centric grocers like Cardullo’s, in Harvard Square, for the most part the bubbly elixir remains, like haggis, a uniquely Scottish obsession that hasn’t quite caught on stateside. To learn why it should, head to the Haven in Jamaica Plain, where owner Jason Waddleton laces the Day-Glo beverage with the bitter Italian digestif Fernet Branca. The result? A bracing, medicinal cordial known as the Fernet Bru.

“With Irn-Bru, national identity comes into it,” Waddleton says. “Anybody who lives in Scotland aligns themselves with it. It’s like a badge of honor.”