Goli Soda: Mangaluru’s Very Own Refreshing Summer Drink
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Mangaluru has only two seasons basically - monsoon when it pours incessantly for months, and for the rest of the year it is sweltering summer. To beat the heat, the people of this port city have always relied on goli soda, a locally-made refreshing drink which is as intrinsic to its culture as is Chicken Urval and the old houses with red roof tiles. Sold at petty shops and small bakeries, the codd-neck bottles are hard to miss if you are making a stopover at this beautiful coastal town.

These fizzy-sweet quenchers are reminders of a simpler time, long before colas and cold drinks became our preferred beverages. Anyone born or raised in Mangaluru will tell you about their first memory of buying a bottle of goli soda by the roadside on a scorching day. Given the nostalgia and sentiment attached to it, it would probably not be wrong to say that goli soda is very much a living legend, which has a long association with the city, although not much of it is documented. A pop culture relic, goli soda made it to the title of a 2014 Tamil film, which was later remade in Kannada and Telugu. A sequel to the action-drama movie was released in 2018, titled Goli Soda 2. The drink also finds a mention in the popular Tamil track, Rowdy Baby, from the 2018 action-comedy Maari 2. 

Reminiscing about her early years in the city, Neena Monteiro says, “Goli soda was a treat for my siblings and me when I was a kid. When we went to my grandfather’s office, he would get a soda and pour a little into four steel tea cups. The marble in the bottle fascinated me. So as an adult, whenever I saw goli soda - and it became  uncommon over the years - I would often drink it. Although it’s been a decade since I lived in Mangaluru, I’m still fascinated by the marble in the bottle.”  

While one may say that goli soda bottles are fast disappearing from the streets of Mangaluru, old-timers like the Koragappa Goli Soda Factory in Bolar and Sri Jagadamba Goli Soda at Urwa Market still use the manual soda making machine to churn out this all-time favourite summer drink every day. In fact, a vendor at Ratha Beedi (Car Street) hints that innovation is key to keeping the legacy of goli soda alive. “It’s true that demand for goli soda has reduced, but it’s far from fading away. Travellers still get fascinated when they see a marble in a soda bottle. Sellers are trying out different flavours like orange, ginger and lime to lure customers, and the trick seems to be working on local people too,” he elaborates. The vanilla-flavoured goli soda at Temple Square's Shree Veera Venkatesh Beverages is turning out to be quite a hit, lately.    

“Far from dying out, goli soda has actually acquired newer avatars. A few months ago I stopped at a bakery in the city, and I found several flavours of goli soda. Earlier the soda was bland but sweet. Now, shops have flavours like kokum. On a hot day, kokum goli soda tasted like heaven,” adds Neena. 

A paradise for seafood lovers, Mangaluru claims an important place on Karnataka’s culinary map. The city’s famous delicacies include Chicken Ghee Roast, Anjal Masala Fry, Kori Roti, Neer Dosa and Chicken Sukka, Bangude Pulimunchi, Pathrode, Mangalore Buns and Goli Bajje. Any conversation about food in Mangaluru is, however, incomplete without a special mention of the must-try Gadbad Ice Cream. Served in a tall glass, gadbad is a heady concoction of layers of ice cream with a generous spread of fresh and dry fruits in between.