Swedes drink a lot of julmust for Christmas, a sweet soft drink resembling root beer. The same beverage is also served for Eastern, under the name påskmust. These “musts” are so popular in Sweden that the consumption of Coca Cola drops by 50% when julmust/påskmust is in the shelves. Coca-Cola tried to change this by campaigning hard in Christmas adds, in newspapers and on television, but in 2004 they finally gave up and launched their own brand of julmust by the name of Bjäre. The newcomer didn’t sell that well, and a couple of years later The Coca-Cola Company canceled their julmust. Instead, they’re boosting their Coca-Cola advertising during holidays. One add said “A must for Christmas” (must being the påskmust and julmust, but also the English word “must”) depicting Santa Claus with a Coca-Cola bottle. But no matter how popular Coca-Cola is all year round, they still have no chance during Påsk and Jul (i.e Easter and Christmas). And just like with Coca-Cola, the essence of Swedish must is made by one manufacturer guarding the secret recipe well.
The julmust was invented by Harry Roberts and his father Robert Roberts in 1910 as an alternative to alcoholic beverages, especially as an alternative to beer. Now, julmust doesn’t taste like beer but there is a slight bitterness to it, like an extremely mild cold brewed coffee with a lot of sugar and various spices. The ingredients are a well guarded secret, but we know from the sticker that it does contain barley and hops. And indeed, the flavor does hint sweetened beer but without the alcohol. As for the spices, I sense cloves. But considering it has tasted the same since 1910, I would guess most herbs and spices in this soft drink are less exotic. After all, in the beginning of last century, this soft drink was affordable not only to the rich hence I doubt too many spices from the far east found their way into it.
The color is very dark, almost black. The most avid fans tend to save julmust, and drink it a year later. They say the flavors need an extra year to develop.