Gazosa La Fiorenzana: Mirtillo

History: What if I told you there is a little soda bottler out there still making its concoctions in refillable bottles like the old days? What if I told you it’s a family business in its fourth generation? What if I told you they use real ingredients and don’t even have a marketing budget, relying only on word-of-mouth publicity? Are you getting the nostalgia tingles yet? Is your small business radar blinging like a Drake song? Gazosa La Fiorenzana is a small, family-owned Swiss soda bottler located in the Grono village of the Grisons canton that’s been making their products the same way since 1921. Five Star Soda was the first American media outlet to review one of its beverages back in August of 2015. Stephen Keller is an ex-fútbol player formerly of FC Zurich and founder of Plopenzisch, “the official dealer of Gazosa in the Benelux and parts of Germany.” After trying Gazosa for the first time in a Zurich bar in 2002, Keller began importing the Swiss soda to the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. “Our flavors are pure and old fashioned, please don’t expect any mixes or addition of vanilla or anything,” he says. The company was started by Francesco Tonna, who introduced four original flavors: Pompelmo (grapefruit), Limone (lemon), Mandarino (mandarin orange), and Lampone (raspberry). Keller tells us four more flavors were added between the years of 1940 and 1964 by Tonna’s daughter Matilda Tonna and his son Gianni Ponzio. One of those flavors includes today’s review, mirtillo, which is Italian for blueberry. Keller describes it to us as “Alpine blueberry soda,” which sounds fancy and makes us all like it more. The wild alpine blueberry is about a quarter of the size of an average blueberry. According to Keller, mirtillo is a popular regional flavor in Switzerland and is used in gelato, cakes, jams, and syrups. Kind of sounds like the equivalent of grape or strawberry in America. While mirtillo may be popular in Switzerland, most soda flavors outside of America contain some sort of citrus element, as do a majority of Gazosa’s – so this is certainly a unique international treat. It’s always refreshing to see a company that still does things the same way after decades and decades – probably a good sign for the customer. Also, this is perhaps the most beautiful hue of blue we’ve ever seen in a soda. It looks like it could give you magical powers. We’ll let you know if we land a superhero movie deal after sampling.

Where to get: Sorry, Americans – Gazosa sodas are distributed only in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany where they are available in many cafes and restaurants.

Nose: Fresh blueberry bushes; crisp snow melt. Ever smelled freshly melted snow in the woods and how clean it smells? There’s a crispness on the nose of this. Delightful.

Taste: Fresh blueberries; brisk carbonation; tartness. There’s a very natural, rich floral blueberry taste to this with a carbonation that is very distinct. The bubbles are light, but immense. Definitely an old-fashioned soda trick and a very fun mouth feel. The blueberry here is layered. Sometimes it’s sweet. Sometimes it’s a little sour. Kind of like eating a bowl of blueberries, honestly. This is bold enough to satisfy the taste buds, yet light enough to encourage finishing the entire bottle. I taste a little bite of a wildcard flavor accompanying some sips: mint, almost like a wintergreen. It’s definitely a blueberry mint taste, but it’s there. Maybe we can agree to just calling it an earthy note. Wouldn’t mind seeing that scaled back a little. Gazosa’s Mirtillo tastes natural, refreshing, and tart.

Finish: Tart blueberry with the slightest undertones of sugar. Imagine biting into a more sour blueberry and then following it up with a mildly sweet one.

Rating: Made with blueberries from the Alps, Gazosa’s Mirtillo Soda is the most natural-tasting blueberry soda we’ve come across thus far. Just like the fruit, some sips are refreshingly sweet, while others are earthy and sour. This is a soda with all parts working in tandem. The flavor is as delightful and the packaging. Gazosa has engineered their swing-top bottles in a way that dates back hundreds of years. One crucial design element I found was this: the mouth of the bottle is made with extra thick glass that reduces the amount of liquid per sip. With less soda per drink, I found myself inspecting the flavors more instead of just instinctually slurping down the liquid that filled my mouth. I’m not sure if this is by design, but it really allows the drinker to think about the flavor profile. Outside of the soda’s pleasant blueberry flavor, its biggest achievement is maintaining a tart flavor without being acidic. That’s a hard line to tow for most soda bottlers. Also a hard line to tow for most women… in my experience. Blueberry is a flavor that is finally starting to see the light of day in the craft soda world, and Gazosa out of Switzlerand is already ahead of the game on this one. To that we say, gut gemacht, Gazosa.

Four Stars


Gazosa La Fiorenzana: Pompelmo

History: Hailing from the Alps of Switzlerand comes a soda that’s been brewed the same way since 1921, a hidden gem tucked away in the little village of Grono located in the Grisons canton. It’s been traveling over 4,900 miles and longer than 14.5 hours to reach America, and now it’s here… for the first time ever. That’s right, Five Star Soda is the first American media outlet to get its hands on Gazosa La Fiorenzana. Francesco Tonna started Gazosa with four original flavors: Pompelmo (grapegruit), Limone (lemon), Mandarino (mandarin orange), and  Lampone (raspberry). Today there are a total of eight. It was in 2002 when ex-footballer (soccer) and Polpenzisch founder Stephan Keller descended from the Netherlands to a bar in Zurich during his time playing for FC Zurich. It was there he sampled Gazosa for the first time. He and his immaculate beard realized immediately he couldn’t let this tasting be his last and decided to begin importing the Swiss soda to the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Meanwhile, I didn’t put pants on until noon today. His description of Gazosa paints the company as the epitome of little mom and pop productions. He jokes, “Swiss small is different to U.S. small.” First of all, the business has stayed in the Ponzio-Tonna family and is currently in its fourth generation. According to the Keller, the soda’s label remains unchanged. The company still uses refillable swing-top bottles, a reason, Keller adds, that Gazosa will probably never be available in America. People in America definitely probably don’t have the patience for refillable bottles. The company also has no marketing budget and relies soley on word-of-mouth. But what we all care about is taste. To that, Keller added, “Our flavors are pure and old fashioned, please don’t expect any mixes or addition of vanilla or anything.” Like many soda bottlers outside of America, a majority (six) of Gazosa’s flavors are citrus, including all four original flavors. There’s a simple reason for this. You ready? Keller explains the secret, saying, “Francesco Tonna just used what he had available, experimented and tested the flavors amongst his loyal drinkers.” Mind blowing, right? What we’re getting at is this little, independent Swiss family business has been making soda the old fashioned way with real ingredients for a long time. They might just be one of the soda universe’s best kept secrets.

We wanted our first Gazosa review to remain true to the original four flavors, but also to be a little adventurous. We went with Pompelmo. We figured if you can make a divisive flavor like grapefruit taste good in soda form, then you probably know what you’re doing. Turns out Pompelmo was the second flavor Tonna cooked up and Keller notes it’s actually the original Limone with real grapefruit added to the recipe for some added bitterness. You can actually see bits of pulp in the bottle. If you’re curious (even if you’re not), Pompelmo means “grapefruit” in Italian. As with all Gazosa citrus flavors, the fruit comes “from Italian traders to the south of Switzerland,” says Keller. The flavor is the company’s international best-seller.

Where to get: Gazosa La Fiorenzana is available at many fine Swiss restaurants and cafes. It’s currently distributed only in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Nose: Grapefruit. Real grapefruit. It’s like cutting open a grapefruit and holding the peel up to your nose. It’s actually pretty remarkable. There’s also some lemon on the nose as well.

Taste: Sweet lemon; tartness; grapefruit; bitter carbonation. There’s a bittersweet element to this soda that authentically ties the whole drink together. The lemon is more prominent in the flavor profile than the nose, but the bitterness of real lemon shines through in combination with the tart sweetness of a grapefruit. The carbonation is a rush of intensity at the beginning of each sip that amplifies the bitter lemon notes. This gradually fades into a sweeter lemon-grapefruit hybrid. The lemon at this point becomes more candied akin to a traditional lemon-lime soda, but the grapefruit really does taste like real grapefruit juice. It’s bitter, then it’s sweet and ends with a mild tartness. An authentic citrus soda.

Finish: Tart grapefruit with a light dusting of sugar that gradually fades. The linger on this is perfect.

Rating: The best grapefruit soda in the world may very well hail from Switzerland. Gazosa has taken one of America’s most divisive fruits and presented it in a soda with juice to taste fresh, enough tartness to remain true to the lemon and grapefruit, and enough sweetness to keep soda purists happy. It’s very rich in citrus. The juices are very prominent. The grapefruit juice really holds its flavor. If you don’t like grapefruit, you wouldn’t like this. But why would you be drinking grapefruit soda to begin with, you weirdo? The lemon goes through more of a transformation, at one point bitter, and at another much sweeter. Americans aren’t used to sodas that garner a large portion of their sweetness from the natural sugars in the juices. Compared to American soda, even some of the artisinal fruit ones, this probably tastes more like a carbonated juice than soda if I had to choose. But then there’s that distinctive soda fizz and sugar rush on some sips. It’s a nice mixture. The Swiss have beautiful women and make beautiful soda. That’s already two reasons for me to find a new girlfriend in Switzerland. This is a rare treat for us at Five Star to review something from so far away. The only sad thing is that unless you’re heading to Switzerland, this will be out of your reach. The one that got away. Maybe you should go chase after it. Just maybe. Fünf sterne.