Fresh tarkhun, pictured with its main flavoring ingredients.

Tarkhun: An Incredible, Natural Soda from Georgia

Published: June 24, 2020

Тархун (Tarkhun) is a carbonated soft drink made from tarragon leaves. The drink is known for its typically distinctive green color and is especially popular in Russia and the Caucasus.

Тархун was first concocted, like most western sodas, by a pharmacist. Mitrofan Lagidze, a Georgian, first mixed carbonated water with his original tarragon syrup in his Tbilisi pharmacy in 1887 as a drink meant to improve digestion and cure stomach ailments. It was also delicious, however, and Lagidze’s drink quickly became a popular local commodity. He soon opened a syrup factory and a trademark which have survived to the present day, called “Воды Лагидзе” or “Lagidze’s Waters.” Its entered mass production in the later Soviet era and became popular throughout the USSR. It remains widely enjoyed and available throughout the former USSR today.

Почему носит такое название?

“Тархун” is the Russian word for tarragon. This was the name that the USSR used in its marketing and thus is today the most widely used for the drink. Very similar names are used for the herb in other languages such as Georgian, Arabic, and Turkic, meaning that the name was easy to adopt. Tarragon is a widespread plant, which can be found in every region of Russia, as well as in North America, Georgia, France, India, and China. Tarragon oil is acquired by using steam to distill the leaves, stems, and flowers of the plant and this may then be made into syrup for the drink. The oil has a distinct flavor and odor reminiscent of licorice and sweet basil. Its distinctiveness and specificity means that most who try the drink either love or hate it.

Russian tarragon – from which tarkhun is made. French tarragon is typically a deeper green.

Historically, tarragon has been a traditional medicine to treat poor digestion in many cultures – including those of Europe. Tarragon was used by the ancient Greeks as a toothache medicine as well. The medieval Arab doctor Ibn Biter wrote that the juice squeezed from tarragon improves sleep and supplies a lot of vitamins such as vitamin C and carotene. Many Russian sources also believe that tarragon increases the appetite, helps digestion, and improves sleep.

Tarragon is highly popular in French cooking. The French call the herb “estragon” or “little dragon” (it is sometimes referred to as “estragon” in English and Russian as well). The French sometimes also refer to it as “King of Herbs” as it is the main flavoring in many of the sauces that form the foundation of classic French cuisine, such as Béarnaise, Rigavote, and Tartare. While French tarragon is most commonly used in such recipes, it does not spread and reproduce as easily as Russian tarragon, and must be cultivated for commercial use.

Как правильно пить тархун?

Тархун is a fantastic drink for those sultry Russian summer days. Тархун can be found at nearly every grocery store or street kiosk in either plastic or glass bottles (those brands in glass bottles typically being a higher quality). There are three popular bands of тархун commonly sold in Russian supermarkets.

Lagidze’s Waters, the original brand that produced tarkhun, is still around and offers a range of natural flavors. Tarkun is featured in the middle.

One type of тархун is made by the brand Росинка and usually comes in 1-2 liter bottles. Some find that this brand is more pleasing for the American palate, as it is somewhat sweeter and has plenty of carbonation. Of course, it has the typical tarragon flavor, with hints of citrus and licorice common to тархун.

Another brand of тархун is produced by Останские Напитки. This brand, while still sweet and fizzy, is more fragrant and herbal than Rosinka. There are traces of licorice and vanilla and just the smallest hint of a medicinal quality, reminiscent of a Riccola cough drop.

A third brand of тархун comes from Напитки из Черноголовки, which is bottled by the Russian beverage giant ОСТ-Аква. According to some, this blend of тархун tastes strongly herbal, almost to the point of spiciness. It is much more like an old-fashioned tonic drink than a modern day soft drink.

Как правильно готовить тархун?

There are typically two different ways of making тархун. The first involves steeping (soaking) tarragon branches in water, in order to extract the distinctive flavor. It’s best to boil the water first, so that when the sugar is added it dissolves faster. However, make sure to cool the тархун before drinking it.

The second variant of тархун is made by making a tarragon syrup. This is how brand-name тархун is usually made. While more complicated than the first method, it is certainly within the reach of any household. All that is needed to make the syrup is a blender and a stove.

Напитки из Черноголовки (Drinks from Chernogolovki) is one of the most common brands of tarkun in Russia today. Tarkhun is the green drink pictured here.

You can make тархун using either French or Russian tarragon, although some Russian connoisseurs will tell you that Russian tarragon will be better. French tarragon in the culinary world is often referred to as “true” tarragon and has a smoother, sweeter taste than its Russian counterpart, which is often called “false” tarragon.

There are 2 challenges in making the perfect тархун. First, the final product of homemade тархун does not come out with that bright green color for which the drink is so popular. The tarragon branches can give the beverage a yellowish tint. Yet, this can be remedied by adding green food coloring. Likewise, mint, lime rind, or kiwi can be added to the syrup which will make the final beverage a bit greener (although it will also affect the taste).

Another challenge is the clarity of the drink. Chances are the homemade mixtures of тархун will contain some tarragon particles, which can be removed by filtering the solution.

Давай приготовим!

See below for a free recipe for тархун. See also the free videos online. If you are interested in cooking from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and other places in Eurasia, make sure to see our full, free Eurasian Cookbook online! You might also be interested in the following specialized cookbooks we’ve enjoyed:

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Сироп эстрагона Tarragon Syrup
Ингредиенты

  • 1 ст. сахара
  • 100 мл воды
  • 1/8 ч.л. пищевой соды
  • 10 г эстрагона
  • 100 мл льда
  • 50 мл сока лимона

Приготовление

  1. В кастрюле вскипятите воду и сахар, часто помешивая. Смешайте пищевую соду и эстрагон, жарьте 1 минуту и снимите с огня.
  2. В блендере смешайте все до получения однородной массы. Добавьте лёд и сок лимона и смешайте еще. Профильтруйте и охладите.
  3. Смешайте сироп с 1 литром воды и добавьте зелёный краситель.

Даёт 6 порций.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz sugar
  • 3 oz water
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 0.35 oz tarragon leaves
  • 3 oz ice cubes
  • 1.5 oz lemon juice

Preparation

  1. In a saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring constantly. Mix in the baking soda and tarragon, boil for 1 minute and remove from the heat.
  2. Transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Add the ice cubes and lemon juice and process again. Filter the substance and refrigerate.
  3. Mix the syrup with 36 oz of water and add green food dye.

Yields 6 servings

 

Напиток из тархуна и лайма Tarkhun and Lime
Ингредиенты

  • 800 мл холодной воды
  • 15-20 веточек тархуна
  • Половина лайма или четверть лимона (выжимать сок)
  • 2-3 ст.л. сахара
  • 200 мл (1 стакан) горячей воды

Приготовление

  1. В кувшин положите веточки тархуна – как есть, со стеблями. Добавьте немного сахара и разомните листья деревянной ложкой. (Не стоит измельчать листья в блендере, они потеряют цвет, станут бурыми и напиток получится непривлекательным).
  2. Налейте в кувшин немного кипятка, чтобы быстрее растворился сахар.
  3. Натрите цедру лайма или лимона, выжмите сок.
  4. Долейте кувшин доверху холодной водой и поставьте в холодильник, чтобы напиток хорошо остыл.
Ingredients

  • 800 milliliters of cold water
  • 15-20 branches of tarragon
  • Juice from a half a lime or ¼ of lemon
  • 2-3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 200 milliliters (1 glass) of hot water

Preparation

  1. Put the tarragon branches into a jug – as they are, with stems. Add a bit of sugar and knead the leaves with a wooden spoon. (It is not a good idea to mix leaves in a blender as they will lose color, get brown and the drink will not look attractive).
  2. Pour some boiling water into the jug to make the sugar dissolve faster.
  3. Grate the lime or lemon rind and squeeze the juice into the jug.
  4. Add cold water up to the edges of the jug and put it into the fridge to cool the drink.

 

Our Favorite Tarkhun Videos

Here is a good video on how to easily make a refreshing batch of тархун. The video was made by “Pulse Plus,” a Russian website that provides information and advice on healthy living.

In this video, a chef from Всем вкусно (Tasty for All) shows viewers how to make fresh lemonade out of kiwi and tarragon. Всем вкусно is a sponsored site – this particular video is sponsored by a brand of kitchen cleaner called “CIF.”

Lastly, while commercials for tarkhun and other traditional drinks in Russia are rarely seen (with the occasional exception of kvass), this commercial shows a few drinks from the tarkhun manufacturer Напитки из Черноголовки. Although this commercial does not show the tarkhun they make, it does emphasise the reason that Russians buy products from this company: for the natural refreshment!

 

 

About the author

Michael Smeltzer

Michael Smeltzer is an SRAS Home and Abroad Scholar who has degrees in Russian Language and Philosophy from St. Olaf College in Minnesota

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Michael Smeltzer

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov has reported on political and social issues for the Russian press as well as American outlets such as Russian Life, Worldpress.org, and Triangle Free Press. He has travelled Russia extensively and penned many stories on the "real Russia" which lies beyond the capital and major cities. Andrei graduated from Ural State University (journalism) and Irkutsk State Linguistic University (English). He studied public policy and journalism at Duke University on a Muskie Fellowship and went on to study TESOL and teach Russian at West Virginia University. He is currently working on an PhD from West Virginia University in Political Science. Andrei contributes news, feature stories, and language resources to the SRAS site, and is an overall linguistics and research resource.

Program attended: All Programs

View all posts by: Andrei Nesterov