A little while ago, Shelley wrote about gassosa, a rather unique carbonated beverage. I’d say it’s the Italian equivalent of 7-Up or Sprite, but that doesn’t really do it justice. From Shelley’s post and subsequent comments, it seems that each area of Italy has its favorite manufacturer, and down here in Calabria is no different.There’s ours on the left.

This is actually new packaging–see how they’re playing up the “national beverage” aspect of gassosa with “Bevanda Tipica Nazionale” in green, white, and red? Clever, eh?

As I mentioned in my comment to Shelley’s post, it’s common here to mix gassosa with beer (birra e gassosa), especially at midday. It’s similar to a French Panaché, and I thought it was kind of odd until I tried it; then it reminded me of putting a wedge of lime in a Corona–citrus and beer can be tasty together!

Shelley’s post also made me think of another special drink we have in these parts, one that is unique to Calabria, to the province of Catanzaro (Girifalco) in fact–the Brasilena, described on the packaging as a “bibita al caffè,” a coffee drink.

And it is. This is a cold, non-alcoholic, carbonated coffee drink, so you can just as easily slug this down for breakfast instead of a caffè freddo or my own invented morning brew.

Its website (yes, it’s *that* big time) says that the Brasilena has been produced for 60 years and is made with Calabrian sparkling mineral water and “the right dose of coffee,” which means that young people can drink it too. Other than in Calabria, you can find it in Puglia, Sicily, and Campania, and now it’s also entering the markets of Canada, United States, and Australia–and there are even requests from China.

I told you it was big time.

There is apparently also something called “Moka” produced in the neighboring province of Cosenza, but I’m not going to get involved in the apparent rivalry between the two. Those links are in Italian, but trust me, loyalties to one drink or the other run deep. I’ve never had a Moka, so I have no comment on this cosentina (from Cosenza) cousin.

Where does the name “Brasilena” come from? The website didn’t give any clues that I could find, but brasileña is the feminine adjective for something/someone from Brazil–in Spanish (not Italian). Perhaps the founder was Brazilian (or Spanish) or had ties to the South American country as many Calabrians emigrated there (or to Spain)? Or maybe the name is just a play on Brazil’s coffee bean production?

Or perhaps it all boils down to advertising, and an exotic name plus a cute Brazilian-ish girl adds up to sales. Cha-ching!

If anyone knows the real story, do share, but please don’t waste your hard-earned euros buying Brasilena on eBay from Italy or something–it’s good, but really not worth those shipping costs.

So, next time you’re in Calabria, the Brasilena is on me (if you’re wondering, it costs a euro a bottle at the bar), and I promise to try and refrain from singing its name to the tune of the Macarena when I order.

But be forewarned–I haven’t been successful so far.

Heeeey Brasilena!

*clap clap*

44 Beans of Wisdom to “heeeey…brasilena!”
  1. rochmabeau

    Found you through Ulla,
    I like your site very much. I’ll be back to explore when I have more time. Any kind of espresso sounds good to me!!

    I’ve also sent a link to your site to my friend Karen Cole. She loves Italy too.


  2. Ninotchka

    ha ha – as soon as I saw the title I was singing it to “macarena” in my head. I didn’t realize I was doing it though until you mentioned it at the end.

    Cool post. You’re a great teacher on all things Italian!

  3. The Other Girl

    Your photos would make good print ads for the drinks. They look like giant soft drinks floating over Calabria. Also, I’m thirsty now.

  4. Antonino Condorelli

    Hi, drink is called brasilena maybe because brazil is one of the leader producer country of coffee. I dont’ think there’s somethin more, because in Italian girls coming from Brazil are called Brasiliane not Brasilene. Maybe it’s a spanish version… Boh!
    I’m very happy for how you make informations about our region GOOD!!!
    But there’s a drink in USA called Grape Soda of wich I’m a great lover, that I haven’t been able to find here in Italy. What about Grape soda?
    Sorry for my english.

  5. sognatrice

    Constance, welcome! Glad you found me and passed me on as well! I’ll be checking out your place soon 🙂

    Nino, geez, I hope you don’t really hate the Macarena otherwise you might really hate me after a while 😉

    TheOG, they *do* look like they’re floating through Calabria; I need to get in touch with some people in Girifalco.

    Antonino, first of all, your English is fabulous so don’t apologize! I think you’re right about the name–I know that a Brazilian girl is a “brasiliana” (like the gal on Cultura Moderna!), and I even double checked with my fidanzato to see if it changed in dialect. Alas, nope. So it must be the beans. I’m trying little by little to introduce the English-speaking world to Calabria…but we don’t want it *too* overcrowded down here, so I have to go slowly 😉

    And grape soda? Really? I haven’t had that since I was a little girl (yum!)–any of you in the US know if they still make it? Which brand? I think I remember Fanta…is that possible? Another I remember is A-Treat. Was that regional? Excellent question Antonino! Help us out, US soda/pop experts!

  6. Annika

    Quite some backdrop you got for those photos… 🙂

  7. Antonino Condorelli

    BINGO!!! I found it
    Unfortunatly I think the don’t sell in Italy.
    great Sognatrice.

  8. sognatrice

    Annika, you’ll find it in most of my photos as it’s the only part of my place that gets the sun most of the day–so I balance things on my railing on hope for the best 😉

    Antonino, so it *is* Fanta! After I wrote that, I started to doubt it because here, “una Fanta” is an aranciata (orange-flavored for non-Italian speakers), and that’s that…although I see here that there are actually more flavors in Italy. I’m glad I didn’t hallucinate the other flavors back in America! Antonino, you should ask Cherrye to bring you back a six-pack of the grape stuf when she heads home 😉

  9. Cherrye

    I was just thinking I wish I had read this before my friends left earlier in the week. I’d have asked for some – FOR SURE!

    They also make the grape drink at Walmart…the cheap brand sodas!

    Anyway…so sorry to disappoint, but I do not like Brasilena at all…gotta try the Moka.

  10. Paolo

    When they come up with an iced caffè corretto, someone will have my business. I am positively jonesin’ for that stuff.

    Qui nell’America, certamente, è chiamato “Sparks…”

  11. Wanderlust Scarlett

    Looks SO good! So does the scenery… I never tire of staring longingly at your coastlines and countryside.

    Now I can pretend I’m going to enjoy an icy beverage in the sun along with it!


    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  12. colleen

    I don’t drink coffee but I could get addicted to visiting your blog. Can I live through you vicariously for awhile? Are you gonna post about the food? I’ll scroll down.

  13. heartinsanfrancisco

    I don’t like soda, but for this one, I think I could make an exception as I do like coffee.

    And if it resulted in a visit to Calabria, I would do it by IV if need be.

    Your photos are always wondrous, and make the yearning stronger.

  14. stefanie

    Evil. So evil.

    Just when I think that song is gone for good…

  15. stefanie

    Also, you’re finally reading Eat Pray Love! Do you love it?? (Um, it’s OK if you don’t…) 😉

  16. cheeky

    Ok! Not only do I expect you to sing when ordering me a Brasilena, I want to see you DO the Macarena.
    Is the drink sweetened? Curious. I don’t drink coffee but cool and sweetened might be worthy of a taste.
    It was sort of hard to focus on the bottle from your balcony? as all I could pay attention to was the fantastic view.

  17. Anonymous

    In England they call the beer/lemon soda combo a ‘Shandy’, or ‘Lager Shandy’. And if that is supposedly a Brazilian girl, why is she wearing a sombrero worn by the gauchos of Argentina, huh huh? 😉 She should be topless, dancing a samba! Opa!

  18. Anonymous

    there’s a Welch’s grape soda which is very, very good. i love your blog and your descriptions of life in Calabria. makes me want to visit. joanna in spain

  19. Alexandra

    ah anonymous beat me to it- the girl definitely looks more itlian first of all, secondly thats a goucho outfit and lets not forget the andalucian rose in her hair….

    but what’s important is that the WATER is from calabria! 😉

  20. sognatrice

    Cherrye, I have to say that Brasilena grew on me after I while–I wasn’t an immediate fan either. I think the Moka is actually a stronger flavor!

    Paolo, well I did have a Shakerato this morning that was laced with Bailey’s; didn’t know that until the first sip, and then I pushed it away disgusted at the suggestion that I’d drink liquor at 8.30 a.m. 😉

    Scarlett, glad you enjoy the view; as I said above, I try to fit it in as much as possible 😉

    Colleen, you have to check out my food and What’s Cooking Wednesday labels–lots of stuff related to mangia-ing there 🙂

    HeartinSF, I have to say it’s an interesting sensation, carbonated coffee. I’m not big on carbonation myself (I don’t like the fizzy water many seem to love here), but I do enjoy a Brasilena every now again–I drink it, essentially, in the summer in place of an afternoon espresso.

    Stefanie, yes, I am enjoying Eat, Pray, Love–almost done! And feel free to stick a horrible song in my head whenever you like. You deserve it.

    Cheeky, I don’t think I’ve *ever* done the Macarena, so I think you’ll be waiting a long time 😉 Yes, the drink is definitely sweetened (more sugar than coffee according to the label), but it’s not disgustingly sweet, I don’t think. Glad you liked the view as well 🙂

    Anon, actually the link in the post for the French Panaché takes you to a page about the Shandy in general; people here compare it to the French drink (perhaps only because they’re more familiar with it as many have relatives in France), so I used that as the comparison point.

    As for the girl (Alexandra, as well), all I can figure is that she comes from the fact that the word “brasilena” is Spanish, not Italian or Portuguese–which would explain her Spanish/(Argentinian accessories; then she has the Brazilian colors draped over her but is in Italy, so perhaps she’s a true mix of Italian, Spanish, and Brazilian–kind of like the drink itself?

    Maybe I just have to email the company and ask the history of the name and the image 😉

    Joanna, glad you’re enjoying–come on down!

  21. goodthomas

    Ah, how the heck can you write a whole post about a carbonated beverage and make it that interesting? How do you do that? Granted the amazing photography helps but . . . dang.

    I am not sure, though, how I would do with a Brasilena but if it means a trip to Italy, sign me up please.

  22. Paolo

    D’accordo Goodthomas!

    Our girl’s good. 🙂

  23. sognatrice

    Goodthomas and Paolo, well, in all fairness, this ain’t just *any* carbonated drink, but thank you both 🙂

  24. cheeky

    Now I have to admit here in on your blog that I have done the macarena. On a cruise ship, nonetheless. I’m sure you can get a great visual now. Yes get all your laughs out now, and no there is no video footage of it – thank heavens. What can I say? I am a good sport and I’m all for dancing, silly as it might have been. 🙂

  25. sognatrice

    Cheeky, I just hope you feel cleansed having shared that with the blogosphere…although I really would’ve enjoyed video. You *sure* there’s not one out there somewhere?

  26. The Freelance Cynic

    AH man. Now I want a can of Sprite… Do you have any idea how hard it is to find that stuff over here?

  27. sognatrice

    Really? Sprite is actually all over the place here. Go figure!

  28. JennieBoo

    Now I HAVE to try it..since you promised to sing!


  29. Wanderlust Scarlett

    Antonino and Sognatrice…

    Grape Crush.


    Scarlett & V.

  30. sognatrice

    Jennie, well it’s not so much a promise as an unintended side effect 😉

    Scarlett, yes, oh how I *love* Orange Crush…never had grape, but I’m sure I’d love that too. This is getting depressing 😉

  31. Shelley - At Home in Rome

    Fun post. I love the packaging, so totally retro. And, yes, now I’ve got that song stuck in my head too…

  32. sognatrice

    Shelley, retro…Calabrian…kind of goes hand in hand 😉 Sorry about the song. Feel free to email me one just as annoying for payback.

  33. Anonymous

    One of your posters from the UK drinks a “Shandy”; here, and in Austria, on the slopes especially, they drink the same but call it “das Radler.” Not a big fan, but mio merito, Marco, sure is! Prost!


  34. sognatrice

    Wunsch, geez, I’m beginning to think it’s only the Americans who don’t do lemony beer….salute!

  35. sarala

    I can’t stand Starbucks in the can and am having trouble processing the idea of carbonated coffee. But next time I’m in your area I’ll look you up for that Brasilena. I drank a lot of the local gassosa when traveling in Italy. Great stuff.

  36. sognatrice

    Sarala, for some reason, the can strikes me as so much less appealing than the bottle. I’ve never seen Brasilena in a can in person, but I see it on the website, and I have to say, I don’t think I’d go for it. For one, the carbonation really isn’t strong enough to last through drinking a whole can I don’t think. They also sell liter bottles of it, but unless you plan on sitting down and drinking the whole thing as a family in one sitting, I can’t imagine that it’d be any good after being opened.

    I look forward to your arrival 🙂

  37. David

    If anyone is interested in purchasing Brasilena i am the only supplier in the entire province of quebec. You can reach me at dpolifroni@hotmail.com

  38. sognatrice

    *David, if anyone from Canada comes to me for Brasilena, I know where to send ’em!

  39. 05.01.2009

    I never knew they added graso to beer. I hope they do not add a lot or it would water down the taste. If i go back to i will have to taste it myself. I know some beer taste better with lime but not all.

    etf funds’s last blog post..Bond etf.

    Indeed 🙂

  40. Joanne Peplow


    I’m looking for a place/store to buy the Brasilena
    coffee drink.
    I live in Ontario.
    Does anyone know where I can buy it?

  41. Joanne Peplow

    My email address would be jpeplow@cogeco.ca

  42. Hannah Northway

    Hi, I have just had my first taste of Brasilena here in the UK… its lovely not to carbonated and it has a great aroma of coffee and carmel tones.. amazing….

    Glad you enjoyed, Hannah!

  43. Nic

    Great article.
    Up northern Italy where my family’s from, we mix chinoto with beer. Have you ever tried that?

    michelle Reply:

    Not a huge fan of chinotto, so I’m not sure adding beer would make it better for me, but perhaps I’ll give it a go before the summer is out 😉

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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