Tarkhun, Tarragon Soda

Tarragon soda was invented by Mitrofan Lagidze in Tbilisi in 1887, and I already talked about Lagidze’s beverages here, in another post. But it wasn’t until 1981 that Soviet Union started mass production and gave Tarkhun (whose name is derived from the word for tarragon in Georgian and other languages from around the Caucasus) its distinctive color by adding malachite green, a dye that is now considered toxic and banned in most countries. Don’t worry though, my recipe’s entirely safe and natural!

As surprising as the idea may first sound, Tarkhun is actually quite good and carries tarragon’s pleasant, mildly liquorice flavor. There are 2 challenges in making perfect Tarkhun:

  • Color. The tarragon syrup will be pale green right after you make it, but will quickly turn yellow. The role of the baking soda and the ice cubes in my recipe is actually to slow down that “yellowing” process, but it can only do so much. If you’re willing to make the recipe a bit more complicated, you could add the lemon juice at the last minute, when assembling the soda — acidity is a big factor in the color.
    You can add a drop of (FDA-approved) green coloring in each glass for a vibrant result (see my picture below). If you want to reproduce the color of the commercial versions (as in the picture at the very bottom of this post), you would probably need to add some blue coloring too. Or you can just choose to consume the all-natural yellow version.
  • Clarity. Chances are your soda will still contain small tarragon particles. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you want a clearer beverage, you should consider using a 100-micron superbag. Now THAT will make you a true Tarkhun aficionado!

Tarragon syrup
Yields about 6 servings

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

  • In a saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring constantly. Mix in the baking soda and tarragon, cook for 1 minute and remove from the heat.
  • Transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Add the ice cubes and lemon juice and process again. Pass through a fine chinois and refrigerate.

Yields about 6 glasses

tarragon syrup
36 oz sparkling water
green food coloring (optional)

  • For each glass, Mix 2 oz syrup with 6 oz sparkling water and a drop of food coloring. Top with ice. Enjoy!

A commercial Tarkhun