Review: Q Kola and GuS Cola

Bottles of Q Kola and GuS Cola.

When looking for a cola mixer it’s far too easy to reach for the usual suspects, especially in the grocery store where the big names occupy most of the aisle. However, most of the big names use obesity-inducing high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. HFCS is a cheap sweetener made from corn, and has been around since the late 1950s. It’s been used increasingly in foods and drinks since the 1970s, especially in the USA, and is now estimated to be in 80% of the nation’s processed foods, even staples like bread.

Since it was introduced, the average American has gone from eating zero HFCS to an estimated 60 lbs a year. Many scientists believe that it is not a mere coincidence that in the same period the number of people with obesity has tripled, and cases of diabetes have increased seven-fold.

Why take a premium rum or whiskey to make a cocktail and debase it with a corn syrup that is used purely because it’s cheap, when there are healthier and more natural alternatives around? They may cost a few dollars more for a pack, but if you’re not scrimping on the spirits don’t nickel-and-dime on the mixer.

Here’s a look at two HFCS-free cola options for your cocktailing needs.

Q Kola – Q Kola uses agave nectar as the sweetener, and only natural ingredients. The cola taste comes from the kola nut, and other ingredients include nutmeg, lemon, lime, orange, caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, coriander, and caffeine. As all of these, apart from maybe the caffeine, are aromas and tastes associated with premium spirits, it makes sense to use a cola that compliments the spirit rather than drown it in overly-sweet cola.

This is a cola you can treat with the same seriousness that you would a spirit. On the nose, apart from bubbles, it’s much less sweet than regular colas, and far spicier, with cinnamon and nutmeg both prominent. Notes of agave and vanilla provide what sweetness there is.

On the palate it’s still spicy but there’s also a lemon/lime freshness to it as well, and still that touch of vanilla. This is a cola you can enjoy on its own, but as a mixer is where it shines. It was perfect in that classic and easy tequila cocktail, the batanga (tequila, cola, lime juice), and trying a rum with Q Kola alongside a rum with a ‘top brand’, it was no contest. A / $30 per 24-pack 0f 7.5 fl. oz bottles [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

GuS Cola – This cola from GuS (Grown-up Sodas) uses cane sugar rather than agave nectar, which is at least a natural sugar and not HFCS. Note, though, that one small bottle of this cola contains 48% of the recommended daily intake of sugar compared to Q Kola’s 36%. It also has fewer natural ingredients than the Q Kola, with the bottle listing natural flavors rather than actual ingredients: GuS has citric acid, for example, whereas Q has real citrus.

There are no preservatives in GuS Cola, it’s kosher, GMO-free, gluten-free, and caffeine-free, although caffeine is a traditional ingredient in most colas.

On the nose and on the palate it’s less spicy than the Q Kola, less complex, and tastes more like one of the big brands but with much less of the sickly-sweetness. This is not a bad cola, by any means, infinitely superior to the big names, only suffering a little in comparison to the excellent Q. B+ / $7 per 4-pack of 12 fl. oz bottles [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Q Kola




Mike Gerrard is an award-winning travel and drinks writer who divides his time between Cambridgeshire in England and Arizona in the USA.


  1. George on August 29, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    Or, simply, drink a Mexican Coke instead. No HFCS, and same taste we all know and love.

  2. Cangey on August 31, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    I’ve long wondered why reduced sugar Coke isn’t a thing. So I see this GuS cola, try it and kvetch “So twice the price of a Coke and less flavor?” Oh, well. If this niche becomes less nichey surely Coke will introduce a version. I’m eager to try the Q Kola. Red Bull Cola was amazing 10 years ago. Ah it’s available again!

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