So I traveled to Glasgow in the fall of 2000 in order to visit friends, hang out, etc. One idea I had for the trip was to take a tape recorder, a cassette, and record all of my Scottish friends reciting some predetermined phrase, but with their best crack at an American accent. Unfortunately, I forgot the recorder. However, on telling my Glaswegian friends about the idea, the conversation quickly descended into bicker about whether one was less likely to find an American with a passable Scottish accent, or a Scot with a passable American accent1. I wasn't overly concerned with the answer to that, though -- I know what Scottish kids sound like when they feign an American accent and I find it hilarious. I suggested that if the American accent was so simple they could just go ahead and demonstrate. They did, and was said certainly wasn't said in the manner of any American I've ever met. Then they challenged me to do the same, and what was suggested is one of the most bizarre cultural relics I've ever heard... allegedly a former marketing slogan for Irn-Bru (a drink I was somewhat familiar with) that puts all Barbasol ads to shame:

Irn-Bru: it'll make you frisky, but it'll no' make you pregnant.

1My personal feeling on the matter is that the average Scot's impression of an American accent is less atrocious than the other way around, but finding a decent accent from either group is difficult. The typical Scot does an American accent by removing all inflection from the voice and drawling like nobody's business... Imagine a computer speaking through a lobotomized resident from Kentucky and you start to get an idea.

Made in scotland, from girders.

Irn-Bru, Scotland's other national drink, is a carbonated "flavoured soft drink" made by A.G.Barr. Scotland is one of the very few nations on earth where the most popular non-alcoholic beverage is something other than Coke. Bru, with its unique flavour, properties as a hangover cure (essential to us Scots), and sizable dose of caffeine is a staple part of the Scottish diet, in some ways more a part of Scottish culture than Whisky, kilts or tartan are in modern times.

Irn-Bru, also known as Irn Bru, is bright orange in colour (ginger orange, not orange juice orange) and tastes something like a cross between bubblegum, cream soda, and burnt plastic. It's a lot nicer than that sounds, and is a great mixer for vodka or cheap whisky (expensive whisky should be enjoyed untainted). A 2 litre bottle contains enough caffeine to make you bounce around like you're on drugs for hours, or to dispel all but the worst of hangovers. The high sugar content helps a bit too. It also comes in 750ml glass bottles, for around 70p (about $1), and which offer a 20p refund upon the safe return of the empty. With excellent value, and a combination of all the good points of both coffee and coke, it's no wonder it's so popular. Diet versions and an isotonic version called Irn-Bru XS are also available, for sporty types or the weight-conscious.

Irn-Bru was first produced in 1901, under the name Iron Brew. It does in fact contain iron, or, more accurately, ammonium ferric citrate, but only 0.02% by volume. In 1946, a change in laws required that the word "brew" be removed from the name, as the drink isn't technically brewed. The chairman of the company came up with the bright idea of changing both halves of the name to the phonetic spelling, giving us Irn-Bru as it is spelt now. The hyphen seems to be part of the name now as well, but its origins are unknown. The formula for the flavour syrup has been kept a closely-guarded secret since its creation, and is rumoured to only be known to two members of the Barr family, with a written copy in a Swiss bank-vault in case a tragic accident should occur. All the quirky mysticism, rumour and folklore surrounding Irn-Bru only serve to help keep it in its place as an icon of Scottish culture.

The ingredients of Irn-Bru are listed as;

If spilt, this product may stain.

While it's most popular in Scotland, this rather disgusting drink is still fairly popular in England (at least in the North) to the extent that there are several rip-off cheap label versions available, usually sold as 'Iron Bru'

There is also a toffee version of this drink, made by McCowan's, the makers of Highland Toffee, IIRC. It tastes nothing like the drink, but still manages to be equally unpalatable.

Apparently the two people who know the secret recipe for this gunk get together once a week and mix up a vat of concentrate which is used for its production in every plant. Rumour has it (surprisingly unmentioned by everyone else in this node) that the main ingredient other than sugar and water is seaweed.

One of the commonest sights the morning after payday, wherever workmen in Scotland gather to build something, is a scattering of empty Irn Bru bottles as far as the eye can see.

Irn Bru is feted as a sovereign ameliorative, if not a down-right cure, for hang-overs throughout Scotland. Why?

Well, after a lifetime's investigation into this, putting the very lives of my own brain cells at risk, here is my guess.

It contains water, and lots of it. Most of the ill-effects of a hangover are caused by dehydration.

(Most of the rest is from the liver finishing metabolising the ethanols and by-products and starting onto the methanols, etc. 'Hair of the dog' is an attempt to put off that evil moment by adding ethanol back in to the body for the liver to process preferentially).

It contains sugar, and lots of it. The body needs fuel at this point, and it makes the water easier to ingest.

It contains caffeine - in fact, Irn-Bru is about half-way between Coca-cola and Jolt Cola in this regard - which acts as a stimulant, making you feel better and accelerating the processing of the toxic by-products in your body.

And last, and far from least, it contains bubbles, which increase the surface area from which the sugars and caffeine can get into the bloodstream. (This is also why champagne, cava and other sparkling wines bring on mild drunkenness so quickly).

In fact the only thing that that could improve Irn-Bru as a hang-over remedy would be the addition of fruit juice so there were vitamins and minerals in it to replace the ones drained out while you were drunk, and an isotonic formula to make the fluid seep back into your dehydrated body cells faster and more readily.

Several years ago, Barrs brought out Irn-Bru XS - a drink that addressed these very points!

Other products available in the family are Irn-Bru chews, Diet Irn-Bru, and the rest of the A.G. Barrs soft drinks line: ginger beer, Red Kola, Limeade, Pinappleade, Strike Cola, Lemonade, Soda Water, etc., etc. Recently their Jusoda drink has been deprecated in favour of Orangina, which they now make and market in the UK under licence.

Another sovereign property of Irn Bru is its usefulness as a mixer. Although it lacks the subtlety to complement and enhance good spirits, it neatly masks the nasty artificial flavours of cheap gin or vodka with rather nice artificial flavours of its own.

I'm told that there even exists, north of the border, an alcopop consisting of Irn Bru and Bell's, thereby (explained the Scot telling me this) mixing Scotland's second and third national drinks. If only they could have got Buckfast in...

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