Julmust (Swedish jul “Christmas” and must “juice”) is a soft drink that is mainly consumed in Sweden around Christmas. During the rest of the year it is usually hard to find in stores, but sometimes it is sold at other times of the year under the name must. At Easter the name is Påskmust (påsk “Easter”). The content is the same regardless of the marketing name, although the length of time it is stored before bottling differs; however, the beverage is more closely associated with Christmas, somewhat less with Easter and traditionally not at all with the summer. 45 million litres of julmust are consumed during December (to be compared with roughly 9 million Swedes), which is around 50% of the total soft drink volume in December and 75% of the total yearly must sales.
Must was created by Harry Roberts and his father Robert Roberts in 1910 as a non-alcoholic alternative to beer. The syrup is still made exclusively by Roberts AB in Örebro. The original recipe is said to be locked up in a safe with only two persons knowing the full recipe.
Must is made of carbonated water, sugar, hop extract, malt extract, spices, caramel colouring, citric acid, and preservatives. The hops and malt extracts give the must a somewhat root beer-like taste, but much sweeter. It can be aged provided it is stored in a glass bottle. Some people buy Julmust in December only to store it a year before drinking it.
Julmust vs. Coca-Cola
In Sweden, julmust outsells Coca-Cola during the Christmas season; in fact, the consumption of Coca-Cola drops by as much as 50% over Christmas. This was quoted as one of the main reasons that The Coca-Cola Company broke away from their contract with the local brewer Pripps and started Coca-Cola Drycker Sverige AB instead. Coca-Cola Drycker Sverige AB produced its own julmust, albeit very slyly with The Coca-Cola Company’s name occupying only a small space on the label. Their julmust was never advertised until 2004, when Coca-Cola started marketing their julmust under the brand “Bjäre julmust”, but they bought the syrup from Roberts AB. By 2007 the “Bjäre julmust” was only sold at McDonald’s restaurants and it had completely disappeared from Coca-Colas range of products by Christmas 2008.
Those outside Sweden who are curious to try julmust might be able to purchase and sample a bottle from a Swedish Food Market at IKEA. However, availability is not guaranteed; one is most likely to find it in stock in early December.
In November 2004 PepsiCo marketed a product somewhat similar in taste to julmust in the United States called Pepsi Holiday Spice. It was on sale during the 2004 and 2006 Christmas seasons.
Cost Plus World Market in the United States sells julmust during the Christmas holiday season.
This post is for my friend Rincewind who works outside his native Sweden and misses Julmust terribly. I hope this gives you some comfort till you head northwards for Christmas – Ted