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Climate leaders are united on one thing: Scotland’s glowing orange drink, Irn-Bru

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) posted a video on Instagram about tasting the Scottish drink Irn-Bru, on Nov. 10. (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez/Reuters)
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GLASGOW, Scotland — World leaders, diplomats and activists are gathered in Scotland, hotly debating thorny issues to shape an agreement to slow the pace of climate change. But they are seemingly united in their approval of one thing: a glowing orange drink called Irn-Bru that’s been likened to liquid cotton candy.

The conference’s fascination with the fizzy beverage escalated when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told followers Wednesday that she had finally found a can of the drink — which she had been searching for since she arrived in the country a day earlier.

“Okay, so it’s orange,” Ocasio-Cortez told watchers in a video posted to Instagram as she prepared to take her first sip. “Here we go.”

The verdict? “This tastes like the Latino soda — Kola Champagne,” the congresswoman said before exclaiming: “Oh my God. Love it, love it.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tried a can of the Scottish soda Irn-Bru, on Nov. 10, while at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Video: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)

The Scottish drink, pronounced “Iron brew,” according to creators, tastes like “magic.” First launched in the country in 1901, the carbonated soda is created using a top secret recipe that features more than 30 flavoring agents.

The soda is often referred to as “Scotland’s other national drink.” The actual national drink is whisky.

The drink was gifted to Ocasio-Cortez by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who took to Twitter to confirm that the congresswoman was about to get her first taste.

Irn-Bru rejoiced at the delivery, tweeting, “The BRU got through” in celebration.

“It’s phenomenal that Scotland’s ginger nectar has made such a splash with delegates from across the globe,” a spokesman for Irn-Bru told British media.

Ocasio-Cortez was not the only attendee taking a swig of the drink.

George David Banks, who served as a White House climate adviser under President Donald Trump, was washing down french fries with a cold Irn-Bru during an interview with The Washington Post earlier this week, saying it “tastes like bubble gum.”

Florence Baker, an organizer with the Sierra Club’s British Columbia chapter, saw the drink as a welcome pleasure amid a stressful conference that has been characterized by late nights and frantic negotiations.

“Irn-Bru is one of the few silver linings of this disastrous COP,” Baker said in the COP26 cafeteria. “It would be better if everyone had an Irn-Bru rather than locking in carbon markets into the text.”

Baker was referring to negotiations at the U.N. climate summit over international carbon markets, in which countries that exceeded their goals under the Paris agreement could sell carbon credits to nations that fell short. The final text of the COP26 agreement is expected to include language about carbon markets, despite concerns from some climate activists.

When asked about Irn-Bru, Mari Jamshidi, a Scottish worker at one of the COP26 food stands, gushed: “I love it. It’s really sweet like candy or ice cream. I prefer it to Coke. And it’s good for hangovers.”

Some Scots aren’t surprised that international visitors are also reveling in their pride and joy.

Christopher Gauld, 38, a nurse practitioner living in Livingston, a town between Edinburgh and Glasgow, also deemed the drink great for nursing a hangover and called it a “national treasure.”

“Irn-Bru is like liquid candy floss,” Gauld said, adding that it was also possible to get Irn-Bru ice cream and sweets. He shared that it was great “with blended whisky as a mixer.”

Gauld told The Washington Post that while he understood the interest in the beverage, he would prefer officials to deliver “on promises made at the event.”

When creators reduced the sugar quantity because of taxes being introduced on high sugar drinks, Gauld said the original recipe was “so loved” that old cans and bottles containing the original sugar quantity became available on the black market. “I knew people who would literally travel across the country to get the old product,” he said.

The recipe change sparked a public outcry, forcing the brand to bring back its “old and unimproved” higher-sugar concoction.

Even Queen Elizabeth II and grandson Prince William are familiar with the orange drink. On an official trip to Scotland in June, the two visited AG Barr’s factory to open a new processing facility. The prince, who is second in line to the British throne, sampled the soda, adding that it was “quite hard” to guess the ingredients.

On social media, others also shared their love for the drink. One user admitted he had recently boiled ham in the liquid, describing it as “comfort food.”

In September, AG Barr, the creator of Irn-Bru, announced that it was facing delivery challenges largely due to supply chain disruptions sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, which exacerbated problems caused by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

The brand said a shortage of drivers was also part of the crisis, which company leaders feared would restrict access to the famous drink.

Chief executive Roger White said the upcoming Christmas period would be far from normal, the Scotsman newspaper reported.

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