I was trying to reproduce the flavors in Fresca without very much success. Supposedly it is a grapefruit-flavored drink, but in all honesty it doesn't taste like grapefruit to me, and when I make grapefruit-flavored sodas with various lemon/lime balances they taste nothing like Fresca.

Does anyone have any hints what I am missing here?

  • Can you add a recipe with your specific method? Finding Fresca data online is easy, but it would help to compare that to what you're doing. – logophobe Jul 30 '14 at 3:04
  • @logophobe For example, I tried 50% grapefruit juice and 50% lemon juice. I have also tried various proportions of grapefruit, lemon and lime juice. None of them taste even close to Fresca. In fact, Fresca doesn't even taste like grapefruit to me. I am clearly missing basic info concerning the ingredients. The stuff you read about Fresca's composition on the web is basically completely wrong. – Drisheen Colcannon Jul 30 '14 at 12:39
  • It sounds like you're using pure fruit juice? Well, that's no great surprise - like most commercial sodas, Fresca is mainly carbonated water and sweeteners. The actual amount of grapefruit is fairly low. At minimum, you'll need to add some sweetness and carbonation to approximate the flavor. – logophobe Jul 30 '14 at 13:16
  • @logophobe Obviously I added sugar and carbonated water as well. Sugar and carbonation are not the problem. The TASTE is the problem. That is why I posted to this forum because supposedly the people here know something about flavors. – Drisheen Colcannon Jul 30 '14 at 13:44
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    Yes - but flavors interact in surprising and complex ways. Even the amount of carbonation that you added can have an effect on the relative perception of sourness, sweetness, etc. I can best help if you edit your original question to include the EXACT recipes of what you've tried already. Simply knowing "lemon and grapefruit" doesn't help as much as exact proportions and method. – logophobe Jul 30 '14 at 14:42

tl;dr: Grapefruit oil is the most likely missing link. Squeeze some grapefruit peels into your mix, or pick up a "food-grade" or "therapy-grade" essential oil (for extremely sparing use).

In the absence of more information, I'll go ahead and take a broad pass at this. As I mention in comments, more data will help us get closer. As a starting point, let's have a look at the ingredients in Fresca according to Wikipedia:

  1. Carbonated water
  2. Citric acid
  3. Concentrated Grapefruit juice
  4. Potassium citrate
  5. Potassium benzoate and EDTA (preservatives)
  6. Aspartame
  7. Acesulfame potassium
  8. Acacia
  9. Natural flavors
  10. Glycerol ester of wood rosin
  11. Brominated vegetable oil
  12. Carob bean gum

[note: numbers added for easier reference]

Some of these are pretty easy. #1-3 are pretty obvious and already present in what you've tried. #5 are simply preservatives, not really essential for a homemade version. #6 and #7 are no-calorie sweeteners, frequently used in tandem. You can obviously use sugar if you're okay with that. #10 and #11 are both agents used to keep oils in suspension in water (more on this later).

That's the relatively-easy stuff out of the way. #12 is a bit odd, but it's simply a thickening/gumming agent, probably there for mouthfeel and to replicate the slightly "rounded" flavor that sugar would provide. Now, we get into the trickier items.

Potassium citrate (#4) is simply a weakly acidic salt. Again, from Wikipedia:

It is also used in many soft drinks as a buffering agent.

In other words, its likely job is to keep the overall pH constant even in the presence of #2. However, it also has a slightly saline taste. It's unlikely that this contributes any perceptible saltiness at all, but as I noted in another answer, salt can have a suppressive effect on sourness and bitterness as well even if it's barely detectable itself.

Acacia (#8) is tricky because it's not clear whether the seeds/extract are used (presumably for flavor) or if it's actually gum arabic, which is more used for thickening (similar to #12). Gum arabic does appear in many other soft drinks for texture, but I find it odd that it's not identified as such here. It could be a form of "inferior gum" from other acacia species, or perhaps it is actually acacia seed. These are described as having a "chocolate, coffee, hazelnut flavour profile" but again I find it odd that cheaper extracts wouldn't be used in a commercial product like this, if the primary intent is flavoring. My money is on acacia gum for thickening.

Which brings us to the hardest of all, that catch-all term: #9, "natural flavors". This is basically their way of keeping the exact formulation secret. However, we might be able to draw an inference from the Mexican version, which has a slightly different formulation:

  • Carbonated water
  • Sugar
  • Concentrated pink Grapefruit juice
  • Essential grapefruit oil
  • Potassium citrate
  • Potassium benzoate and EDTA (preservatives)

Grapefruit oil (most likely extracted from the peel of the fruit) is the major difference here, and the only thing that could approximate those mysterious "natural flavors". It's also the reason for the presence of #10 and #11 - to keep it in solution. If I were to suggest one possibility for the missing link, this would be it. A quick Google shows a wide variety of available versions, many of which are labelled "therapy-grade", i.e. for aromatherapy. These can supposedly be adapted for food use by diluting in a "carrier" oil (they're very potent, with some important cautions for their use) and are sometimes used in candymaking or baking. I often see many similar oils and extracts in the baking section of high-end cooking suppliers.

You could try purchasing a bottle of extract, but you might never wind up using it all, so I'm going to suggest a much easier workaround. These oils are extracted from grapefruit peel, so why not use that? Buy some nice ruby-red grapefruit and use a vegetable peeler to strip them of their outer peel, being careful to include as little pith as possible. Prepare your juice/sugar/water mix in a wide-mouthed container, then gently squeeze the peels just over the top and drop them in. Let this steep for a couple of hour, stir, and serve. You could also keep some extra peel handy and squeeze those over the top of the prepared glass - the aroma adds a lot and they make a nice garnish too. If the mixture seems bitter, try adding a very small amount of salt solution, which will suppress the bitterness and bring sweetness to the forefront.

Again, this is a pretty wide-ranging answer. I'll do what I can to help with a specific recipe if you can add in exactly what you've tried that's not working.

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    Perhaps this for the grapefruit oil? (+1 BTW for subtle smartassery) – Jolenealaska Jul 30 '14 at 18:53
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    Using sugar instead of artificial sweeteners would also affect the taste, since no matter what any of them claim, they do not taste like sugar. (Though the Mexican version puzzles me: I've only ever encountered diet Fresca. Does it really come in non-diet?) – Marti Jul 30 '14 at 22:28
  • @Marti I agree, artificial sweeteners are totally different, but they'll get reasonably close in something like this where the subtleties are covered (partly) by other flavors. That appears to be why aspartame and acesulfame are often used together - they cover each others' flaws. And yes, it looks like the Mexican variety is a totally different version, either due to local regulations or simply market forces. – logophobe Jul 31 '14 at 1:02
  • @Marti Just as an aside, I've been experimenting with pure sucralose and acesulfame potassium. 1/16 of a teaspoon of the perfect ratio sweetens an entire pot of iced coffee. In side by side blind tasting, I cannot taste the difference between that and iced coffee sweetened with sugar. It's remarkable because I've always had a visceral hatred of artificial sweeteners. The Ace-K does something in combination with other artificial sweeteners that eliminates the aftertaste. There's also a synergy that makes the combination sweeter than the sum of its parts. – Jolenealaska Jul 31 '14 at 16:46
  • That is kind of interesting, grapefruit oil. – Drisheen Colcannon Aug 18 '14 at 16:24

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