Beverage brand review: Corsa Botanical Tonic

Corsa Botanical Tonic comes in 3 flavors:
Kola: 50s classic American / Spritz: 60s dolce vita inspired Italian orange / Cays: 70s Caribbean spice 

With the planet on lockdown, never has there been a greater desire to be whisked away to an exotic locale than now. And that’s just what Corsa Botanical Tonic does with their branding and product. 

Corsa was the Winner at BevNET’s New Beverage Showdown in Winter 2019. At his pitch, founder Matt Kornberg called Corsa, “A vacation in a bottle.” As a former accountant, he discovered the power of beautiful and exotic drinks to transport him to an exotic place. That’s where he got the idea for Corsa, which he says means “journey” in Italian.¹

This line of botanical tonics² made with low sugar and only the finest time-tested ingredients from across the globe allows you to transport across time and place with every bottle.

Flavor, color, and sweetener are all plant based.

There are 3 flavors in Corsa’s lineup: The Kola flavor is colored with barley, the orange color in the Spritz flavor comes from the beta keratin in carrots, and the red color in the Cays flavor comes from black carrots. Being plant-based myself, this creative way of coloring the products was a key takeaway for me.

Corsa is 25 calories or less with 5g of sugar. So one can still enjoy the exotic flavors and feel guilt-free about this choice. 

With Corsa being plant-based, low calorie, AND low sugar, this product has solid RTBs³. Now let’s look at the aspirational and emotional aspects of the brand, or the je ne sais quoi: Each of Corsa’s 3 different flavors are inspired by a different time and a different place. Kola is 1950s classic American, Spritz is 1960s dolce vita inspired Italian orange, and Cays is 1970s Caribbean spice.  

I cannot stress how strong Corsa’s brand strategy is, both internal and external.

Internal strategy: The meaning and behind-the-scenes aspect of a brand (aka the brand’s SOUL).

External strategy: The language and visuals the ideal customer actually sees (aka the brand’s SUIT).

I’ll break it down:

Corsa’s name and story are both strong and beautiful. “Corsa” is easy to remember, and the meaning and brand story are impactful. These – the meaning and the story – are part of Corsa’s internal branding. As for the external branding, we’re now talking about Corsa’s actual logo, which is a gorgeous custom script that ebbs and flows much like a winding road one would drive on when going on a journey.

Corsa’s branding is so strong that even each flavor is individually sub-branded to reflect the time and place that the user is transported to when drinking each flavor. Kola, Spritz, and Cays each have different logos for each of the flavor names. And yet, each label is consistent enough across one another so that they are each unmistakably part of the same family. 

Corsa solved Kornberg’s need for a beverage that delivered on allure, quality, and health profile that he’s looking for. In his pitch, he said Corsa is, “For everyone from the cheeseburger loving foodie to the granola yogi.”

Corsa’s mission: To connect people to people through culture and people to planet through quality ingredients. No matter where you are, Corsa is your vacation in a bottle.

Corsa is a beverage brand strategist’s picture perfect dream strategy. I was immediately hooked when seeing Kornberg’s pitch, and I could not wait to taste Corsa. 

Have I been fan-girling enough? It’s pretty apparent I love this brand. Any issues I’d list would be nitpicking at this point. That said, let’s go ahead and nitpick.

I have just two issues:

1.) Corsa’s Statement of Identity⁴ is listed as a Botanical Tonic. However, to echo BevNet’s Chief Marketing Officer Mike Schneider’s sentiments in the Semifinals round of the New Beverage Showdown, because of Corsa’s long-necked glass bottle, anyone who sees this product will immediately call it a soda. (As a Chicagoan, it’s “pop.” Orrr how about “soda pop”??)

Even as a total beverage nerd, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a botanical tonic and NOT a soda, even though “soda” is the term I’ve been using to talk about it.

On the other hand, I understand going in this direction, because the Statement of Identity alone immediately positions this product as more unique and exotic, so perhaps that’s what Corsa was going for.

Instead of conjecturing, I decided to ask them! So I reached out via Instagram, and they got back to me immediately. Here’s what they said:

We call it a Botanical Tonic bc we feel that it much more accurately describes the product especially relative to soda which implies poor ingredients and very high sugar. We like botanical tonic bc clean, minimally processed botanicals are key to what we stand for as a brand and tonic because it is fun and sounds nostalgic of the days when carbonated fountain drinks actually used quality ingredients and were made by pharmacists.

Well done, Team Corsa! I’ll rescind my 1st issue.

I just have one issue then:

On their website, they sell each of the 3 flavors separately, but they would benefit from making a variety pack available. I asked about this through Instagram a few months ago, and they were kind enough to create a one-off variety pack for me. I checked again this month and was surprised to see they still don’t have a variety pack available on their online shop.

I DM’d them again recently to ask about it, and they said they might make a variety pack available soon. They offered that if I need another variety pack, I can message them again, and they’ll create another one for me and send my way. That’s lovely! But wouldn’t it be easier to just make a variety pack available? I’m sure they have their reasons, but maybe if they get enough of requests, they’ll make it happen.

UPDATE: Shortly after I published this post, Corsa reached out and said they now have a variety pack available, thanks to my recommendation. Thanks, Corsa!

What about the taste? I experienced each of the flavors with their transportive intentions in mind. The verdict: They’re delicious! The Kola flavor tastes enough like your classic pop but different enough to hint at its otherworldly origin. The Spritz flavor tastes the sweetest with its citrus profile. It’s hard to believe it’s just 5g of sugar. I’ll save this flavor for when I feel like drinking my dessert. And floral notes of the Cays flavor remind me of sipping a bubbly beverage on the beach. I can almost feel my beach hat flopping lazily in the wind and the salt-tinged sea air tousling my hair.

The bottle also feels great in hand. The experience of tipping the glass and anticipating the liquid pour down the long neck of the bottle brings me back to childhood summer days of quenching my thirst after a day of neighborhood frolicking.

This is a gorgeous brand with a strong story, name, mission, and beautiful packaging.

If you’re looking to transport yourself out of your house, go on an exotic, botanical journey – while safely social distancing – by purchasing some Corsa today.

¹A quick Google search taught me “corsa” also means, “running” or “race”

²Botanical Tonic: Carbonated quinine water made with plant extracts

³Reasons to Believe: Specific brand features that make a product’s benefit claims believable

Statement of Identity: Name of the product; what the product actually is. For example, Oreo’s Statement of Identity is “Chocolate Sandwich Cookies,” or Ben and Jerry’s Statement of Identity is, “Ice Cream.” (Or “Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert” if you’re a plant-based fan.)

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