In the years following World War II, as Coca-Cola climbed to international superstardom, Don Francisco Hill had an idea. A native of Mexico, a country long enamored with aguas frescas made from water, sugar, and fruit, Hill envisioned a line of Mexican-made soft drinks that would capture the same fresh and simple flavors. To me, tamarind (the second-best-selling of all Jarritos flavors) is the be-all and end-all, the single must-try, the Alpha and the Omega of the venerable collection.
Grapico, born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1914, moved to Alabama in 1917 and has been produced there since. Though flavored artificially, the soda skyrocketed to early fame with advertisements that implied that it contained real grape juice (complaints from real grape-juice vendors led to eventual charges from the Federal Trade Commission that forced Grapico vendors to adjust their advertising). Today, the soda enjoys a cult following among Alabamians almost equivalent to that of Cheerwine in the Carolinas.
When is a soft drink no longer a soft drink? When it's not carbonated, by definition. Sugar, water, and flavoring, with bubbles, is soda. Sugar, water, and flavoring, served flat, is something else. Hot Dr. Pepper is a drink that straddles the line between the two.
You wouldn't know that the place is anything special. Where it is, perched on the side of the road, painted in fast-food reds and yellows, you'd take it for a run-of-the-mill hot dog joint. But when I was in Brunswick, Georgia last month, I asked a range of peoplefrom my cousins over at luxury resort Sea Island to Big George Drayton to a teenage Wal-Mart cashierwhere to eat in town. Every one of them recommended Willie's Wee-Nee Wagon.
For half a century, we've looked to Coca-Cola and other stalwarts like Sprite, Pepsi, Fanta, and Mountain Dew to whet our thirst and wake us up. But as we move into 2013, chefs and consultants are laying out their predictions for this next year's culinary trends, including changes in the soda scene.
I went back to Cost Plus World Market last night to buy Taylor's Tonics Holiday Fizz four-pack, which includes sodas called "Gingerbread House," "Eggnog Fizz," "Candy Cane Shake" and "Cranberry Dream." Risky propositions all, save maybe the cranberry. Or so you'd think, before you see that the cranberry soda is flavored with pine needles, to create the impression of "holiday berries strung along an evergreen garland."
This antique punch is one of the most consistently popular drinks at Husk, one of only two that has remained on the menu while plenty of other drinks have come and gone around it. Whether you need to atone for a social faux pas or want to entertain your guests in old Charleston style, it'll be a welcome presence in a punch bowl this holiday season. Be sure your guests are thirsty, because this recipe makes a lot.
I'm all for homemade huckleberry pies, jams, pancakes, and so on, but too many of the products in stores are artificially-flavored and made out-of-state. It breaks my heart to know that so many visitors will always think that huckleberries taste like the taffy they bought at a gas station in Missoula.
A friend of mine came down with pneumonia last week. It hit him hard. Laid him up at home for a day or so. Then I saw him at a concert, not forty-eight hours after he'd been in the hospital, with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It was a good show, and I couldn't blame him for wanting to be there, but I was a little bit worried for his health.
I woke up around dawn with light trickling through the blinds into my bedroom. I was fine, I thought. Just a little headache. Then I sat up. About three hours later, once the balance of ravenous hunger and wobbly nausea had finally tipped in hunger's favor, I got my girlfriend and drove out to the suburbs for brunch at The Glass Onion, an unlikely mecca for made-from-scratch Southern food situated beside a shuttered car wash and a hibachi grill on a busy stretch of Highway 17.
"I love Cracker Barrel, actually. I think that by now I've been to every single location. The worst one is right outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The best is in Gary, Indiana, of all placesall the waitresses are great there, and everything is hot and fresh and fast."
For the Dark and Stormy, generations of Bermudians have chosen Barritt's Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer, a drink with 138 years of history on the island.
Not long ago, the only savory cocktail at many bars was the Bloody Mary. Now, in the wake of the cocktail revolution, savory drinks are numerous enough to populate a genre. Having been converted to the savory side somewhere around my first bacon-infused Old Fashioned, I've found it hard to go sweet again.
Despite what you might think, raccoon tastes pretty good when cleaned and cooked properly. Like dark-meat chicken or turkey, though it is greasier and more tender than either.
Nehi is a soda with a mid-60s Motown beat. It's a muggy summer night, dew on asphalt, the lights of an all-night diner. Lightning bugs in jars, honeysuckle nectar, parades. Nehi makes you nostalgic for the wholesome Southern childhood you never had.
A cola is a cola is a cola, most of the time. The "cola" flavor—sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, acid, a little citrus—is so deeply impressed on the American palate that we hardly recognize it for its parts anymore. Last week in Tennessee, though, I tried a soda that broadened my sense of what a cola can be.
Montana might seem like an unlikely place to find horchata, but that's where I tried it first. Kern's horchata isn't exactly like Mexican horchata, which I'd discover later and enjoy less. Kern's is thick and creamy, like melted ice cream, and silted with sugar and cinnamon. I bought it for the first time on a snack run some weekend in the late summer, and kept buying it as temperatures plummeted well below zero and our weekends became more and more about the television in our living room.
The cafeteria at the Museum of Appalachia takes a diner back to the days when grandma could cook a meal, with fresh, homegrown ingredients from the kitchen garden, to rival the best plates in Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, or Charleston.
Back in September, we wrote about Dr. Enuf, the vitamin-rich soda that came of age alongside Mountain Dew in 1950s East Tennessee. While Dr. Enuf is still made and bottled exclusively in Johnson City, Tennessee, Mountain Dew has long since moved on to PepsiCo and the bright lights of convenience stores the world over. Mountain Dew's newest soda, though, pays tribute to its Appalachian roots with its name: Johnson City Gold.
According to local legend, that restaurant where Hank Williams could have eaten his last meal, had he not declined it, was the Burger Bar. Now, there has been a fair amount of kick-back against the legend. Carr himself has said that he may have misremembered his meal and may not, in fact, have stopped in Bristol. One report that I found online claimed that the Burger Bar did not even exist in 1952, when Hank died (that is not true—it's been in Bristol since 1942). I ceased all research when I heard the conviction of the line cook at the Burger Bar. "Of course it happened," he said. No need to pry too much into a good story.
Irn-Bru is iconic in its native Scotland, a place with which I am not personally familiar. I have never tried this drink along a misty country road or seated by a murky loch, or in a crowd of red-haired Scots, and I imagine that it might benefit from the context. What sodas we enjoy can be determined as much by context as by flavor, a point hammered home to me when I was hit by a near-insatiable thirst for Cheerwine while on my way to North Carolina's Lexington Barbecue Festival last week.
This is Jack Rudy tonic syrup, and it has almost nothing in common with any of the watery, artificially-flavored tonics you've tried before. "When Tasting Table covered us," says creator Brooks Reitz, "I was making it out of my house. The day after the piece ran, I woke up with 400 emails in my inbox. People were saying, 'How can I get it? Tell me more. What is it?' And I freaked out."
If I knew that Heaven would be just like Blackberry Farm, I'd pray harder. Blackberry Farm owner Sam Beall's new cookbook, The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm, is a window into his paradise and a guide for cooks looking to replicate his farm-resort's balance of Appalachian terroir and cutting-edge culinary experimentation at home.
That Charleston Bold & Spicy Bloody Mary Mix is more complex than your typical Bloody Mary mixer is evident from the list of ingredients on the bottle. A conventional base of water, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce meanders on to apple cider vinegar, roasted vegetables, roasted beef, anchovies, habanero peppers, and other seasonings numerous enough that I won't list them here. A sip is as crowded, flavor-wise, as the ingredient list.
"Allan Benton might be the nicest man on earth." That's what they told me at Blackberry Farm, the luxury resort just up the highway from Benton's cinderblock office in Madisonville, Tennessee. They were right; he might be. And despite his god-like reputation among chefs and ham enthusiasts the world over, he must be one of the least pretentious figures in the culinary world.
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