I must confess I’ve had an addiction to diet cola for much of my adult life. I have my favorites, but don’t discriminate if it is bubbly and has caffeine.
As a child, my siblings and I were treated with cola on the weekends only. Having been in a large family, that meant one or two glasses of cola per week. I remember competing with my siblings for the last sugary drops in the bottles (in the days of bottle refunds), that turned syrupy as they sat in those six pack bottle holders in the kitchen.
Family gatherings always included iced down cans of assorted BigK cola. Sipping lemon-lime while tossing jarts and horseshoes was a summer holiday pastime.
I had a lingering crush on Orange Crush, so much so that I was once accidentally left behind at a gas station rest-stop by my parents. Horrified (I hope) that all the heads, arms and legs in the station wagon had tricked them into thinking they had everyone, they returned to the station. I had so enjoyed my Orange Crush, I was oblivious to the fact that I’d been left behind until I had finished it.
My cola crush abated a little with a move to the Chicago suburbs, where the cola with the blue swish was popular. I’m sorry, I can’t even bring myself to let the brand name pass my lips! Eventually we moved to another house within walking distance to the middle school and a convenience store, where adolescents like me with babysitting or newspaper delivery route pocket money could indulge in sweet treats. Dolly Madison cupcakes or cherry fruit pies were the perfect compliment to grape Fanta in those days.
Another move, this time south to Atlanta. I found a new love in NuGrape, which tasted even better when consumed with crunchy Cheetos during breaks from marching band practice. It was hot, it was summer and we were marching around in the paved high school parking lot. I needed sugar and something to look forward to while sweating to “Old Man River!”
My first job was behind the concession stand at the local movie theater…yesssss free soda AND popcorn (another addiction). Then I went off to college and the dormitory vending machine called my name with caffeinated antidotes to fatigue, namely Tab and Diet Dr. Pepper. It continued from there, I think I have had every flavor and brand of full sugar and diet soft drinks in my lifetime.
Then a little condition called low blood pressure brought attention to the dehydration I was experiencing daily and explained some of my fatigue. Water is the new cola. But I still enjoy a little sweetness by making my own fruit flavored concoctions, lightly sweetened with fresh fruit juice. Sometimes combined with tea and always topped off with some bubbly tonic or mineral water.
There really is nothing to this process, except get some fresh (or thawed frozen fruit) and puree it. Strain it if it has seeds. Combine a couple of teaspoons of fruit puree in a glass with some freshly squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice and top it off with tonic or mineral water.
Do you have an overflow of farmer’s market fruit or fruit juice? Reduce the juice by placing it in a nonreactive pot, bring to a boil and let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes to reduce it to a syrup. Store it in the refrigerator and spoon it out as needed. Mix and match flavors for your own personal fizz.
It always tastes better if you use a straw. Get some colorful cheery ones, and try freezing some fresh fruit to ice it down. The fruit will thaw as you drink and then you get a fruity treat to eat at the end!
If it’s cold out and you want a warm drink, just skip the bubbly and add a teabag to your fruity mixture. Put it in a pretty teacup. Microwave until warm, garnish with some fresh mint and enjoy!