Revolutionary Cola - A Manifesto Of Soft DrinksThursday, February 11, 2010
Most of my life I have considered myself a connoiseur of non alcoholic drinks. I don’t drink much of the alcoholic variety. I avoid invitations to most weddings by stipulating, “Unless you serve Moët et Chandon I will not attend.” This ploy failed me once in a most pleasant way! I attended that wedding.
As a little boy I had a fondness for chocolate milk. There was a powdered form called Toddy that sponsored my favourite radio program, Tarzán, El Rey de la Jungla. When I was 8, I forced my mother to take me to a parade in downtown Buenos Aires to see Tarzán. I remember he was sitting on the upper part of a convertible back seat and he had a banner across his wide chest (like the ones worn by Miss Universe) that read Tome Toddy (Drink Toddy).
I have a vivid memory when I was 9 of getting of the train in Belgrano with my mother to walk to school. She taught at the American High School and I walked two blocks more to the American Grammar School. On the way there was a little quiosco (a small covered stand) that sold soft drinks and blender juices. My favourite was banana con agua (water and banana, and the banana had to be slightly green)). On that particular day there was a little sign that read “Nueva y refrescante bebida, Seven-Up”. I insisted and my mother had to buy me my first ever Seven-Up and it was not quite 8:30 in the morning.
Most of us who recognized the real thing would have never tried that inferior Argentine cola drink called Bidú. Sipping one of those was as embarrassing as wearing jeans that were not Lees.
Once in Mexico in the mid 50s my favourite soft drink was the no-gas Delaware Punch (pronounced delláwhere ponch, if you wanted the grocery guy to know what you were asking for). I had the strange habit of drinking 3 or 4 of them (one right after the other) using a macaroni as a straw while watching Boston Blackie on our Zenith TV.
In the early 50s some Mexican politician noticed on a routine trip into the country's interior that there seemed to be lots of very young children walking tipsy in the small towns. He investigated and was told that these towns rarely had good, clean running water so the children drank mild pulque (an un-distilled version of tequila) as this was deemed safer.
The politician reported to the President of Mexico and immediately plans were made to develop a softdrink and beer industry in the country. These businesses would be given tax incentives and government help. By the late 50s there was a dizzying variety of interesting Mexican soft drinks (alas Delaware Punch disappeared) and there was more than coca, orange and pecsi (as real Mexicans pronounced Pepsi). It was in these times that the Mexican beer industry came from nothing to become a one of the leaders which such innovations like bottled beer on tap and early versions of the twist cap. There were some small, tubby uncarbonated drinks called Chaparritas El Naranjo. They came in several flavours but my favourite was mandarina. Chaparrita means short and small in Mexican Spanish. A Spaniard, a Mr. Mundet revolutionized the soft drink industry with a pasteurized apple drink called Sidral Mundet. And then there were the Jarritos. Most of us really liked the tamarind flavour one. As a hip teenager I avoided the very Mexican (it was terrible) Mexicola as much as I had avoided that Bidú in Buenos Aires. Mexicola was hyped by Mexican bantamwheight champion Raúl (Ratón) Macías. My mother really liked Squirt and when I married Rosemary in 1968 she insisted on drinking Squirt, too. One thing we do avoid here in Vancouver, besides now drinking few soft drinks with the exception of ginger ale, is to place a large soft drink bottle on the dinner table. Mexican Coca Cola manufactured a very large glass bottle called a caguama. Caguama is Mexican Spanish for a very large turtle.
My Yorkshire-born friend, Andrew Taylor lived nearby our Arboledas home in Mexico City. He was a student so he still lived with his parents in the fashionable gated community called Fraccionamiento La Hacienda. His father Colin, was the comptroller for Coca Cola in Mexico. I loved going to visit Andrew because through his father’s connections they were able to serve Twinnings English Breakfast Tea which was much more palatable that my often reused Lipton Tea bags (when I could get them). On one occasion we were invited for dinner. Mrs Taylor was an excellent cook and Colin sat proudly at the head of the table and served us. I chose that precise moment to tell him that Coca Cola was high in phosphoric acid and that many in the automobile industry used his product to remove rust from chrome bumpers. He was not amused
Rosemary and I both agree that our favourite carbonated water is San Pellegrino. We find it slightly more acidic (better!) than Perrier. Every once in a while I surprise her with a Squirt. Hilary is trying to get off her Coca Cola-in-a-can addiction by drinking only one per day. Rebecca loves Dr. Pepper. I still drink my banana blended with lots of ice and water. And yes that banana has to be green.
On September 1998 the Globe & Mail dispatched me to Langley to photograph Robert Kyle, the president of Bev-Source a beverage company. They had just launched a family of 6 drinks called Revolution with Che Guevara on the beautifully painted label. The promotion included T-shirts (I have two of them) and stickums. I have kept three bottles of my original 6 variety. They are as follows:
Sarsaparilla – Rootbeer with attitude
Brainwash Cola – High caffeine cola
Swamp Water – Soda Fountain Blend
While I don’t remember what the other three were I think one of them was a cream soda that had the name Rebel Red. They were good.
If I would tell any of you readers of this blog about the former existence of Revolution Cola, you would probably not believe me. But the pictures here are the proof.
Today Rosemary insisted on my going through my photo files from A to D. I was to read her names of people I might want to send my promotional postcards so that we can do a Lazarus on my photography business. It was during that search that I found the file Che Guevara Cola. There was another for which there is no room today. The file read Catch-It (Kitty Litter). Now I was dispatched by….