Shades of Drinking

  All I really wanted to know was why raspberry-flavored things are blue.  The problem with these things you really want to find out, in these days of the Interwebs, is that you are led along so many other avenues which take you in other interesting directions.  Come to think of it, I was like that in the days when I had to open the cabinet which held the Collier’s Encyclopedia, so there’s no sense blaming the electronics.

    Did you know, for example, that pink lemonade has been associated with circuses for over a hundred years.  Half a dozen different vendors from the middle of the nineteenth century through the era of World War I have all claimed credit, claiming that they accidentally added cinnamon candy to the mix and people liked it, or they used water the ladies had used to wash their tights, or someone stole the lemon they were using that year and all they could find was a tomato, or….

   The English-speaking world is divided, by the way, one lemonade generally.  I had heard already that in Australia “lemonade” is always carbonated, but the Interwebs tells me that is true throughout the UK: some folks call it specifically “fizzy lemonade”, although other experts say that British fizzy lemonade is the lemonade which is NOT carbonated.  Meanwhile, in India, Canada, and the United States, lemonade is non-carbonated, and known by the experts as CLOUDY lemonade, to distinguish it from the carbonated, or CLEAR, variety drunk where the language was invented.

    Pink champagne is not, as I was taught in grade school, a cheap and frivolous variation on the real thing.  (It is possible that my teachers had bad memories of occasions which champagne, but they did not share these.)  It is actually harder to make than regular champagne, since it involves fermentation and/or mixing which may leave you with a brown wine, known in the trade as “ick”.  Pink champagne, known as rose champagne by those who actually know what they’re talking about, apparently got its frivolous reputation from being available only to the very rich, and from the association of champagne with special sorts of parties which ended in a great deal of giggling.  (You can do this with still wines.  In fact, our ancestors preferred to do things this way, and in the regions where champagne originated, people spent years trying to get the bubbles OUT of the wine.)

    Some articles have been written about the love of Louis XIV for champagne—he thought it was good for his gout—and how someone chilled it on ice which had been made out of water in which some of the ladies had been washing their pink tights and the ice got in the champagne and…these have been written by people who are confusing their notes, and should be ignored.

    Getting back to blue raspberry things, the definitive research on the subject was published by Bon Appetit in 2016.  Apparently it comes about because of two problems that were working simultaneously.  People who made ostensibly fruit-flavored treats, particularly the frozen variety, were stumped by the fact that they simply had too many different flavors which came from red fruits: cherry, strawberry, raspberry, and sometimes watermelon, with occasional ventures into fruit punch and/or passion fruit.  (I was assured by a chemist once that most flavors called “passion fruit” are actually fruit punch/tropical punch flavors under a different name.)

    They tried to deal with this by using slightly different shades of red.  This did not work, as far as one consumer growing up in the twentieth century is concerned.  Kool-Aid and Popsicles came in Grape, Orange, Lime, and Red, as far as I was concerned.  I did not notice any particular difference in the different reds, and I imagine I would be much the same if offered different vintages of pink champagne.

    At the same time, people were getting nosy about the health effects of food additives, and one of the first targets was Red Dye No. 2, also known as “Amaranth” (though it contained no amaranth; if you’ve stuck with me past the lemonade discussion, you can swallow that as well.)  Red Dye No. 2 was the shade of red used by several manufacturers for their raspberry products.  So what to do?

    Well, blue dyes were hardly used at all, so this seemed a good substitute.  And who thought of it first?  Well, Icee has a claim on it, and Otter Pops, pioneers in squishy frozen stuff pushed out of plastic envelopes, also makes a claim.  But Bon Appetit has found that Gold medal, which produced Sno-Kone machines, was already bringing out blue raspberry syrup for Sno-Kones before the red Dye No. 2 kerfuffle debuted.

    So that, children, is why raspberries are blue in the freezer and on the shelf but not in nature.  (Several people point out the existence of a fairly scarce blue raspberry, but these are the sorts of people who use the phrase “rose champagne”.)  And I see we are out of space for today, so we can save the discussion of white chocolate for another day.

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