France Makes Coke-Flavored Wine; Americans Laugh and Start Planning Other Wine/Soda Combos

Collage by Kaitlin Steinberg
Worst addition problem EVER.
When I first read it on NPR's food blog, I thought I'd somehow started reading The Onion without realizing it. I glanced up at the header at the top of the page. Still NPR. Oh God, it must be true...

It seems it is true and also sad and funny and terribly confusing. French vintner Haussmann Famille has just released a red wine called Rouge Sucette (translation: red lollipop) made from 75 percent grapes and 25 percent water. That sounds okay until you keep reading and see that the wine also contains added sugar and cola flavoring. According to the NPR article, it is meant to be served chilled.

Red wine. Chilled. With Coke. Mon dieu!

Initially I was mad at France. I've already waxed poetic about my love for the country on this very blog, so naturally I expect more from the people who brought us coq au vin and Gérard Depardieu. But then I got to thinking. Okay, so wine consumption in France is down, and now the vintners have to adapt to the changing times. America needs to beat them to it!

So here, for your reading (and possibly vomiting) pleasure, are the top 6 wine-and-soda combinations that need to hit the French market next. Santé! And I'm sorry.

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Top 5 Off-the-Market Drinks We're Still Thirsty For

Raaaaaiiiiiin!! You washed away our sorrow; took away our pain. Your love came down like....Raaaaiiiiin!
We've been taking a look at foods we miss dearly and crave back in our lives. So far, we've decided we can't stand a life without snacks like O'boisies Potato Chips and Fast Food Chicken Dishes like KFC's 39¢ Chicken Littles. But all of that junk food has made us thirsty, so this time, we're reminiscin' 'bout some dranks.

Here are the Top 5 Discontinued Drinks That We're Still Thirsty For:

5. Snapple Elements

Offering flavors like Earth, Fire, Sun and Rain, Elements was the the Captain Planet of fruit drinks. I'd drink the shit out of them and then use the beautiful glass bottles for memory candles -- reduce, reuse, recycle!

My favorite by far was Snapple Rain, the clear agave cactus flavor that tasted like it dripped straight from the clouds of heaven (many props to Snapple for using agave long before it was cool).

Someone write Wendy Kaufman and ask her why Snapple started hating on nature so much. Together we can make a change!

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A Cooler Coke: Grandpa Lundquist Christmas Soda - Scandinavian Julmust

Categories: A Cooler Coke

Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
A Jul-Tide Must!
Other people's Christmas Traditions are weird. I mean, let's be honest, here. Nobody thinks that Catalonia's Caga Tió - an anthropomorphic, candy-shitting take on the yule-log - is normal. The same can probably be said for the Dutch Zwarte Piet, whose black-face shenanigans are as beloved in the Netherlands as they are shocking to, well, pretty much everyone else. Of course, odd as we may find some traditions, the other always breeds curiosity, and so I found myself trying Julmust, a traditional Swedish holiday beverage.

A strong part of Swedish culture since its creation in 1910, Julmust was originally intended as a non-alcoholic beer-alternative. It's not that. People in Sweden are serious about it, nonetheless, even putting it up to age for a year or more - to enhance the musty goodness, I suppose. I'm going to follow suit with my remaining bottle, stashing it next to my actual beer, to see if the Swedes are onto something with their vintage Julmust.

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Ingredient of the Week: Coconut Soda

Coconut soda.JPG
Photo by John Suh
The green soda can ubiquitous in Vietnamese households
What is it?

Often made from carbonated water, corn sugar, and coconut extract, coconut soda tastes like a sweetened club soda with a hint of coconut milk. They are packaged in typical aluminum soda cans and come in packs of six.

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A Cooler Coke: Waialua Soda Works Pineapple Natural Soda

Categories: A Cooler Coke

Do not believe her swaying promise of fruitful bounty.
Simplicity is a good idea. With simplicity comes focus; with focus comes deliciousness. At least that's the theory. It's certainly what lead me to pick up a bottle of Waialua Soda Works Pineapple Natural Soda the other day.

I was milling around the deli area of the Midtown Spec's, trying to grab something quick to bring home for dinner, when the jaunty hula girl on the label grabbed my attention. The label feeds into the retro schtick that seems to go hand in hand with many craft sodas, as if by virtue of subdued color palettes and 1950s graphics, the soda harkens to a simpler, more wholesome time. Because, as everyone knows, soda was better for you back then, when you had to get it from the general store for two bits, after walking a mile uphill both ways.

For me, the pursuit of better soda has nothing to do with health benefits, and everything to do with flavor. The simplicity of pineapple soda called out to me, offering freshness, vibrancy, and clearly defined flavor. It did not follow through on its promises.

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A Cooler Coke: Hata Original Ramune Soda

Categories: A Cooler Coke

Ramune 1.JPG
Anything with opening instructions this detailed must be delicious!
Back in middle school, a bunch of my peers got deeply, dorkily involved in Japanese pop culture. Cartoons, toys, various scholastic accessories; if it was Japanese, it was cool. I never really got the appeal, finding many of the cutesy icons unpalatably silly. Perhaps, had I paid more attention while my friends were shopping for manga, I would have discovered ramune sooner.

As it is, my first experience with the Japanese soft drink was a recent accident. While shopping at the newly face-lifted Disco Kroger (I hate the new design; it's like shopping in a Martha Stewart catalog. I know, I'm weird.), I happened upon a small display of bottles next to the sushi counter. There were two varieties available. With cartoonish strawberries adorning the bottle, one was fairly clear about its flavor. I chose the other bottle.

I didn't look up any information on the beverage before drinking it; I wanted to be surprised. If the pictures on the bottle are intending to be telling, this one was meant to taste like children. You know you would have opted for the child-flavored soda, too.

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A Cooler Coke: Sidral Mundet

Categories: A Cooler Coke

Sidral Mundet.jpg
Simply delicious.
My parents always had a fairly progressive attitude toward drinking. From a fairly young age, we were allowed a glass of wine at dinner, if we really wanted it. A champagne toast at the New Year? Not a big deal. While I'm sure it's a controversial notion, I firmly believe that their treatment of alcohol consumption, both modeling responsible drinking and refusing to bestow upon it the glamor of the forbidden, was a wise choice.

Lest you think that my mom was sending us skipping merrily along with gin in our sippy cups, let me assure you that "a fairly young age" means about 12. Before that, our de-facto tipple on special occasions was sparkling apple or grape juice. It looked the part, with its corked 750ml bottles and thrilling effervescence, allowing us to feel like we were participating, while reserving the real thing for when we had mustered a bit more maturity.

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A Cooler Coke: Taylor's Tonics Chai Cola

Categories: A Cooler Coke

Chai Cola.jpg
Curse you, Cost Plus World Market.
I have sort of a hate-hate relationship with Cost Plus World Market. I hate that my wife seems physically incapable of not buying their crap, and I hate that I secretly like most of it. Don't tell her I said that. Either part, really, but mostly the part about me liking stuff. That would totally ruin the curmudgeon thing I'm going for.

At any rate, I find myself dragged there semi-regularly, to shop for odd textiles, wooden toys for our nieces and nephews (not to mention our own kids), and the occasional random food item. My wife is fond of bringing home odd candies, chips from foreign lands, and tins of ill-advised flavored coffee. Me, I go straight for the sodas.

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A Cooler Coke: Dry Soda

Categories: A Cooler Coke

Dry Soda.jpg
One of my favorite cocktails at Hearsay Gastro Lounge contains a mixture of vodka, champagne, and dry lavender soda. I like to try a drink at a restaurant or bar and then later try to recreate it at home, and though I could clearly figure out the first two parts of the drink, the dry lavender soda completely eluded me. That was until I found it sitting on a shelf at Randall's.

Dry Soda is a Seattle-based brand of beverages that come in very cool, simple glass bottles. They look like fancy, uber-modern water bottles, and there are a variety of refreshing flavors like cucumber, lavender, juniper berry, vanilla bean, lemongrass, kumquat and rhubarb. They were on sale for $1.25 a bottle, so I splurged on a four-pack of vanilla bean, lavender, juniper berry and lemongrass.

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A Cooler Coke: Leninade

Categories: A Cooler Coke

Each Tuesday and Thursday for the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at alternatives to cokes for the sticky Houston summer that lies ahead

Yes, that's right. Leninade. According to the bottle, it's "a taste worth standing in line for." And that's not the only pun the kids at Real Soda have come up with for their latest product...

All along in the bottle in pale yellow sans serif font, strikingly reminiscent of Soviet propaganda posters, are one-liners like "A party in every bottle" and "Drink, comrade, drink! It's this or the gulag!" They're worth an easy -- if small -- laugh. Remember Communism? That was funny 'cause it was a long time ago! seems to be the entire schtick here.

But I found one of the slogans to be more than just lazily funny. It was a bit misleading. "Get hammered & sickled!" it reads across the top of the Soviet symbol.

Hammered? Perhaps if there were alcohol in this -- a hard Leninade, if you will -- but the only thing you'll find in this soda is water, sugar and mostly natural flavors. I was vaguely annoyed.

Until I spotted one of the final one liners in a very unexpected place.

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