Sam Stall

Novelist. Journalist. Repository of Odd Information.

Four Popular Summertime Beverages That You Probably Shouldn't Drink a Lot of Because They're Gross


Thinking about enjoying a refreshing glass of Big Red or Boone's Farm? You'll think again after reading the incredible origins -- and ingredients -- of those drinks and others. All of the following descriptions are ripped from the pages of The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures, authored by Lou Harry, Julia Spalding and me.


Big Red -- What, exactly, is the attraction of a beverage that seems to consist of nothing but a toe-curling blast of sugar, a not-to-be-trifled-with 38 milligrams of caffeine, and enough FD&C red 40 food color to turn it as crimson as the sun on Judgment Day? Perhaps it's the mystery. Big Red, invented in 1957 in Waco, Texas (and originally called Sun Tang Red Cream Soda), doesn't claim to have a particular flavor. It's just a color. Some describe it as tasting like liquid bubble gum, while others compare its cloying bouquet to cotton candy. Way too much cotton candy. None of which has stopped it from becoming a pop culture icon in its Texas homeland, as well as a key ingredient in recipes ranging from barbecue sauce to cake.


Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill -- The motto of this, the official high school party beverage of the '70s, should have been, "Fly now, pay later." Strawberry Hill, not unlike its bastard redneck cousin, Country Kwencher, was sweeter than a stack of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movies and cheap as a six-pack of domestic beer. But inexperienced drinkers ( and almost everyone who touched this stuff was inexperienced, because grownups had the cash and the smarts to get something better) often found themselves weathering morning-after headaches and retching bouts that they would remember for the rest of their lives. And it's no wonder. These "wines" came from the darkest, most low-rent corner of the vineyards of Ernest and Julio Gallo, the same folks who proudly market such illustrious brands as Ripple and Thunderbird.


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Warning: Overconsumption of any of these beverages leads to acute gastrointestinal distress.


Mountain Dew -- The folks who sell this antifreeze-colored beverage work hard to make it seem "radical" and "extreme." But to anyone over the age of 30, it's still the drink of choice for rednecks. In fact, from its birth in the 1940s up to the 1960s, that was its primary market. Created by a Knoxville, Tennessee, bottler, its containers originally featured a picture of a hillbilly shooting at a "revenuer," along with the motto, "It'll tickle yore innards!" In 1973 the company finally switched its focus from the moonshine-and-inbreeding crowd to "young, active outdoor types." This trend accelerated during the '90s. The tagline, "Do the Dew" was introduced, and Pepsi-Cola (Dew's corporate owner) did everything possible to associate their product not with toothless mountain folk, but with snowboarders, skateboarders, and anyone else who might enjoy a beverage with a "daring, high-energy, high-intensity, active, extreme citrus taste."

        Actually the only truly extreme thing about Mountain Dew is the extremely large dose of caffeine in each 12-ounce serving (55 milligrams compared to only 38 in a can of regular Pepsi). Maybe that's why it's of such interest to active, outdoor types -- as well as to rednecks and to video gamers binging on World of Warcraft.


Yoo-hoo -- Adults will blithely chug sports drinks the color of windshield wiper fluid, but they won't touch Yoo-hoo. At least, not while anyone's looking. Something about this first-ever chocolate-flavored soft drink seems to infantile. Well, take all the time you need to screw up your courage, because this concoction isn't going anywhere. Created using a super-secret heating and agitating process, Yoo-hoo in properly sealed containers will never go bad. The manufacturer is so confident of this that its bottles and cans don't carry expiration dates.

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