There, in the back, behind the table of inedible fruit cakes, we found each other. I had never heard of this brand and the bottle was kind of cool. I had three choices: diet, regular, or extra hot. I always choose extra hot.
I’ve never smoked before but I assume my first drink of Blenheim was something like a first puff; I started coughing uncontrollably and was forever hooked. It cleared my sinuses caught in the back of my throat, but in between… was heaven. It tasted like ginger!
I have a problem with beverages, well, mostly I have a problem with anything ingestible. I eat/drink amazingly fast and in large amounts. I regularly amaze waitresses who find it impossible to keep my glass full. The ones who care quickly bring me a pitcher just so they can pay attention to their other tables.
But not with Blenheim. The spicy kick, the kind that takes away your breath if you are drinking it from a wide-mouthed glass, makes me pause and slow down. I love it.
Then we moved.
Turns out Blenheim, one of the countries oldest continually operating soft drink manufacturers, is owned by a man satisfied with its level of success and uninterested in expansion. The consequence of the owner’s satisfaction is that it is nearly impossible to find if you are outside a 100 mile radius of its bottling plant; which is in South of the Border, SC.
I called ahead and was told they didn’t give tours or receive visitors. They didn’t realize they were talking to a guy who once attended a closed meeting of the American Philosophical Society because the subject matter (the history and politics of state and national borders) looked interesting. I found out about the meeting by walking into their library, which is closed to the public, and asking if I could please go to the meeting. They let me.
The receptionist apologized because they weren’t actually bottling that day but I could still go back and look at the machine. In the back I was greeted by two guys wearing mechanic style shirts sporting the Blenheim logo on one side and their names on the other. The taller one, in a thick and slow southern drawl, asked if I wanted some. Of course I did. I was pulling out my wallet while telling him a tale of how I once paid $4 for a bottle in NYC. He told me to put my money away, it was. “on the house.” I thanked him, returned my wallet to my pocket, and then I almost fell over when he lifted a whole case from the pallet and asked if I wanted him to walk it out to the van.
I still have 3 bottles in my fridge. I have made a rule for myself that I can’t drink it alone, otherwise I would squander a whole case in a weekend. This stuff must be shared and enjoyed, not guzzled.
So if you invite the Brohammas family over for dinner, or we invite you, expect me to bring a bottle or two. After I do, you will surely be added to the list of those who call me on a regular basis asking, “when you goin’ down south again?”