Something Interesting to Drink: no alcohol

It is no secret that I do not drink alcohol. Never have. This personal life choice, which shouldn’t be such a big deal, has a surprising impact on my life. No, it hasn’t help me avoid a series of bad choices as I make those quite well while sober, but other things like making me the rugby team’s all time designated driver, countless corporate happy hours where you answer the same silly questions over and over and over (because drunk people think this is interesting and charming) but the biggest effect this teetotaling has had on me, is limiting my options regarding interesting beverages.appleclosegraff

For a period of time some friends and I took matters into our own hands, and we got quite good at it if I may say so, but it was not sustainable. I need other options.

For Christmas I want something interesting to drink.


Before I dive into a list, let me point out a site for soda reviews that is unparalleled in breadth and quality: Five star soda. They are good. You can trust them.

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Now the list:

Blenheim Ginger ale is always number one for me. It is a bit too hard to find but its burn your face off spiciness is worth the effort. Solid number two is Absinthe soda (made by Saiteaux). Tastes like liquid black licorice and I LOVE it. Then as you move down the soda spectrum just keep in mind super sweet is not my thing, but spicy or tart usually works. Blood orange, lime, clove, birch, anise, lemon, ginger, raspberry, etc. etc. If in LA, go to Galco’s.

Drinking chocolate, dark and spicy. You know, Mexican style with chili and cinnamon. The darker, spicier, and thicker the better.greatfruitmate

I love yerba mate. I drink it mostly unsweetened, preferably through a bombilla from a gourd and in a group, but solo from my matermo is just fine. I like the taste but even more I like the equipment and the process. My default setting with most foods or beverages is to go too fast. Mate makes me slow down a bit. This is a good thing.

Don’t go to Whole Foods or some place similar and pay $25 for a 2lb bag. Find a latin market and buy a 5lb bag of Rosamante, CBSe, or Taragui for $10. Or, pretty much any mate anything from

Just steer clear of a six pack of Diet Coke.


Credit Where Credit is Due: Pop ‘n Sweets

I have not been know to look for nice things to say about Provo Utah. Not wanting to be a generally negative person I have often kept my mouth shout when wanting to say bad things about the place. I find myself now in a position where I have no choice… I must praise the place. Or at least I must praise one place that is in that place.

Pop ‘n Sweets.IMG_6344

They have nice story about how they came to be and who owns the place but that doesn’t mater much in this case. This candy and soda shop could have been founded by the devil and it would still be worth the visit (incidentally the devil has been outlawed in Provo so it couldn’t have been founded by him).IMG_6304

Long story short, they have soda. All kinds of soda. Soda on tap, Soda from Austria, Soda that’s funny, soda that is sophisticated, a lot of soda. I like that. They have candy too but I’m not so much into wasting calories on that when there is a red capped Blenheim ginger ale to be had.IMG_6339

Or perhaps a mate mojito? A birch beer maybe? Whatever your flavor grab one and have a seat at the counter or in a booth.IMG_6318

This place was good enough that I wanted to hang around… in Provo. I want to go again… to Provo. I can’t believe I ‘m typing this. I’m being forced to shift my fundamental belief system. My foundation is crumbling.

Crumbling into a sweet, fizzy, bubbly, wonderful pool of soda.IMG_6320

Galco’s: Heaven is Carbonated

If we are all good boys and girls we will one day be presented at the pearly gates and be allowed to enter. For those who are still lost and wallowing in iniquity, the pearly gates are located at 5702 York Boulevard in Los Angeles California. The whole Saint Peter thing is really just a myth, the gates are actually guarded by a guy named John Nese… and he lets everybody in.

IMG_1252That right there is a grizzly bear, St. Peter, and a groveling soda supplicant. I can testify that there is no better place on this terrestrial planet to grovel for carbonated beverages. This is because if a soda exists, Galco’s Old World Grocery stocks it. He does not put it in a glass display case or on a nice tablecloth, just stocks it.


Now make no mistake not all sodas are created the same. Some are completely unfit for human consumption, or, are simply unremarkable and don’t merit the trip. Others are deservedly the desire of pilgrims and sojourners world wide. Blenheim for example is worth scaling Everest. But you don’t have to because Nese stocks it.

Ever heard of Almdudler? I hadn’t either but I’m not from Austria and it is. They have it at Galco’s and it tastes a bit like a flowery lemonade.IMG_1093

How bout MacFuddy Pepper Elixr? Despite its domestic origins I had never heard of such a thing but the promise of spice was too much to pass up. It disappointed. But I blame my imagination rather than the beverage.

Did you know they make  a cinnamon and rose  soda? No? Well that’s probably because they don’t. But my kid did at Galco’s. If they don’t have what you want there you can make your own. If it exists, ever existed, or you wish it existed. You have to make it to heaven.IMG_1290

Old Town Rootbeer Company: Temecula, CA

My co workers were all happy to be spending the weekend in wine country. I was curious about his whole wine country thing, I’ve never been to there, but I wasn’t exactly excited. Words like Cabarnet Sauvignon at a dinner table normally mean I will spend the dinner not participating in conversation. It is amazing how much people talk about wine or alcohol in general.
I know nothing about such things and consequentially have little to offer such conversations. This was on my mind as I turned onto Temecula’s main street with its old timey western storefronts.
The usual suspects were all there: trading post, art gallery with pastel Indian feathers, rootbeer shop.
Wait… rootbeer shop!?


I ran an old woman off the sidewalk as I illegally parked the car and ran inside.

“Yes.” I said out loud when I stepped inside the door.

“Pardon? May I help you?” a tie dyed bearded kid asked.

“Yes. Just yes.”


Olde Philadelphia, Virgil’s, Cheerwine, Kutztown, and Blenheim.
Upon seeing that last one I may have teared up just a little.


“I’ll take six of those.” I ordered then started looking around.
They have it all and then have just a little bit more. The place isn’t huge, its a little more pricey then I would hope, but it is the best reason for a Mormon to drive to wine country I have ever seen.


Blenheim Ginger Ale, a love story

I have a confession to make.  I had a reason to stop at the “tackiest place in the world”.  James’s comment on my last post called me out on it.  Here goes…
It was destiny.  Some loves are pure, some passionate, and some are carbonated. 
I once lived across the street from a roadside produce stand.   I’m a sucker for local or independent stuff, so I wondered in.
Blenheim's extra hot outside the place we first fell in love.

 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. 

Back there, behind the fruitcake.

 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. 

A sign like that is just asking for it.

 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. 

How can I get one of these?

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?”