What’s in a Name

This is a map of the word people use to describe carbonated soft drinks in the different parts of the US.  Clicking on it will take you to a much more legible version.  It’s very territorial:  in the northeast, right in the middle around St. Louis, and in the southwest, people call it “soda.”  In the north and northwest, it’s “pop.”  And in the south and southeast, no matter what brand or flavour you’re referring to, you say, “coke.”  (Except for right around Miami – I guess the snowbirds have transferred “soda” down there.)

I wonder if the folks at Coca-Cola in Atlanta think of this.  We’ve all heard that it’s bad for your “brand” to become genericized like Xerox or Kleenex.  But in those states, if you were running down to the corner store, and someone said, “Grab me a coke,” and you didn’t know what their preference was, you’d get a Coca-Cola, because that’s clearly different from, say, Sprite.  It would be another matter if they asked you to grab some Kleenex – you know that all facial tissues are essentially the same, but soda isn’t.  So I think they’d be happy about this instance of genericization.  (Word?)

Anyway, reminds me of a story.  I was sitting in a bar in Auckland, when a nice American girl walked up and ordered a “7 and 7.”  The bartender looked at her quizzically, saying he didn’t know that one.  (It’s rye and 7-Up, jigged into a fancy name by the folks at Seagram’s Distilleries, makers of “Seagram’s 7” rye.)  Now, in New Zealand, they call clear soda like 7-Up, “lemonade” (I never did find out what they call what we  call lemonade…)  So I said to the bartender that what the girl was asking for was Canadian Rye Whiskey and Lemonade.   She said, “Eww, gross – I don’t like whiskey and I wouldn’t want it mixed with lemonade!”  I assured here that that’s what a 7 and 7 was, and said I’d pay for it if I was wrong, so she acquiesced and was pleased with the result.  But the thought left in my mind was, how can you drink something without knowing what’s in it?

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2 Responses to “What’s in a Name”

  1. Clayton Says:

    Reminds me that I don’t know why I’ve never picked your brain on mixology before. I only tended bar for one Summer but and it was a beer bar, I’m currently trying out different sling recipes. When I make an authentic Singapore Sling with pineapple juice, etc, “The Mrs.” deems it “undrinkable” and I have to make her the lousy lemon and sugar water version that you would get in most bars.

    So what’s your take on “authentic” drinks compared to the quick and dirty versions you get in most bars. Is a generic rum coke really worse than a Cuba Libre? How many bartenders in this city could actually make a Cuba Libre without opening the recipe book?

    Should you have to pay a premium at a bar to get a drink mixed the right way, the same you way you have to pay more for premium brands over the low end spirits?

  2. Stephen Brooks Says:

    I actually had a Singapore Sling in the bar where it was invented in the 1910s – The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. Too sweet for my taste.

    I worked in a bar where mixed drinks were not common. Most of our customers were straight up drinkers (or beer), as am I. So I don’t have real opinion on authentic mixes vs. “cheating” by using bar mix.

    Funny story about the bar I worked at. One night, a very cute, bubbly girl came in and ordered a Strawberry Daquiri. John McEvans, the owner at that time, reached over, handed her a 5-dollar bill, and said, “You can get one next door at Woody’s. That’ll be $5.75, please.”


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