Acquiring tastes

Beer_and_Chocolate.jpg Everone of a certain age enjoys a few foods, drinks, and other orally-injested substances that, when first tried, were simply unpalatable. Coffee is a good example of this, though maybe not the best example. More on that later. In any case, this class of substances is known as "acquired tastes." Most acquired tastes are bitter substances. We don't like bitter things because poisons are traditionally bitter. Poisons such as caffeine. After all, a tiny but of caffeine will easily kill a person. It's also one of the most addictive substances we know of. And yet, we love the stuff. What's wrong with us? The thing we know best about caffeine is that it provides us with some handy if imperfect benefits, like giving us something of a wakefulness boost. Conditioning being what it is, if we taste something that disagrees with us, followed by a pleasant sensation, then eventually we'll come to like what we tasted. I mentioned that coffee was not a perfect example of this, because coffee only tastes bad when it's prepared improperly. There us so much great flavor in coffee that the bitter should just be an underlying note. Which is, incidentally, another way that tastes are acquired. You taste something terrible, but sense another taste underneath that is really good. Conditioning happens again, until you not only look forward to the underlying taste, but the bitter taste as well. The photo accompanying this article is of a beer float, which combines a bitter stout beer from the Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC with a stout beer ice cream from the Ultimate Ice Cream Company. Depending on how you combine the ingredients, you'll often start with a bitter hit, then have that mellowed out by the ice cream. As you go on, you appreciate the dish more and more. It's a very quick way to acquire a taste.

Fruit Sodas for Adults

I've been on a bit of a kick recently trying a bunch of fruit sodas. Well, citrus-flavored sodas, really. So I figured it was time to do something worthwhile with the kick and tell you, my loyal readers, what you can expect from these beverages.

GUS

This is the one that got me started on the citrus soda kick. There's a good local soup shop in town, and they have an excellent selection of beverages (including my favorite beer). I saw the Grown Up Soda and said, "Yeah, why not?" Was it a good idea? Hard to say for sure, but I'm enjoying myself, so we'll call it a win. GUS is not terribly sweet. There's a scale with soda water with a squeeze of lemon at 1, and Orange Crush as a 10. This rates a reasonable 5. Still plenty of flavor, but not watered down and disappointing. I've had the Dry Meyer Lemon and the Dry Valencia Orange. The Meyer Lemon was not all that exciting. It has a good lemon flavor, but it's a bit more subtle than I prefer my lemonade. I know, Meyer Lemons are more subtle than regular lemons, but it could have stood a bit more with that. The Valencia Orange has a great balance of flavor. It has a medium-strong orange taste without being cloying. Well worth the purchase. In my experience, GUS is the hardest to find of the brands reviewed today.

IZZE

IZZE is the second easiest-to-find of the sodas in this review. They are in Whole Foods and they are in Chipotle restaurants. Because of their relative fame, I have tried several of their ilk. There are two distinct lines of IZZE Sparkling Juice: the regular (IZZE) and the low calorie versions (IZZE ESQUE). Actually, there's a third version, IZZE FORTIFIED, but I've never tried it. The regular is a 7 on the sweetness scale, which is the highest I would go and still have an enjoyable beverage. And they are tasty. I even like their grapefruit cocktail, which manages to put a decent amount of sweet in there while still letting you know that, yes, it is definitely grapefruit. The ESQUE is a 3 on the sweetness scale, which is much too low. It tastes of lightly fruited water, and I just don't like that. I appreciate them not adding anything artificial etc, but it's just not enough for me. If I want to go with a lower calorie soda, I'll jump to the GUS, which looks to have a smaller serving size to make up for the lowered amount of juices and sugars.

San Pellegrino

San Pellegrino is my favorite of the citrus sodas. They lean toward the sweet side, around 7 much like the IZZE. The Aranciata is a bit better than the Limonata , but either are a good choice for your sparkly fruit drinking ways. The real star of the San Pellegrino lineup is the Chinotto . This is unlike anything I have ever had that wasn't also Italian. It's a brownish color, kind of like a Cola, but it's clearly fruit flavored. The thing is, it's a bitter, complex fruit. This is an acquired taste for sure. It is strange, and it is teeming with different flavors. If you think Dr. Pepper is great because it has so much more complexity than normal soda, then you live a sheltered life and probably aren't quite ready for the Chinnoto. Italians love the bitter, as those of you who have tried Italian Liqueur surely know. It's a rewarding drink to master, though, because it will wake up an otherwise boring process of drinking a carbonated beverage. Plus, you can really mess with your co-worker who likes stealing drinks from the fridge. Totally worth it.

Orangina

Orangina is the most famous of the fruit beverages. It has even appeared in the lyrics of a Broadway musical (commenters are welcome to guess which one). It has actual orange pulp in the bottle, and you are encouraged to shake it before drinking it, which adds that hint of danger to drinking a soda that you don't normally get, though nothing near the danger of the Cinnoto. Orangina is not overly sweet, falling around 6 on the scale. With a decent flavor, it's a fine drink to have for the citrus connoisseur.