Friday, May 29, 2009
Cola of Baltimore
One ounce of formulated syrup base.
I'm continually reminded how much the world is dwindling on an almost daily basis.
For a couple of years now, The Spro has been serving cane sugar-sweetened grey market Coca-Cola imported from Los Estados Unidos de Mexico - until now.
Recent changes by the World Trade Organization struck down the tax on High Fructose Corn Syrup imported into Mexico. The elimination of this tax makes HFCS cheaper than cane sugar in Latin America, leading to the displacement of sugar as a sweetener in the last bastion of somewhat better-for-you food in the world. After a nice period of enjoying the crisp, clean flavor of sugar Coke, the dreaded HFCS has reached our shores... again.
Within a day, I received a call from one of my customers and from my staff asking why the labels now said "high fructose corn syrup" on them. What??? I don't know. I'm going to call my importer.
After a very heated "debate" with my importer on why the F would I pay more for HFCS Coke from him than Mid-Atlantic Coca Cola (assuming that I would even consider carrying HFCS Coke), I had them come back to pick up that weeks' delivery of 22 cases of HFCS Coke.
Which leaves me at a bit of a crossroads. Do we acquiesce and start stocking HFCS Coke (a horrible idea)? Or do we find another path?
Tastes of Baltimore, back from the 1920s.
Many years ago, during the Jays Shave Ice days, I started thinking about serving handmade Coke. The notion became a whirlwind in 2004 during my visit to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta. There, a live soda jerk, made Coke by the glass by using Coke syrup and a soda gun - a glimpse of old school and just absolutely brilliant. Problem was that Coca-Cola did not sell their flavoring to anyone else but their bottlers, and American bottlers of Coca-Cola do not produce their syrup in a box with anything other than HFCS. So, even though I could buy a bag of syrup for fifty bucks, I was still making the same crappy HFCS-sweetened Coke I could buy pre-bottled.
Going back even further to the beginnings of Jays Shave Ice was a cola formulation that we stumbled upon that, evidently, was the cola flavor of Baltimore from the 1800s. In the days before Coca-Cola became the mega-behemoth it is today, local soda fountains and their jerks used locally-sourced flavorings and ingredients to make their wares (who would have guessed???). In Baltimore, during the late 1800s and early 1900s, this was the cola flavor Baltimoreans knew and loved.
As is the course of our industrialized nation, this local flavor all but disappeared in the wake of Coca-Cola. Until now.
Culling our resources, I have been able to secure some of this Old Skool Baltimore Kola Flava and have been reworking our formulation for cup service. The idea is to bring back that soda jerk feel by handcrafting the original cola flavor of Baltimore and offering in lieu of HFCS Coke. This formulation of cola is decidedly simple. Just cane sugar, water and flavor to crate the base syrup. Then hit the syrup with a soda gun et voila! handmade cola to order!
I'm getting the formulation and the service steps down and hope to bring the cola to The Spro in the next couple of weeks for a test run.