Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Swallow Will Tell You

This is going out to my homeslice, T-Diddy. I still love you even though we're on different sides of this crucial issue. Dids, I'll be in RI for Father's Day for only the briefest of stays. Holla if you're around.

As we know, I come from a magical land called Rhode Island, where one million weird little people live, mostly peacefully, in a state that takes about one hour to drive accross if traffic is bad. We boast some serious state pride, due in large part to our small size, and an accent and language all our own. If one of our Rhode Island brethern were to talk about the "big blue bug", an "Awful Awful", "Buddy" or "stuffies" any other Rhode Islander would know exactly what he was talking about. And yet several years ago a divide shook the state, cleaving its inhabitants into two groups, turning brother against brother. I am speaking, of course, of the battle to determine the Rhode Island State Drink.

There were only ever two choices (not counting the product of the now defunct Naragansett brewery): Del's Frozen lemonade and coffee milk. Now, don't get me wrong. I love Del's. Nothing, nothing signals the arrival of summer in Rhode Island like the first Del's lemonade. This delicious, icy cool drink is no other. Other frozen lemonades leave me suffering from ennui and homesickness. In Rhode Island, Del's is everywhere. One of the Del's trucks would most certainly be parked on the beach, the soccer fields, the Air Show, etc... It is a refreshing treat that adults are equally as powerless to avoid as their children. And the last time I checked, you could still buy the smallest size for pocket change. However, in the battle for the state bevrage, my heart always belonged to coffee milk.

How to describe coffee milk? It is not hot coffee with milk, nor does it have anything to do with iced coffee. You know when you make chocolate milk, you mix the milk with chocolate syrup? Well, coffee milk is made by mixing milk and coffee syrup. The two biggest producers of coffee syrup are Autocrat (motto: "A swallow will tell you" with the little red swallow as a logo) and Eclipse (motto: "You'll smack your lips when it's Eclipse"). After a ridiculously long battle, coffee milk was designated the Offical State Drink by the legislature in 1993. Many Rhode Islanders simply refuse to acknowledge this decree and at back yard cook-outs all over the state, the debate rages on.

Now, it's been ages since I've had coffee milk. It is very difficult to locate coffee syrup outside of Rhode Island, Southern New England, really, and when you consider that my Brooklyn supermarkets can't even be bothered to stock essentials like Sweet Potatoes and Marshmellow Fluff, well, I never even bothered to look. Then a couple of weeks ago, I was at the Farmer's Market on Grand Army Plaza when I went to the Ronnybrook Farms booth. If you don't live in the New York area, Ronnybrook Farms is a family dairy farm in Upstate New York ("Upstate New York" is always meant to include any place that isn't the city, Long Island or Westchester) whose products have achieved a city-wide following of cultish proportions. While I was browsing their drinkable yogurts, I saw chocolate milk and ... coffee milk. My beautiful, beloved coffee milk! In glass bottles and half pint containers! Naturally, I brought a couple of half pints and, oh man, I can't even begin to tell you how good this stuff is. Even better than the kind we used to make as kids with the syrup, probably because of the high quality of the fresh creamline milk. The Ronnybrook websites describes its coffee milk "like melted coffee ice cream" and I would have to agree. I've been bringing this to work in the mornings and pouring it over ice for a delicious breakfast drink. And if I really need some caffeine, I've been mixing it into iced coffee. So good. Then, as if my glass did not already run over, I found out that Fresh Direct carries the Ronnybrook Coffee Milk online. Seriously, if you use Fresh Direct, throw some bottles into your next order.

You can thank me later.


Beta said...

Ah, this was a perfectly refreshing afternoon post on a hot summer day. Thanks for bringing me back.

timmy said...


see timmy speechless...and terribly disapointed.

Cupcake said...

Timmy, it's so good!! I'm sorry. But you know, Autocrat bought out Eclipse in 1991 and I can't support a coffee milk monopoly. Competition is good for the consumer.

Super Skater said...

Coffee milk was also a favorite beverage in my central Massachusetts home growing up. My grandfather loved coffee ice cream, something he passed onto his kids, essentially because it was the only ice cream flavor allowed in the house-- we're talking apple pie topped with coffee ice cream at holidays. (If you think that's weird, then you definitely do not want to hear about the majority of the cuisine prepared by my French-Canadian grandmother.)

My mom did spend several of her childhood years in New Bedford, so maybe that's where they discovered the Eclipse syrup... I rarely drink milk now, but reading this makes me want to stock up when I go to Mass. next weekend for Father's Day. Mmmmm, must make iced mocha immediately....

Cupcake said...

SuperSkater, there's a part in one of those articles talking about how trying to expand coffee syrup outside Southern New England has been a total failure. I'm glad you're on our team.

Coffee ice cream on apple pie sounds great to me. Coffee ice cream was my Mom's favortie flavor. Coffee and Strawberry were the most prevalent ice cream flavors in our house, nothing fancy. Totally stock up on syrup when you're home this weekend. Or hit up the farmer's market on GAP.

JonboyDC said...

Aw, but Autocrat has entered the modern age -- you can order a case of coffee syrup at www.autocrat.com. They have Autocrat, Eclipse, and upstart label "Coffee Time." They also have t-shirts, although the shirts lack the swallow slogan, which I think needs to be my next tattoo.