Some days ago, I took my daughter to school with a quietly growing realization that I was not in good health. By mid-morning, I’d realized I had a fever, and thought, “Well, this is inconvenient.” Not that it’s ever convenient.
But I slogged on, thinking, “I can manage all this, it’ll be fine.” I was, at the time, trying to prepare for her birthday party, which was a Big Deal. As the morning wore on, however, it became increasingly clear that I could not manage all of this, and it was not fine. Proof that I was ill, and not just having a cruddy day, was that I suddenly really wanted a glass of fruit juice.
I never want fruit juice, except when I’m sick. And, despite ours being a household with a child in it, we do not keep juice around all the time. I know, I know. What kind of people are we, to not have apple juice at all times? Well, that’s just how I am. I don’t keep juice around. As such, we had nothing to quench this specific thirst of mine, but, I did remember that in the fridge, we had an old bottle of Bloody Mary mix, leftover from New Year’s Day. I thought, “There is no good reason I can’t drink that. I’ll just thin it out with some water.” So I cut it 50% with water, and put in a lot of ice, and guzzled it down. It was, let me tell you, delicious. The horseradish, I reasoned further, had to be good for me under the circumstances. I drank about a third of the bottle of Bloody Mary mix that day, combined with lots and lots of water. The next day, I’m happy to report, I was right as rain, but I was still thinking about tomato juice and novel ways in which to drink it. Mostly I was thinking, “How come there’s no one selling bottles of tomato soda?”
I posted a remark on Facebook about this and was met with what we could charitably call much skepticism. But I remained undaunted.
The next time I was in a grocery store, two days later, I noticed a big bottle of tomato juice on the shelf, and bought it. I brought it home and said to my daughter, “I’m gonna make tomato soda.” She said, “Why? Is it good?” and I said, “Well, I don’t know, but I think it will be.” I took a can of seltzer out of the fridge. My daughter watched curiously. I poured about four ounces of tomato juice into a tall glass and then poured about six ounces of seltzer in. The drink formed a tall, foamy head, just like I’d poured a bottle of red beer into a glass. I took a sip, and thought it was delicious. Ever since then, I’ve been making myself tomato sodas when I feel particularly thirsty for something more than water. I’ve been tinkering with the proportions. It’s always good, but I’d say one part tomato juice to four parts water is probably my own personal favorite.
I realize this isn’t for everyone. It’s distinctly odd. It turns out, what’s more, that (of course) the Japanese have been marketing a similar product, called Tomash, for the last couple of years; I’m not sure how much headway they’ve made in the American market, but it is out there, in Japan, at least. You can read about it online. Tomash seems to be a combination of tomato juice, fruit juice, and carbonated water: that is not what I have in mind. I’m after a totally unsweet experience. If anything, it’d be a slightly spicy experience. I’m envisioning variants with a dash of horseradish, a dash of celery salt. Maybe some lime.
I’ve also been thinking about clearer, less intimidating-looking variations. Remember a few years ago when chefs were all abuzz about “tomato water” — the water that they drained out of their tomatoes before using the fleshy part in other recipes? Tomato water combined with seltzer could be fabulous. I’m imagining tomato water ice cubes floating in homemade ginger soda. Tomato water ice cubes in limeade. Why the hell not play with this stuff, instead of just pouring it down the drain? And on lazy summer days, yeah, you can always buy a can of tomato juice, water it down, and fill the glass with whatever un-frou-frou ice cubes you might have on hand.
I’m not going to live on this stuff, but for a change of pace? I’m definitely taking a long view on this. Tomato soda: you heard it here first.