When it comes to soft drinks, I generally try to walk away. I don’t need the calories or carbs in regular soft drinks. Ditto for the chemicals and aftertaste in their sugar-free cousins. On the rare occasions when I do indulge, my go-to drink is “real” Coca-Cola, loaded with sugar, caffeine and caramel color. Preferably in a 6 ½-ounce glass bottle that’s been buried at the bottom of an ice-filled metal tub.

I recently found myself engaged in conversation about things that are hard to find in stores these days. My friend Ken Fuller said he had a heck of a time finding Squirt.

“What’s Squirt?” I asked.

“It’s the most delicious soda pop you ever tasted,” he said. “I’ve been drinking it since I was a kid. It’s grapefruit-flavored and real light and crisp. I love it.” Ken told me that Squirt is not a staple on the shelves of most grocery stores. “The one place I know I can get it for sure,” he said, “is the IGA at Tenth Street and Washington.”

Always on the lookout for something to write about, I stopped in last week at the IGA and bought a twelve-pack of twelve-ounce cans. Just reading the nutrition information on the side of the carton gave me pause. Each can of Squirt contains 140 calories, 39 grams of carbs and 38 grams of added sugar. Squirt has no caffeine and no fat. Also no protein, fiber, vitamins or minerals. Not exactly health food. But there’s not much I won’t do for a column, so I slid a couple of cans into the refrigerator to chill. This morning, as I sat down at my computer, I popped open a Squirt and took a big swallow.

Aaahhh. It really was delicious. The carbonation was perfect and the taste a delightful combination of tart, tangy and sweet. I poured some Squirt into a glass and discovered it was pale and cloudy-looking, sort of like lemonade with bubbles.

Some quick research revealed that Squirt was invented in 1938 in Phoenix, Arizona. It soon became a bestseller in many parts of the country, especially the west and southwest. In the 1950s, Squirt was a popular cocktail mixer, often combined with gin, vodka or—when used to make a margarita—tequila.

As it turns out, it’s not as hard to find in Cookeville as Ken feared. Though Squirt isn’t sold at Kroger, Walmart or Food Lion, it is available at Publix and Spring Street Market, as well as IGA. And, of course, you can order it from amazon.

The best part of my research? I learned that this coming Wednesday is Ken Fuller’s birthday. Not to give away secrets, but he’s even older than Squirt. I bet you can guess what I’m giving him for a present. I only hope he won’t notice that two cans are missing from the carton.

(January 27, 2019)