09 June 2008

Cebadina revisited...

Not long ago I posted an item named “The Quest for Cebadina” and I thought that I had put that puppy to bed but I have stumbled across several points that I missed on the first go-around so I am making this addendum in order to “hoe to the end of the row” before quitting the field.

The first item that I would like to mention regarding cebadina is “tamarindo” (tamarind). I have encountered a number of variations on the definition of Cebadina. Some of them say that Cebadina is a combination of barley water, jamaica (red hibiscus), tamarind, and pineapple to which is added a small amount of bicarbonate of soda to make it fizz. Other definitions don’t mention barley but mention pineapple vinegar. All of them, however, mention both jamaica and tamarind. The other day I was researching a Mexican product called “Sal de Uvas Picot” and noted that it used tartaric acid to react with bicarbonate of soda in order to effervesce. I also noted that tartaric acid was one of the first chemicals to be used in making baking powder. There are only a few natural major sources for tartaric acid other than grapes but it just so happens that one of those sources is tamarind. The tartaric acid is what gives tamarind the “tart” taste that makes it a favorite for use in various types of sauces including, believe it or not, Worcestershire Sauce. If cebadina contained a sufficient amount of tamarind there would be no need to add vinegar in order to have a reaction with bicarbonate of soda. The tamarind and the bicarbonate of soda should be enough to make the cebadina fizz. Since I will probably never be sure exactly what is or what was in cebadina I can only speculate that once upon a time there was a theoretical traditional drink called cebadina that contained barley water as a base, jamaica for color, tamarind for acid, pineapple to counteract the tartness of the tamarind, and bicarbonate of soda to react with the tartaric acid of the tamarind and make the whole concoction fizz.

I also came across an item regarding Bromo Seltzer, which effervesces similar to Sal de Uvas Picot with the exception that it uses citric acid to react with the bicarbonate of soda instead of tartaric acid and also contains an analgesic. Bromo Seltzer was originally manufactured by the Emerson Company and in the late 1950’s as part of Warner Lambert Pharmaceuticals they came out with a product for kids named “Fizzies”. I remember Fizzies quite well. They were tablets containing bicarbonate of soda, citric acid, a coloring agent, a flavoring agent, and a sweetener. When you dropped a Fizzies tablet in water it would effervesce and you could instantly turn a glass of water into a glass of bubbling soda pop…in theory that is. What I remember about Fizzies is that they were a lot of fun to fool around with but they didn’t taste very good. You could still taste the bicarbonate of soda. That is the same problem that I experienced with cebadina and, now that I think of it…cebadina does taste a lot like Fizzies! They were both popular drinks during the same era and the attractions for both of them were the novelty and the bubbles. Fizzies came in several different fruit flavors, such as orange and grape, along with traditional soda flavors such as root beer and were usually sold in packets of eight tablets that cost around 20 cents. Unfortunately for millions of Fizzies fans, the last packet of Fizzies came off the line in 1969. The chemists at Emerson Drug Company had used a form of artificial sweetener called cyclamates. Cyclamates were the only artificial sweeteners at that time capable of forming a stable bond with the other chemicals used to create Fizzies. Tests performed on rats during the 1960’s established a link between cyclamates and certain cancers, which led to a permanent ban on cyclamates in the United States. For a time Fizzies were sold unsweetened with instructions to add one spoonful of sugar to the glass of water with every Fizzies tablet but that turned out to be very impractical and Fizzies eventually fizzled out. Why didn’t they put the sugar right into the tablet? It turns out that to sweeten a glass of water with a tablet containing sugar as well as the ingredients to color it, flavor it, and make it fizz would require too big a tablet. A more intense sweetener was needed. After the introduction of NutraSweet to the sweeteners market, the Fizzies brand was resurrected in the mid-1990’s by Premiere Innovations, Inc. It wasn’t available for long though and the company just disappeared. Fizzies are now back on the market again since 2006 and are available in seven flavors…sour apple, lemon-lime, root beer, cherry, orange, blue razz and fruit punch. They are manufactured by Amerilab Technologies in Plymouth, Minnesota (www.fizzies.com/). In their present form, they are sweetened with a mixture of sorbitol, acesulfame potassium and sucralose. The scary part is that they now cost about four dollars for a packet of eight tablets as opposed to twenty cents per packet when they first came out in 1957. Back then gasoline was about twenty cents per gallon and now gasoline is around four dollars per gallon. Hmmm…do you see where this could be going? Conspiracy theory anyone?

In any case, I am finally ready to say goodbye to Cebadina. Our relationship is now officially over. It was fun while it lasted but duty calls and I must seek out other dusty corners in the attic of History to see what I can scrounge up. I am sorry Cebadina. It is time for both of us to move on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I was born in Leon in 1981. My parenta always took me downtown to drink a glass of cebadina.

great research Sir..

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.