Pantry: San Pellegrino Pompelmo
I know what grapefruit soda is. You know what grapefruit soda is. Your mother-in-law in Schenectady knows what grapefruit soda is. It's that pale, tart, fizzy stuff that's 47% sharper than Sprite or 7-up, just pungent enough to stand up to a little vodka if it's been that kind of day. Sometimes it's Fresca, sometimes it's Squirt, sometimes it's Mexican Squirt in a rippled 10th-hand bottle that looks like a well-worn bit of sea glass.
If you are in Jamaica, it's Ting -– I still hear people mourn the old formula that was supposedly changed when the company was taken over by Pepsi a few decades ago. If you have just come back form Whole Foods, it's probably a pleasantly sweet Izze pink grapefruit soda the color of a 3-year-old's first ballet-class tutu. My father was so fond of a diet soda Shasta used to make that our garage was still dominated by stockpiled cases of the stuff a decade after the cyclamate ban.
Still, San Pellegrino Pompelmo –- that's a different kind of grapefruit soda, with the creamy carbonation you know from the mineral water, foil-topped cans and a bittersweet wallop not just of juice but the best juice, a rind-zapped bitterness that makes your lips tingle as if you'd just chewed a fresh kumquat. Your kids will hate it. It is exactly what you want with your panini when you are doomed to a lunch without wine. And while this may sound blasphemous to Peñafiel purists, toss in a shot of decent tequila, squeeze a wedge of fresh lime, and you are on your way to the best Paloma, the beloved libation of hot Puerta Vallarta afternoons, you may ever taste.
As long as we're on the subject, you may as well take a look at Aziz Ansari's classic story about the stuff. Apparently, the rapper 50 Cent did not know what grapefruit soda was. Somewhat NSFW.
-- Jonathan Gold
Photo: Laurie Ochoa / For The Times