What's To Drink?

by Andy Rooney


There was a drugstore on the corner two blocks from where I lived growing up and friends Alfie, Bobby and I often went in after school and bought an ice-cream cone or a Coke. They were each a nickel and we had to decide which one to buy. We couldn't afford both.

"Coke" is one of the most-used invented names in our language. I seem to remember that over the years, the Coca-Cola Company has occasionally objected to people using the abbreviated name to identify their drink. I don't think they should have worried. I suppose Pepsi has intruded on Coke's business, but Coca-Cola is still what people are talking about when they ask for "a Coke." "Pepsi" must hate Coke and make Coke mad.

Coca-Cola has done a good job concealing the recipe for their drink. Like most of us, I have no idea what's in it. Under "coke" in my dictionary, it says, "The solid carbonaceous residue obtained from bituminous coal after removal of volatile material by destructive distillation." I knew coke was also something other than a drink -- sort of coal, but not quite. I didn't confuse the coke that went into the furnace with "Coke" the drink.

I drink a lot of mineral water. I keep a bottle in the refrigerator at home and another in the office. When I get thirsty, that's what I drink. I know that's not a very exciting beverage, but that's what I like.

My parents were born near Saratoga, N.Y. The town's real name is "Saratoga Springs" and it was known for its springs long before it was known for its racehorses. The town has 17 great springs spewing water, and many people driving by stop at one of the springs along the road to have a drink and fill a bottle to take with them. When I was a kid, my mother drove us the 70 miles from Albany to our summer cottage on Lake George. We passed Saratoga Springs and always stopped at one of the springs for a good drink. Every long trip should have such a great place to stop.

It's always amazed me that the water just keeps coming out of the ground in Saratoga. Along the road, the spring water splutters out of the faucets in the little buildings they have over the springs. Last summer, I stopped at one of the springs whose water is called "Coesa," and it was as good as ever. I wonder what it will be like in 100 years. (Of course, I wonder what everything will be like in 100 years.)

The best thing about drinking the Saratoga Spring waters is that they contain no sugar. Most soft drinks should be called "hard" because they're sweet. The mineral spring water tastes as if it has some salt. I don't know how in the world spring water got to be called "soft."

We all get hooked on things when we're young, and I got hooked on a carbonated mineral water called Saratoga Vichy. We still keep a bottle of Saratoga Sparkling Spring Water in the refrigerator (which I still call "the icebox"). I very seldom drink plain old water.

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