The early sign of a love affair with bubbles was evident in my childhood book choices. Enid Blyton’s homemade ginger beer and Roald Dahl’s Frobscottle captured my imagination early on.
My parents did try to ration the fizz in my life. Panda Pops, cherryade from the milkman and Fizz Whizz popping candy were doled out as treats for good behaviour. These were ‘gateway bubbles’ that soon led to cans of Lilt, Dr Pepper and then the drink of the gods: ice cream cola floats.
As an adult I find myself drawn to water. Carbonated water that is. And give me a tonic water (with or without the gin) any day, but please only as long as the tonic is freshly opened and nose tinglingly fizzy. And champagne! Ah, nothing bad can ever happen with a glass of fizz in your hand. Fizz is fun. Fizz is youth. Fizz is for happy times. You can’t be sad with bubbles.
Now milk. Milk is life giving. It’s sat out in the corridor at school, forming a creamy top, waiting for its foil lid to be pierced with a razor sharp straw at break time. It’s a cold and sugary sweet milkshake. It’s a cup of tea. It’s a latte. It’s creamy porridge. It’s blancmange. It’s bread and butter pudding. It's custard. It’s soothing, it’s homely, it’s cows and mud and countryside and all the good things. It’s the Good Life! But is it fun? Well it will be soon. It’s getting some fizz.
Just when you thought the reinvention of food and drink had exhausted itself, Arla has announced that it's rolling out a pink fruity fizzy milk drink in a bid to reverse declining milk sales and tempt younger folks into drinking the white stuff. Will it work? Is fizz the way to reinvent milk?
Milk’s had such a bad rap in the last decade. There's the rise in lactose intolerance (real or perceived, but that's for another day), veganism being on the up and the dawn of 'nut' milk. Dairy milk just isn't on people's tables or in their cups as much as it used to be, and the figures speak for themselves, with The Grocer reporting a £240 million drop in sales of the white stuff between 2014 and 2016.
But making it fizzy? Is this the answer?
Of course fizzy milk isn't a new idea. Doogh - a classic fizzy mint flavoured yoghurt-based drink - has been enjoyed in Iran for centuries. It's often referred to as 'Persian Coke'. But this Disneyfication of milk into a pink Barbie-esque beverage feels off the mark to me. Teenagers and twenty-somethings are just a little too sophisticated these days to be wooed by pink fizzy drinks, aren't they? Shouldn't the reinvention of milk have a back story? I have a couple of ideas...
With gut health and its link to mental health being the pet subject of 2017, why doesn't Arla maximise on this and jump on the kefir bandwagon? Kefir is the fermented product of the moment (along with kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut and kombucha), and delivers bags of probiotics and immune-boosting compounds. Some say it improves allergies, potentially fights cancer, heals skin, supports digestion, combats IBS, builds bone strength and can even improve lactose intolerance symptoms. Maybe it can save the UK milk industry too?
Kefir covers off the health-chasing crew, but what about the thrill-seekers? The ones for whom fizz is most definitely on the agenda? Would they really be swayed by fizzy pink milk? Would they instead be found pimping it with vodka? I think we should look back to days of old for inspiration. Heard of milk punch? It's more retro than gin and tonic. It dates from the 18th century (gin and tonics only date back to the 19th century) and combines citrus, sugar, gin, water, spices… and milk.
And yes, you're right in thinking it curdles (ever added milk to lemon tea? I have; it's not pretty) but those 18th century types simply filtered it before serving. The milk made this boozy tipple gentler on the stomach, meaning they could drink more. And while it might sound grim, in the name of research I am pleased to report it is velvety and smooth and a little moreish. I reckon pre-mixed cans of milk punch could be the picnic drink of choice for 2018. And turn the fortunes of Arla in the process.
Would you drink fizzy milk? Are you drinking less milk than ever? Join the debate in the Comments section below.
Holly Bell was a finalist on the second series of The Great British Bake Off in 2011. Read her blog Recipes from a Normal Mum.