Non-alcoholic drinks are under-rated drinks. In Australia, when someone suggests we all go out for drinks, it’s always in reference to beers or fine wines. I don’t drink and when I politely decline alcoholic beverages and order a soft drink, sometimes I get funny looks from those who do. And a lot of us like soft drinks. And juice.
I’m sure many of us loved certain non-alcoholic drinks when we were kids. A while ago, I wrote about my favourite childhood snacks. Looking back at that post, it occurred to me none of the snacks I reminisced about were drinks. But then again, food and drink are two different kinds of gastronomic consumables.
Part of my childhood was spent in Malaysia and Singapore, two food paradise places where sugary drinks and desserts are aplenty. I remember as a kid, I was very happy when I got the chance to guzzle down many non-alcoholic, made-in-Asia drinks. Perhaps I should buy or make some of them to ring in the New Year:
1. Condensed milk Milo
Each blazing sunny afternoon after classes in Malaysia, me and my primary school classmates rushed to the canteen to get our free glasses of – ironically – piping hot, condensed milk Milo. The Indian canteen staff ladies made this thick, oh-so-sweet Milo under the hot zinc roof of the canteen. It amazed me how they always managed to make the drink’s dark brown texture so smooth and consistent – all Milo particles melted well, never resurfaced and never made an appearance at the bottom of our empty plastic glasses. For me, no other cup of Milo has tasted better than this.
2. Pokka (ice) lemon tea
My classmates and I bought this in Singapore from the vending machines after we changed out of our sticky PE attire during recess. The zesty, sweet bottled drink never failed to give us sugar rushes, making us alert long enough to pay attention in the class after recess.
3. Soya bean milk
This was a drink my mum always championed. According to her, soya milk is high in calcium. I like the taste of soy and the smoothness of this milk . When I accompanied my mum to the wet markets in Malaysia, she frequently suggested we order freshly-made glasses of soya bean milk to go with our breakfast here. If not, she insisted on taking away 80-cent chilled-but-no-ice, plastic bag packets of this drink.
Back when we all thought Ribena was actually full of vitamin C, my mum constantly stocked up 1 litre bottles of this syrupy goodness in the fridge. I cheekily poured generous amounts of Ribena syrup into my cup mixing it with water and she repeatedly chided me for this. C’mon, who doesn’t like the taste of blackcurrant? I reckon Ribenna is the closest non-alcoholic drink that tastes like an alcoholic one.
Whenever the orange or grape flavoured 100ml serving of this probiotic dairy product was available in my Singapore school’s canteen during recess, I happily bought one for 60 cents. I never felt satiated drinking this tiny bottle of Yakult. Never.
6. Pink strawberry milk
This was a drink that I – and perhaps some others – persistently begged for as a kid in Australia and Malaysia. I don’t know why. It’s just sweetened, flavoured milk. But when drunk chilled, it tastes like strawberry ice cream.
7. Yeo’s winter melon
On days when I didn’t buy Pokka ice lemon tea at recess, I usually bought this instead. It was never popular with my friends though. Maybe it’s because winter melon tastes considerably plainer than other fruits that leave lasting impressions in our mouths, for instance tangy orange, sour grapes and sweet mangoes.
This is a drink that I like to call Milo’s sad sister, a drink that tends to be known as the healthier but unfortunately less sweet, chocolately version of Milo. It was a treat whenever I got to drink a hot cup of this malt drink at home – 99% of the time my mum bought Milo over Ovaltine as the latter contains more chocolate and she thought this was “worth our money”.
9. Kickapoo / Joy Juice
This soft drink was extremely popular at hawker centres in Malaysia and the drink stall attendants recommended it to me all the time. When I was a kid, I naively thought this citrus-flavoured “Joy Juice” fizzy drink made us feel happy when we chugged down a saccharinely sweet can. In Malaysia, locals pronounce it as “Kih-kah-pohhh”.
10. Cincau / grass jelly drinks
These “cooling” drinks with cubes of grass jelly – made from the mint plant mesona chinesis – floating in them were extremely refreshing on hot, humid Malaysian days. I always preferred the “black” grass jelly drink (cincau) compared to the “white” one which contains a good dose of soya milk. Cincau was also a drink I ordered occasionally at hawker centres in Kuala Lumpur – they were quite pricey.
What are some of the drinks you loved drinking while growing up?