Dialing up Southern drinks
An area code-based beverage tour, from 205 to 931
This is a hard thing for a reporter to admit, but I buried the lede when I told you about all the great things I ate in Miami over holiday break.
As much as I enjoyed my meals there, I’m persuaded it’s an even better city for drinking. Beyond the fresh juices and sophisticated cocktails, Miami is the stateside capital of cafecito culture. Cuban coffee is so central to daily routines and social networks that the city in 2013 designated 3:05 p.m. as Cafecito Time.
Miamians don’t wait all day for a café con leche, of course. 305 is Miami-Dade County’s primary area code.
When I learned of the initiative while searching for my next ventanita, or Cuban coffee walk-up window, I immediately got to thinking about other locally-cherished drinks and their corresponding telephone digits. Shouldn’t residents of every area code pause for one minute each day to down an emblematic beverage?
Perhaps that’s a proclamation too far, but it’s still fun to consider the linkages between potables and place. In fact, I considered it for long enough to come up with a list of geographically significant drinks in 41 area code zones covered by The Food Section.
Granted, if Miami was devoted to chamomile tea instead of a drink that has twice the caffeine of American coffee, I probably wouldn’t have pursued this scheme. But that’s the beauty of homegrown drinks: They’re specific to their communities. And taken as a set, they illustrate the extraordinary diversity of the South.
As I write this, it’s 1:33 p.m. That means we’re just 32 minutes away from the first Southeastern area code to coincide with a time on the clock. At precisely 2:05 p.m., I’ll pop open a can of Grapico in honor of Birmingham, Alabama (205), starting a beverage tour that will continue until 9:31 p.m., when I salute Lynchburg, Tennessee (931) with a shot of Jack Daniels.
In between, I’ll be drinking all kinds of soda, wines, beers, and liquors, sticking with each drink until the next one’s number is up, and recording the results as I go.
Will this work? I don’t have a clue. I’m a little nervous about the 5:01-5:04 p.m. stretch, during which I’m slated to consume three classic cocktails. I’m also wondering if I’ll get a little weepy between 8:28 p.m. and 8:43 p.m., marking the back-to-back recognition of two cities in which I’ve spent a decade apiece. Wish me luck.
But before we get started, a few notes on the ground rules, all of which I invented.
Only area codes which match up with times are on the schedule. I briefly tried converting area codes which have an integer bigger than five in the middle—for example, Georgia’s 770 could be shifted to 8:10 p.m.—but the new numbers were often the same as existing area codes. That seemed ridiculously complicated. Apologies to the good people of 984 and 681, among others.
Additionally, area codes are being created at a breakneck clip in response to the region’s growth. In almost every case, I went with the main or oldest area code. It just didn’t seem necessary to drink to the health of Huntsville, Alabama three times.
Finally, I freely acknowledge that I may not have always picked the right drink. If you have a better choice for your home area code, tell us all about it in the comments. I promise I haven’t filed any municipal proposals yet.
Here we go.
When I started this project, I assumed most of my budget would go to alcohol, which just goes to show how little I knew about the shipping price of esoteric sodas.
Bottled in Birmingham, Alabama since the early 1900s, Grapico was introduced in New Orleans in 1916, where soda fans were bowled over by its grape flavor. To modern palates (meaning mine), it tastes like kid’s cough medicine, plus bubbles.
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