Drink structuring

At lunch yesterday it appeared like the men at the next table respectively asked for a cold coffee and an iced tea. What the waitress did was very interesting. She plonks a regular cup of “cafe con leche” (coffee with milk) in front of one guy, and a large cup of hot water with a tea bag in front of the other. They start mixing sugar into their respective drinks (it wasn’t added earlier). Then she brings two large glasses with lots of ice in them. The men presently pour their drinks into that glass and start drinking.

Two Tuesdays back I was at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Midway through my tour I saw this little cafe in the museum and decided to warm myself with some hot chocolate. After paying a princely EUR 2.75, I saw the barista take some canned cold chocolate from the fridge, use the steamer of the coffee machine to heat it up (in the process effectively adding copious amounts of water), and then hand it to me as “hot chocolate”. That was the last time on this trip I ever ordered hot chocolate.

It’s very interesting how “illiquid drinks” (an oxymoron if there is one – but as regular readers know, liquidity here refers to the economic concept and nothing physical) are structured here and offered without significant cost to the seller. Yesterday was the first time in two weeks in Barcelona, for example, that I saw someone drink cold coffee/tea. Given the low demand it doesn’t make sense for the restaurant to keep the infrastructure to make “real” cold coffee (a mixie and all that). Similarly with the chocolate at the cafe at the Rijksmuseum!

I haven’t seen this back in India – the only time I’ve seen drinks being structured thus was at that little overrated cafe in Alliance Francaise where I once had a lemon ice tea – the guy puts boiling water on a cup with a tea bag, waits for a couple of minutes for it to infuse, stirs sugar, throws out the bag, takes a large glass full of ice American-style, squeezes lemon into it, adds the tea and hands it over.

Maybe Indian restaurants could take a cue from how drinks are structured here – though it will be hard since the Indian customer is more demanding. Adigas, for example, can offer cold coffee (iced coffee to be precise). It will be an interesting experiment without too much cost (other than the ice).

While on the topic of drinks, one of the last great liquor advertising campaigns in India, before liquor advertising was banned in 2001 (and then had to go surrogate), was UB Export Strong Beer’s “yaake cool drink” series starring Upendra. It was incredibly low-priced beer, comparable to the price of a coke. So the tagline went “yella OK but cool drink yaake?” (everything is fine but why cool drink?). I had the beer for the first time two months back, when it was the only available beer at a party. Watch the ad here:

Last night at dinner I ordered a Coke. It was the first time since I landed in Barcelona that I had ordered a soft drink. I began wondering why. It was clear when the bill appeared. I had been charged EUR 2.78 for the (Georgia green glass 350ml) bottle of coke. I remember seeing the menu and seeing that wine was priced at EUR 2.15 there. Beer similar. A clear case of “yaake cool drink”.