"What is it?" I asked my not-all-home server.
"It comes in blackberry and apple."
I went with blackberry, despite having no idea what I was about to ingest. It arrived in a tall glass, Pepto-Bismol in hue, and topped with two inches of foam. The taste? Like a berry Activia with carbonation. It wasn't bad, but not particularly good either.
The woman sitting next to me had ordered an Allagash White (on my recommendation) and was enjoying it immensely.
"This beer sure seems better than what you're drinking," as she took a slug of her delicious brew.
I smiled at her wanly, but she was right. My pink drink was not stellar by any stretch. But what was this mysterious concoction?
It turns out Lactart used to be quite the non-alcoholic libation back in the day (roundabouts World War I and II because acids were hard to come by due to the war effort). The Avery Chemical Company created the Lactart formula in the early 1880s using dilute lactic acid, and intended it to be a healthy natural acid for flavoring beverages. It followed in the footsteps of Acid Phosphate, a very en vogue acidulent, but was competitive enough to become "popular enough that it became of class of drink at the soda counter."
Unlike the sharp taste of citric acid from conventional drink ingredients such as lemons and limes, Lactart has a much more subdued tang. It does not have a dairy taste on its own, but it works will in dairy products (I might have to disagree...).
I could buy Lactart online if I wanted to recreate this "acidulent," but I'm going to stick with Rose's Lime Juice. I tend to think that Lactart went out of style for a reason.
And while I appreciated the piece of history I was drinking, I kept eyeing my neighbor's beer. The word "Allagash"may not make me giggle the same way "Lactart" does, but an Allagash White definitely tastes better.
Should you want to try a Lactart recipe, here is one from the 1897 Standard Manual of Soda and Other Beverages: A Treatise Adapted to the Requirements of Druggists and Confectioners:
Cream Lactarta is a drink served in 12-ounce glasses with foam like the "sodas," using 1.5 fluidounces of the respective syrup, 1 fluidounce of cream, 1 fluidram of lactart and carbonated water, course and fine streams to fill the glass. "Cream vanilla lactart," for example, would be made from 1.5 fluidounces of vanilla syrup, etc. as described above.
Standard Manual of Soda and Other Beverages: A Treatise Adapted to the Requirements of Druggists and Confectioners (available on Google Books)