The first time we came to the small town of Sebree on a backroads eating tour in the company of Kentucky-food authority Louis Hatchett, Louis called out, “Orangeade!” We pulled into a parking place across from the sturdy old brick-façade building that is Bell’s Drug Store. It’s a working pharmacy with shelves of patent medicines, clothing, and nick-nacks for sale and a short soda fountain counter up front. Here is where milk shakes are whirled, sundaes and floats constructed, and cherry Cokes mixed to order.
We placed our orangeade orders and then a moment later, the soda jerk turned to us with a tragic look on his face. “We have run out of oranges,” he lamented. But there was still a good supply of lemons, so we ordered lemonade and lemon ice and watched him go to work squeezing juice to make them. We ordered one lemonade made with an extra lemon (50¢ surcharge): what a mighty sweet/tart wallop! And the lemon ice was something different: nothing but fresh lemon juice poured over crushed ice and seasoned with a dash of salt. When the mixologist handed it to us, he pointed to a large sugar dispenser that had been filled with salt (and conspicuously so labeled!). “There’s more salt if you’d like,” he said. To our taste, it was just right as presented, the sprinkle of salinity enriching the pure citrus punch.
While sipping and slurping at the single table opposite the soda fountain, we struck up a conversation with Charles Davis, a local gent in well-worn overalls who was savoring a fountain beverage while standing near the counter. He confessed that he was diabetic, but the pure pleasure of a cherry Coke, which he has been enjoying at Bell’s since he was sixteen years old, made it easy to throw caution to the wind.
On a return visit, we did sample the orangeade, which is a two-ingredient marvel — freshly squeezed orange juice mixed with sugar water, on ice — and utterly refreshing. No salt for this one!