Years ago, when I drank more mixed drinks, I liked vodka with cranberry juice with a splash of lime. Since I wasn't thinking much about my food, I know now that I drank a lot of "cranberry juice" that had very little cranberry juice in it.
I thought about this as Massachusetts politicians from both sides of the aisle fought to protect cranberry juice from the attacks on sugary drinks.
"The cranberry has very special characteristics in terms of health and also the way they're produced, the independent farmers who really are sort of the heart of America, if you will," said Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), a co-chair of the new group Cranberry Caucus. "There are also enormous benefits in terms of land conservation."
"I put cranberries on my Cheerios, like, every day," said Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), the other Senate co-chair of the caucus. "I'm deeply concerned that cranberries should not be placed in the category of other sugar-sweetened beverages and products. That's critically important."
Cranberries are very healthy in their purest form, though Americans rarely consume cranberries in their purest form. Lots of good antioxidants and known to help urinary tract infections. Between cranberry sauce and cranberry juice cocktail, a splash of cranberry is more of what they get surrounded by water, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and low-calorie sweeteners.
Even if you get a cranberry juice product that is 100% juice, chances are highly slim you have 100% cranberry juice. Pure cranberry juice runs tart, especially in the context of the American sweet tooth. The amount and the type of sweetener put into cranberry juice cocktail is not something politicians should be protecting.
This is like politicians asking to protect lemonade to help lemon growers, except the term "lemonade" implies that it isn't pure juice. Ask your favorite bartender sometime whether the cranberry juice being served is a) 100% juice, b) 100% cranberry juice, and c) if not, what are the extra sweeteners. Good luck finding that out.
Wanting to know what we put in our bodies is a very reasonable request, as long as we are reasonable about this. "Cranberry juice" is one of those areas where bar and restaurant patrons are at the mercy of unknown factors.
The U.S. labeling system allows "cranberry juice" to be a lot of different things, which dilutes people's perception of what cranberry juice is. Maybe the senators from Massachusetts would agree to bipartisan legislation supporting the purity of cranberries and cranberry juice.
With careful consideration, you can buy 100% pure cranberry juice and dilute it yourself. You can cut it with grapefruit or pineapple juice for an exotic taste. Orange juice might be a nice touch. Or you can go almost hardcore: just a little bit of lime juice. Might not even need the vodka to make that work.
You can always resort to water to cut it further, but instead of paying someone to put water in a bottle, you can put water in your own bottle for the cost you already pay for water.
Sen. Brown says we shouldn't place cranberries in the category of "other sugar-sweetened beverages and products." Right now, most cranberries are in that category. Perhaps the politicians on both sides of the aisle would also work toward a cranberry purity bill, allowing to only use the word "cranberry" to apply to products with a sufficient purity level of cranberry health and goodness. I'd drink to that.