Big Jim: Some drinks to cool off with

2013-08-09T00:00:00Z Big Jim: Some drinks to cool off withJim Griffith, Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

You may have noticed that it warms up in the summer here in Tucson. Heat produces thirst, so this is a good time to mention some of the cooling drinks that are a part of Mexican culture. They are sold by the glass at public fiestas, or made from mixes readily available at stores such as Food City.

Horchata is sweetened, cinnamon-flavored rice water. It is featured at many local Mexican restaurants. There are commercial mixes available.

Jamaica is made from the flowers of the hibiscus plant. You boil the petals until you get a deep red water, then add sugar to taste. It's sweet and tart at the same time.

Cebada is sweetened barley water. Once again, mixes are available.

Tamarindo comes from the boiled seed pods of the tamarind tree. The pods can be found at Food City. Incidentally, all of these drinks may be found on-line, along with recipes for making them from scratch.

Last but not least, are snow-cones - cups of shaved ice with brilliantly colored flavored syrup poured over it. These are a favorite Tucson summer treat, and were available on the west and southwest sides long before any ice cream stores moved in. They are correctly called in Spanish raspados - everywhere but in Tucson. Locally, for some unknown reason, their name is cimarronas, which also means “female mountain goats.” Don't ask me why. If you have the the answer, please let me know.

I have a fond memory of serious arguments with an out of-state press that  was publishing a Tucson recipe-and-reminiscence book. Its Spanish language expert refused to accept cimarrona as a legitimate word for raspado, and I had to call on a chorus of elderly witnesses (including Lalo Guerrero) to prove that it was a genuine localism.

Cherish our localisms – they are all that keep us from being Texas or California!

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About this blog

Jim Griffith is the former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, and co-founder of Tucson Meet Yourself. He’s also the author of seven books on the folklore and folklife of our region, most recently “A Border Runs Through It.” His books can be purchased at

If you have questions or suggestions for Jim Griffith or this blog, e-mail

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