Pardon my purple prose. But here I am, a native Buffalonian, and all these years, I never had a loganberry.
“You’re kidding!” exclaimed Howard, the Tonawanda guy I married.
He said that when he was a kid, his family loved loganberry so much his mother had to stock the syrup.
“I was raised on the stuff,” he said, staring at me. “How can you have never had a loganberry?”
Like everything else, it was probably my parents’ fault. At Crystal Beach, the amusement park that popularized the drink, they would buy suckers, not loganberry. They were also impervious to the loganberry bubblers that loomed everywhere around town, on every lunch counter. The sight of that violet drink, swishing around next to a twin tank of lemonade, was so appetizing. But my parents always said no.
Now, for the first time, I thought about what I was missing. Loganberry is a taste unique to Western New York. Do a Twitter search for loganberry, and only locals come up. And they’re too young to remember Crystal Beach.
Lauren Kowalczewski, one apparent expat, tweeted last week: “maaaaan I miss the cider mill and mighty taco and Tim Horton’s and loganberry.”
Katie Attea, new at SUNY Geneseo, wrote: “Brought loganberry to college thinking that it would be a big hit and everyone hated it what is this I miss Buffalo.”
Loganberry lives! Alas, the bubblers I remembered have been quietly disappearing. The drink is far more likely to come from a bottle or a soda machine. And I’m sure that’s fine loganberry, but for my first one, I wanted a bubbler.
Luckily, bubblers still surface here and there. A friend called to report one at Ted’s Hot Dogs on Sheridan Drive. And we also found one at the Niagara Cafe, the Puerto Rican restaurant at 525 Niagara St.
The Niagara Cafe’s loganberry bubbled up next to a twin tank of pacha, a Puerto Rican passion fruit drink. What a sweet metaphor for the melding of cultures. One busy afternoon, the bubblers provided merry accompaniment to the salsa on the sound system.
Crystal Viverette of Buffalo was picking up takeout. No loganberry for her today, but it plays a role in her life.
“My two nieces go to college in Georgia,” she said. “I bring it to them. They’re from Buffalo and they can’t find it down there.”
Conversation turned to this mysterious drink. What is a loganberry, anyway? According to Wikipedia: “It is a hexaploid hybrid produced from pollination of a plant of the octaploid blackberry cultivar ‘Aughinbaugh’ (Rubus ursinus) by a diploid red raspberry (Rubus idaeus)...” In other words, the loganberry is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry. It was bred by accident by a judge in Santa Cruz, Calif., named James Harvey Logan.
Loganberry at the Niagara Cafe is $2, a small price for what I was about to experience. Ice tumbled into the cup. Out poured the purple drink. Server Suleydis Delgado stuck a straw in it and set it before me.
It was deeply delicious.
A mix of cherry and grape ... like a liquid Popsicle ... beyond that, I was at a loss for words. So I asked another Buffalonian, Christian Washington, savoring a loganberry in a nearby booth. Sir, what would you say loganberry tastes like?
He smiled. He sipped. He considered the question.
“I can’t really describe it,” he said.