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Ping Pong (Nectar Soda)

The origin of the name “ping pong” is unknown, but in the riverlands between New Orleans and Baton Rouge many people know what it is: a pink, frozen drink that has the flavor of nectar. Nectar, in turn, is universally recognized among Orleanians as a distinctive flavor, a blend of almond and vanilla. Nectar was one of the most popular flavors for ice cream sodas in the days when drugstores still made such things. Now nectar as an essential flavor in the vast arrays of syrups poured over finely-shaved ice for sno-balls.
I learned about ping pong from Mark Hymel, whose family has raised sugar cane and run a fine seafood restaurant in St. James Parish for generations. He handed it to me at a party at his home, and challenged me to guess what it was. I recognized the nectar flavor instantly, but was astonished to learn how it was derived. The original recipe is so sweet that you can’t drink much of it (although you will very much like those few sips). Lately, I’ve lightened up the sugar content by replacing the condensed milk with cream.

  • Original Recipe:
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 liter Barq’s red creme soda
  • Not-So-Sweet Version:
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 liter Barq’s red creme soda

For either formula, mix the two ingredients in an ice cream maker and freeze. It will probably not get hard, but have the texture of a frozen daiquiri. You can solidify it by freezing it further, but it’s better as a drink, really. In fact, you can add a shot of vodka to it for something a bit more potent.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, mix the ingredients in a gallon-size plastic food storage bag and freeze that until it starts to set. Squinch the bag every now and then until it has a slushy consistency.

Serves twelve to twenty.