If you were born anytime before the advent of, say, Crystal Pepsi, then you may remember a time when Schweppes Bitter Lemon was widely available and people actually drank it. Around since 1957, it was never incredibly popular in this country–if you grew up with sophisticated or alcoholic parents who kept a well-stocked bar, chances are they used it as a mixer or as a non-boozy option for guests on the wagon–and it has suffered a slow disappearing act in the past couple of decades. Google it and you will find blog posts from those still desperately seeking a taste. Sadly, Bitter Lemon is no longer produced in the United States; if you want it, you need to find the European import.
Hardcore lemonphiles can still buy the product online (at the British import website www.britishdelights.com; the product even has its own Facebook page), but it feels like a tiny triumphant luxury to be able to enter a restaurant and see your favorite weird harshly-flavored soda on the menu, which is what you can do at Food+Lab.
In their refrigerated pick-your-own-drink case, Schweppes Bitter Lemon waits to be loved alongside Italian mint sodas and Austrian ginger ales. Of course, you'll only love it if lemonades and lemon sodas seem too sweet. In fact, you'll only love it if sucking on actual lemons isn't enough of a punch in the mouth. Because the magic ingredient in Schweppes Bitter Lemon is the quinine in the tonic water. (Bevat Kinine murmurs the tiny font Dutch label on the bottles at Food+Lab.) That's the bitter part. Not for everyone. But paired with a sweet prosciutto, fig and ricotta sandwich it's like drinking a bottle of grouchy angel tears. Seriously.
Food+Lab, 7253 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 461-4000.