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Squash (also called cordial, barley water) is a non-alcoholic concentrated syrup that is usually fruit-flavoured and usually made from fruit juice, water, and sugar or a sugar substitute. Modern squashes may also contain food colouring and additional flavouring. Some traditional squashes contain herbal extracts, most notably elderflower and ginger.
Citrus fruits (particularly orange, lime and lemon) or a blend of fruits and berries are commonly used as the base of squash. Popular blends are apple with blackcurrant, raspberry with pomegranate, and orange or peach with mango. Less popular single-fruit squashes are also produced, such as pineapple, pomegranate, raspberry, and strawberry.
Squash commands a large share of the fruit juices and soft drinks market.
It is generally not available in the United States. When it is available there, it is quite expensive. Some Americans make it at home. This process involves boiling water and sugar together on a low heat, then adding fruit juice and lemon juice (or citric acid). Plant extracts may also be added.
Squash is prepared by combining one part concentrate with four or five parts water (carbonated or still). Double-strength squash and traditional cordials, which are thicker, are made with two parts concentrate. Some squash concentrates are quite weak, and these are sometimes mixed with one part concentrate and two or three parts water. It is usually made with cold water, but old-fashioned cordials are often made with warm water. In convenience stores and supermarkets, ready-diluted squash is sold in cans, cartons, and plastic bottles.
When ordering squash in restaurants, people are often asked by their server whether they would like it "strong" or "weak". It is commonly served cold, often with ice, but, especially with traditional cordials, is often served warm in winter, just as tea or coffee would be. The most common squash to be served warm was spiced berry, a type that has almost gone out of fashion but is still made by some companies specialising in traditional cordials. However, the market for spiced berry cordial has recently been taken over by cheaper companies manufacturing modern flavours of squash such as lemon, orange & apple and blackcurrant squash. Another squash served warm would be peppermint, traditionally used as a treatment for an upset stomach.
Diluted squash is often used as a base for making cocktails, and as a flavouring or sweetener. Gin can be mixed with diluted squash to make a cocktail similar to a gin and juice.
Most cordials and squashes contain preservatives such as potassium sorbate or (in traditional cordials) sulphites, as they are designed to be stored on shelves. They keep well because of the preservatives and their high sugar content. Nonetheless, they are commonly kept in refrigerators.
Ingredients in squashes and cordials have evolved over the years. A traditional cordial contains three ingredients: sugar, juice or plant extract and some water. Usually it can contain an acidifier such as citric acid or in very old-fashioned cordials lemon juice, or even spices such as cinnamon or cloves. Recreations of these traditional preparations often contain a preservative especially sulphur dioxide, although sugar alone will keep it fresh for quite a long time. Modern squash drinks are generally more complex and sugar free squash even more so; the ingredients are usually water, sweetener such as aspartame or sodium saccharin, juice in a low quantity (typically 5-10 percent), large quantities of flavouring, preservatives and sometimes a colour such as anthocyanin. In the middle are ordinary squashes, which contain sugar, water, a larger amount of juice, preservatives, colouring such as anthocyanin and often a small amount of flavouring. Although colours such as Allura Red AC and Sunset Yellow FCF are occasionally used in squash, most modern British companies are gradually aiming to use natural colours such as beta carotene or anthocyanins, and natural flavourings.
Traditional squashes may be flavoured with elderflowers, lemon, pomegranate, apple, strawberry, chokeberry (often with spices such as cinnamon or cloves added), orange, pear, or raspberry.
Modern squashes usually have simpler flavours, such as orange, apple, summer fruit (mixed berries), blackcurrant, apple and blackcurrant, peach, pineapple, mango, lime, or lemon.
"Cordial", "dilute juice", and "squash" are similar products, although the products known as cordials tend to be thicker and stronger, requiring less syrup and more water to be blended. "High juice" is not a brand of squash but rather a type that contains a larger amount of juice, around 45%.
Squash is often colloquially known as "juice", especially when talking to young children because they might not understand the term "squash". But this term is a misnomer; no squash is pure juice. Squashes are commonly called according to the fruit from which they are made. More rarely, they may be called "fruit drink", especially if they are ready-diluted in a plastic bottle or paper carton (e.g., Fruit Shoot).
Squash is sometimes simply called "dilute" because it must be diluted before it is drunk.
Squashes are measured by their juice content, the average being 30%. A variety of squash that contains a larger amount of fruit juice, up to half or more of the volume in juice, is sold in markets as "high juice", and squashes are quite often called "juice" when talking to children, especially these high-juice beverages, although this may be confusing. However, many squashes contain less than 20% juice, and some as little as 5-10%. The latter are typically low in nutritional value, and the high juice versions are reasonably higher in nutrients, although one downside is that it is high in sugar and does not contain fibre or minor nutrients. That goes with almost all squashes. A low juice squash may state "with real fruit juice" on the label.
Squashes labelled "no added sugar" are artificially sweetened, usually with aspartame, acesulfame K, saccharin or sucralose, which is much cheaper for the manufacturers than both HFCS and natural sugar. They are very low in calories, sometimes having as few as 4 per 100ml diluted, and they are marketed towards families with children and adults seeking low calorie alternatives. They tend to be very low in fruit juice, as fruit juice contains natural sugars, so they usually also contain natural or artificial flavourings (isoamyl acetate for pear or banana, or mixed with malic acid to make an apple-like flavour, ethyl methylphenylglycidate for strawberry, octyl acetate for orange, allyl hexanoate for pineapple etc.) to make up for the lack of fruit juice taste.
Squashes make up a largish part of the beverage diets of children in the UK, besides fizzy drinks, sweetened juice-based drinks such as cranberry drink and pulp-free concentrated fruit juices (usually served at breakfast). At parties, play dates, picnics, day care centres, preschools and excursions, low-sugar squashes are usually the only options served to children alongside plain water, and UK family pantries often only contain low-sugar squash.
Manufacturers of squash include Britvic (under the Robinsons and MiWadi brands), Hamdard (under the Rooh Afza brand in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), Nichols (under the Vimto brand), Suntory (under the Ribena brand) and Coca-Cola (under the Kia-Ora brand). Australian brands include Cottee's, Bickford's, P&N Beverages and Golden Circle cordials. Indian brands include Kissan and Rasna. In Israel, fruit squashes are produced by such companies as Assis, Prigat and Primor.
Squash companies can use many types of advertising to encourage their products to appeal to customers. These include pictures, such as children picking fruit (picture on Robinson's squash) or anthropomorphic fruit (picture on Ribena), behind-the-label "fruity fun" such as word searches, crossword puzzles, word scrambling etc., tickets to experiences such as film tickets, football or other sport match tickets, weekend breaks, new film releases or theme park trips