If you grew up in the 80’s and went to any kind of summer camp, chances are that you encountered something called Bug Juice at some point in time. It’s some fruit punchlemonade concoction that was usually served at camp in giant plastic cups in vast quantities after long mornings of outdoor sports. It left a pinkish mustache (or darker, depending on the concentration of powder to water) on faces, sometimes for hours. When I close my eyes and think of bug juice, I picture hot days, cheese sandwiches, and stringy dry grass in a desperate attempt to pop up around large garbage can barrels, surrounded by flies. That’s the bug part. I was never a fan, but I had friends who lived for it.
A quick search for ‘Bug Juice’ turned up many things, but the definition from Urban Dictionary says it’s “a sugary drink mixed in vast quantities from a mysterious powder commonly served on US Navy vessels in the enlisted men’s mess. Can also be used to clean brass.”
Mmmmm, sure do love a beverage that doubles as a metal cleaning substance! I am now thinking about what my own kids will do this summer and just schooled them on bug juice. I wish I had videotaped the conversation! The look of fear and intrigue on my 2nd grader’s face when I uttered the words “bug juice” was priceless. “Maybe they called it bug juice because it was disgusting and bugs are disgusting,” she said. My 3 ½ year old wondered, “Maybe they called it bug juice because it was made with bugs?” I suggested that we make our own bug juice and my kids looked horrified. When I told them that it would basically entail mixing our own juice combo, they perked up. We journeyed to the store and the kids chose various juices to mix together as well as some fresh oranges for squeezing. Before we left, I placed some small toy sponges in the shape of bugs into an ice tray, filled it with water and popped it into the freezer.
Voila! 21st century bug juice! It’s not at all like the bug juice of my camp days but in our humble opinion, it’s way better.
Bug Juice for the Modern Camper (serves 24)
2 cups of water
Juice of 2 oranges
½ cup of grapefruit juice
½ cup of carrot apple juice
bug ice cubes for decoration!
Stir well and enjoy!
All photos are the author’s own.