I spend too much time on the Internet, but occasionally get rewarded for my rabbit-holing with stuff like Houston Cowboy. (And this GIF of a kitten getting slapped by a cat for wearing a dumb bowler hat.) I saw Houston Cowboy floating around in a few places yesterday and decided to figure out what the stuff was. How can a Houstonian not be intrigued by this odd syrup-like product being sold in what looks like Thailand, judging by the script on the bottles?
Reddit -- as it often does -- held the answer.
"As a Thai living in Houston, I got a real kick out of this," wrote redditor CarlFriedrichGauss in r/houston (a subforum of Reddit devoted to all things Houston). "I'm pretty sure it's an imitation/competitor brand to Hale's Blue Boy flavored syrup, which we put into club soda/cold water/shaved ice."
"It's pretty good," CarlFriedrichGauss continued, "but I feel kinda guilty drinking it these days now that I'm old enough to kinda realize that I'm drinking sugar."
Indeed, the Houston Cowboy appears to be a total knock-off of Hale's Blue Boy, right down to the packaging, friendly mascot and font. That's a very, very particular font -- especially the "H" in Hale's -- and it comes across as if CVS decided to mimic Walgreens by calling itself "WalCVS" complete with the signature Walgreen's red logo and font intact.
What a disappointment.
Houston Cowboy appears to come in the same popular flavors as Hale's Blue Boy, too, in particular "cream soda" and something called "sala." I'd never heard of sala, and neither had Reddit.
But a quick Google search reveals that sala is a fruit native to Thailand that tastes like either a "tangy mangosteen" or "a balanced blend of soursop and sweet pineapple with variable hints of strawberry" depending on who you ask. Sala is also apparently the flavor of red Fanta in Thailand (you didn't think "red" was a flavor, did you?) and has been given the official seal of approval by the King of Thailand himself, who proclaimed it one of his favorite drinks.
As a result, it turns out, you can find this King-tested, King-approved red Fanta in Buddhist temples all over Thailand, where open cans or bottles are left as an offering to Buddha. I wish Houston Cowboy had a cooler story than that.
Then again, Thai visitors would probably be equally disappointed to find that Houston's only full of cowboys during the upcoming Rodeo season.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.