Kool-Aid is an artificially-flavored soft drink concentrate made by Kraft Foods. Kool-Aid is sold as a powder to be mixed with water, and versions are made with and without sugar as well as with an artificial sweetener.
Kool-Aid's predecessor was a liquid concentrate called Fruit-Smack. To reduce shipping costs, in 1927, Edwin Perkins discovered a way to remove the liquid from Fruit-Smack, leaving only a powder. This powder was named Kool-Ade (and a few years later, Kool-Aid).
The mascot of Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid Man, is a gigantic anthropomorphic frosty pitcher filled with Kool-Aid and marked with a fingerprinted smiley face on it, seen in Kool-Aid's advertising. His catch-phrase is "Oh, yeah!"
Its high concentration of food coloring and its low retail cost (US$0.20 a packet as of 2004) has led some to use Kool-Aid to dye fabric and hair. Kurt Cobain, of the band Nirvana had his hair dyed with red Kool-Aid during a performance on Saturday Night Live.
In the 1960s, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were notorious for lacing Kool-Aid with LSD at gatherings. Publication of journalist Tom Wolfe's recollection of their mad tour, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, which captured this aspect of the decade, cannot have been greeted with pleasure at Kraft Foods.
Recently, the Kool-Aid Man made an appearance on the Fox series Family Guy, during a tense courtroom scene where Peter was sentenced to 24 months prision. Most members of the Griffin family said "Oh No!", before the Kool-Aid Man breaks into the courtroom by breaking through a wall, and delivers his trademark slogan, before a stunned court, after which he slowly backs out.
Kool-Aid is a drink commonly associated with America's poor due to its low cost. Some have alleged that the drink is intentionally marketed to African-Americans, since Kool-Aid Man has a deep baritone voice and says the minstrel-esque catchphrase: "Oh yeeeeeeaahhh!" Other commercials, aimed at older consumers, depict African-American families bonding over Kool-Aid. Starting in the new millennium, Kool-Aid Man has been gradually phased out, or when he does show up during children's television, he curiously is donning khaki shorts, a stereotypical style of white suburban America.
"Drinking the Kool-Aid"
In 1978, 900 followers of cult leader Jim Jones committed suicide by drinking a grape-flavored drink laced with cyanide at their commune in Jonestown, Guyana. Although the drink was actually Flavor Aid (a Kool-Aid knockoff and competitor), it is often thought to have been Kool-Aid. "Drinking the Kool-Aid" has since arisen as a darkly humorous slang term, meaning that someone believes or follows the statements of another person (often a charismatic leader) without question, often to their own detriment. The term usually applies in much less drastic cases than the Jones example (such as when discussing the reality distortion field of Apple Computer head Steve Jobs). Often, the phrase is used as a pejorative comment on effective marketing or public relations campaigns, or on zealous fans of movies, books, bands, or even computer operating systems.
- Official Kool-Aid website (http://www.kraftfoods.com/koolaid/)
- History of Kool-Aid (http://www.hastingsmuseum.org/koolaid/history.htm), from a museum in Hastings, Nebraska
- Kool-Aid FAQs (http://www.faqs.org/faqs/food/kool-aid-faq/)