CNN — When you think of Tang — if you think of Tang at all — you probably think of its association with the United States space program in the 1960s.
After all, “Tang was chosen for the Gemini astronauts,” as a 1966 advertisement for the classic orange drink stated. Gemini was NASA’s second human spaceflight mission in the lead-up to the moon landing.
The beverage always will be connected to the golden era of midcentury space exploration, but NASA actually did not invent Tang.
Tang debuted in 1957 as a vitamin C-packed breakfast drink. Its selling point was that the powdered mix was shelf-stable, and it was promoted as a healthier and more convenient alternative to fresh orange juice. (And while it certainly may be more convenient than juicing oranges to order every morning, the first two items on Tang’s ingredient list are sugar and fructose.)
But General Foods, Tang’s original parent company, had contracts with the military for producing rations and other food items, such as instant coffee. (“Mad Men” fans will be pleased to know that General Foods, later incorporated into Kraft Foods, also owned the Burger Chef brand from 1968 to 1982.)
Thanks to these connections and the aforementioned shelf-stable, “just add water” capability of Tang, NASA sent the drink mix into space with John Glenn on his famous orbit of Earth in 1962.
General Foods’ advertising strategy shifted to capitalize on the popularity of all things outer space, and Tang henceforth became marketed as the astronaut’s drink of choice, as seen in this collection of Tang advertisements through the decades.
But Tang isn’t just a space age relic. It’s still popular across the globe, from South America to Asia, and produced in a number of flavors — including pineapple, mango, lemon, calamansi and its newest Filipino flavor, Coco Plus Buko Pandan. Tang is also one of the most popular drinks during Ramadan in the Middle East, according to Mondelez International, the food corporation that now owns the brand.
Not only that, but home cooks around the world have been showing their ingenuity by using Tang in dishes that go far beyond a simple stir-it-up breakfast drink.
Whether you’re jonesing for a blast from the past or looking for something new to experiment with, grab a canister of Tang and make these fun and slightly retro recipes.
Tang Creamsicle pie
This nostalgic dessert has graced the tables of many a church potluck and community picnic since the 1960s, and its retro charm endures. The sweet throwback is one of those no-bake recipes familiar to anyone who grew up reading recipes off the back of a box.
The formula here is simple: Beat together Tang mix, cream cheese, condensed milk and whipped topping until fluffy, then chill in a graham cracker crust. Spoon on even more whipped topping to take it…