Italian Soda, Not-Recipe Recipe
It’s 1992, you are in the 3rd grade. You got a B on your spelling exam, you are not particularly good at spelling so you celebrate the victory with blackberry Italian sodas! The anticipation, the sweet swirl of victory as the coffee stand barista (just called workers back then) sets the 16 oz. clear plastic cup on the bar counter. She places simple syrup in the bottom of the cup, tops with ice, adds club soda, and then the miracle happens: Sheslowly pours the cream into the cup and the crowd goes wild! Me, the crowd, sit and ponder our next treat for a great day at school and love Mom even more for thinking of it.
Okay, so maybe you are not a 3rd grade spelling struggler sipping sweet victory after your win, but you love these sodas. No matter who you are, if you grew up in America, the words“Italian soda” walk you immediately down memory lane. Syrups, seltzer waters, and cream: Every kid’s dream. For adults, maybe insert a shot of booze just before that infamous cream float to finish it off.
What is an Italian soda? How does one achieve hero statusinvolving simple syrups made from fruit and bliss? The Italian soda was invented in 1925 in the North Beach Neighborhood of San Francisco by Italian-American immigrants. Originally, they didn’t have any cream finish, just sweet syrup and seltzer. However, the ones I grew up on always had cream in them, and these are actually called Cremosas or French Sodas. There are three major components to an Italian soda: the syrup, ice, and seltzer. That’s it, but if you’re into Happiness, the fourth must is cream.
Generally speaking, you need one part syrup and one part ice to one part seltzer or club soda, and add one part cream to finish. Four parts total. If you want these loaded, add the liquor to the syrup base and then proceed.
1. THE GLASS
Technically, you can use any type of glass. But an Italian soda really lends itself to a tall, clear glass. Italian sodasare as much about the process as they are about theingredients. You really want to see what’s going on.
2. THE SYRUP
The syrup can be any number of things:
• Real fruit smashed with sugar or agave to make a sweet fruity base
• Any simple syrup
• Chocolate syrup
• Herb-infused syrups
• Chai! Get that amazing carton of chai and turn it into an Italian soda.
• Kitschy canned nectars. You know what I’m talking about -- guava and mango, borderline too-thick-to-drink but begging for a mix-up in an Italian soda.
• What about the syrups you had as a kid, the flavor blue, or green? Dump a few melted popsicles like Otter Pops in your glass.
So go ahead and choose your syrup, then place a fair amount in the bottom of your glass.
3. THE ICE
You might not think ice is significant, but the ice structureactually aids in the swirling and acts as a buffer between the seltzer and the syrup. So choose any ice: cubed, crushed, flaked, etc. BUT DON’T SKIP THE ICE! Pick your favorite ice and fill the glass ½ to ¾ full.
4. THE SELTZER
• Club soda
Think clear and fizzy. Heck, even champagne might be fun. Slowly pour your clear fuzzy of choice over the ice, leaving enough room at the top for that splash of cream.
5. THE CREAM
If you are a purist, skip the cream, but if you are a decent human, add that cream. Slowly pour the cream into the glass until you see the swirls start to happen, then STOP.
The method is simple: Heavy syrup on the bottom of the glass, cover with ice, slowly pour the seltzer over top, and then gently float the cream. That’s it!
A few weeks back my son asked for a glass of juice while we were out. This four year-old really wanted some juice. Being the awesome mom that I am, I thought, “Hey, I’ve got one lemon. I can make you a glass of lemonade!” I squeezed the lemon in the bottom of the glass, added 2 tbsp. of honey and just as I was about to add the water I thought, “WAIT, let me cover with ice, pour seltzer on top, and float the cream!” Soon, we were enjoying this wonderful lemony, honey-y, creamy treat,and I was again a super hero to my boy. Have fun with this -- the sky is really the limit.