Egg Cream – How could I forget the famous Egg Cream?My friend Tyler, who lives in Augusta, Georgia, reminded me of the iconic soda fountain staple’s links to New York – the city has one of several competing claims to being the originator of the drink. Seltzer, milk, and chocolate syrup – and purists insist that only Fox’s U-bet syrup will do – are all you need to make this egg-free delight.
I recently stopped into the Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain (pictured above) a throwback fountain in Carroll Gardens. I had myself an egg cream (though I didn’t check the label on the chocolate syrup) accompanied by a pretzel rod – a nice treat during last week’s unseasonable heat. Located on Henry Street, the site was a long-shuttered storefront until the owners got some help from the Discovery Channel’s Construction Intervention and completely remodeled the space into an old-timey counter. The staff is super-friendly, the decor is fabulous, and you can stop in for one of their milkshakes or sodas, or take home a selection of natural products they have for sale. I grabbed a bottle of Morris Kitchen Ginger Syrup, which is made in small batches in Brooklyn by chefs Tyler and Kari Morris. Cindy and I made a few glasses of ginger ale with it, but we’re really looking forward to trying their recipe for Lemon Ginger Baked Chicken.
Boston Cooler – My cousin Brenda, who lives in Detroit, mentioned a favorite use for Vernor’s Ginger Ale – add ice cream to create the inexplicably-named Boston Cooler. Our family is originally from Massachusetts, so we both found the name of this Detroit-born float confusing, but it tastes pretty good.
Hansen’s – Matt commented on our website, “I'm somewhat surprised you didn't mention Hansen's. They have quietly grown into a craft soda powerhouse, infiltrating supermarkets nationwide. I guess that sort of makes them the Sam Adams of that market – too big to be considered craft, but not mistaken for the entrenched brands.” That is probably about right, plus the fact that the natural soda company is based in California meant it was off my radar.
Sioux City Sasparilla – Pete, who recently moved to Brooklyn, told me that he remembered drinking Sioux City Sasparilla as a kid growing up near Albany. The root beer-like drink is probably the most well-known brand of a company that was once the largest seller of bottled water in America, White Rock. Founded in 1871 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the story of the former giant helps trace much of the tangled history of soft and hard drinks. Much like the beer titans, White Rock gained its position in the late nineteenth century by exploiting rail transport and refrigerated cars to expand into new markets; when Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic in 1927, he christened the Spirit of St. Louis with White Rock seltzer, it being Prohibition; and in 1944, the company was bought by National Distillers and moved to its present home in New York City. In addition to the Sioux City line, they also make Olde Brooklyn sodas, with flavors like Bayridge Birch Beer, Brighton Beach Black Cherry, Coney Island Cream Soda, Flatbush Orange, Park Slope Ginger Ale, and Red Hook Raspberry Soda. What, no Windsor Terrace?
Galco's Soda Pop Stop – Those of you who live in Los Angeles may daily lament your misfortunes, but at least you have the opportunity to shop at Galco's Soda Pop Stop. The market has been in John Nese's family since 1897, but several years ago, he decided to start carrying small and obscure sodas. Now they carry more than 500 varieties of the most delicious and fantastical sodas from around the world, almost all in glass, and almost none made with corn syrup. This is one of the great benefits of smaller sodas that I neglected to mention. Glass holds carbonation better, and it makes soda taste crisper and more satisfying than plastic or a can. And if you have ever tasted sodas made with cane sugar and corn syrup side by side, the difference is remarkable. When I lived in Colorado, you could buy Coca-Cola imported from Mexico – sold in the classic Coke glass bottle, and made with only cane sugar, it was far superior to regular Coke.
Nese runs a small business committed to supporting other small businesses. Their motto is "Freedom of choice," which recognizes that when many small, local businesses are replaced by a few large ones, we lose not only choice, buy flavor, and probably a lot of happiness, too. The words he uses to describe soda are "happy" and "smile," and his energy and passion for his products comes across in this video (again, provided by Tyler). Who knew that there were different sizes and qualities to bubbles in soda? Or that Coca-Cola made kosher Coke for Passover? Have you ever had rose-flavored soda from Romania? Or a banana soda that wasn't disgusting? He gives shout outs to a few of the sodas mentioned in my posts (Faygo and Moxie), and he discusses a New York favorite, Manhattan Special coffee soda. I can't wait for my next trip to L.A.
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