Seltzer is the spritz that refreshes in my house. Its clean taste, effervescence and versatility are always welcome. Bay Area residents can get home delivery of seltzer in siphon bottles thanks to the Seltzer Sisters Bottling Company in Redwood City. But even if you get yours out of a can or screw-top bottle, “water with a kick” (as my nephew says) is a treat.
An egg cream is a classic seltzer beverage that was popularized in New York City in the early 1900s. It’s generally accepted that the drink was created in Brooklyn in 1890 by Jewish candy store owner Louis Auster. Many New Yorkers feel an egg cream can’t be made without Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, which can be found in the Bay Area (especially around Passover).
In addition to egg creams, I often add Italian syrup to seltzer for a custom soda, or mix seltzer with fruit juices. Below are some nostalgic homemade soda fountain options. Just be sure to use real, unflavored seltzer. Products labeled “club soda” or “sparkling mineral water” have added salt and other ingredients that will affect the taste of your drinks.
The Perfect (At Least to Me) Egg Cream
Add 1 inch of chocolate syrup to the bottom of a 12-oz., clear glass. Pour in an inch of cold milk. Top with seltzer, slowly pouring it so the foam does not go over the top. (Optional: Pour seltzer over back of spoon to reduce the foaming.) Use a long spoon to slowly stir. This will result in a two-toned, milk chocolate–colored drink topped with white foam. Serve immediately with a straw, and maybe a black and white cookie.
Ginger Ale Syrup
Makes about 4 cups of syrup
3⁄4 lb. whole, fresh ginger root
41⁄2 cups of water
2 cups sugar or to taste
Using a tablespoon, scrape the peel off the ginger. Slice into 1⁄2-inch chunks. Put in a saucepan and add the water. Bring to boil over medium low-heat, cover and lower heat to simmer for an hour. Remove from heat. Strain, discarding ginger solids. Return liquid to pan. Add sugar. Stir occasionally over low heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool. Pour into a clean glass bottle with a lid or cap. Store in the refrigerator. To serve, pour about 1⁄4 cup ginger ale syrup in a 12-oz. glass, add ice, top with seltzer and gently stir.
“Jewish Champagne” (Celery Soda)
Makes about 3 cups of syrup
Once there were scores of celery-based sodas. The most famous is Dr. Brown’s. Its celery flavor comes from the plant’s seeds. The soda’s crisp, vegetable taste and slight spice and bite were famed for cutting the richness and salt of deli meats.
3 cups white grape juice
2 Tbs. sugar
juice of 1⁄2 lime
2 Tbs. ground celery seed
Simmer grape juice, sugar and lime juice in sauce pan over low heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is incorporated. Remove pan from heat. Add celery seed and let steep for an hour. Strain through a paper coffee filter. Discard seeds. Allow to cool. Pour into a clean glass bottle with a lid or cap. Store in the refrigerator. To serve, pour about 3 Tbs. syrup in a 12-ounce glass, add ice, top with seltzer and gently stir.
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and blogger. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at www.clickblogappetit. blogspot.com. E-mail questions and suggestions to email@example.com.