Customers at gourmet coffee shops may notice a cold beverage option called an Italian soda, also known as a creamosa or French soda in different parts of the world. This beverage is a refreshing combination of flavored syrup and club soda or seltzer water mixed in a cup of ice. The addition of half-and-half or milk turns an Italian soda into a creamosa or French soda. Some coffeehouses add a dollop of whipped cream to create a creamier texture.
Surprisingly, the Italian soda recipe we know today did not originate in Italy. Some sources credit an immigrant Italian family living in San Francisco during the 1920s with concocting the familiar syrup and sparkling water beverage. Using imported coffee flavorings from Italy, the family would mix up their soda recipe in the back room of their grocery store. The drink soon became popular as an alternative to flavored coffees or espresso. Eventually, the recipe would be picked up and refined by mainstream coffeehouse chains all over the US.
The key to a good Italian soda is a quality syrup. Companies originally offered flavored syrups designed specifically for coffee; hazelnut, vanilla, caramel and amaretto, for example. With the drink's rise in popularity, many companies began producing flavors inspired by fruit, cola and liqueur extracts. Today, it is not unusual to find 50 or more flavored syrup bottles in a well-stocked coffeehouse.
Many of these commercial syrups can be purchased for home use, either at retail coffee shops or grocery stores. To make an Italian soda at home, you will need a bottle of syrup, club soda or seltzer water, large plastic glasses and ice cubes. Half-and-half or cream may also be used. Start by adding two shots (approximately two ounces) of syrup to the bottom of the glass. Some sources suggest adding the half-and-half or cream at this point and mixing thoroughly.
Next, add a generous amount of ice to the glass. Pour the club soda or seltzer water over the ice. Gently stir the mixture a few times, but do not shake vigorously. A dollop of whipped cream can be added to the top of the glass if desired. Drink the finished Italian soda with a straw to blend all of the flavors together.
How To Make Italian Soda
Making Italian sodas at home is a fun and easy activity that can be great for parties or simply doing on your own. Club soda or seltzer water is often very inexpensive and serves as the main component of the soda. For the best results, you should chill your carbonated liquid before mixing up a soda. Flavored syrups do not need to be chilled before using and can generally be stored at room temperature. Other ingredients you can consider adding are half and half (or cream), ice, and whipped cream.
Mixing the Soda
When preparing an Italian soda, you will want to start by measuring your preferred amount of syrup into the glass. Usually, this is about one to two tablespoons. Once the syrup is in the glass add crushed ice until it is about halfway full. If desired, pour your cream or half and half on top of the ice at this point before filling the remainder of the glass with club soda or seltzer water. You can then add any toppings such as whipped cream at the end. To properly combine all of the flavors in the soda, many people drink it with a straw, which is used to stir it before sipping.
What Kind of Glass to Use
Part of the fun of an Italian soda is how fun and festive the finished product looks. Choosing a clear glass helps showcase the vibrant colors of the drinks. To create the correct ratio of ingredients in your soda, it can help to first consider the size of glass that you are using. The taller the glass, the more syrup, half and half, and other additives you will need to create a drink that is adequately flavored.
Does Italian Soda Have Caffeine?
Since it is a popular alternative to lattes, mochas, or other mixed drinks, you may be wondering if Italian sodas have similar caffeine content. If you are looking to cut caffeine out of your diet, Italian sodas can be a great option. While many sodas you buy at the store do include caffeine, Italian sodas are generally caffeine-free. This is because the primary ingredient is club soda or seltzer water, neither of which contain caffeine. There are many reasons people choose to cut back on caffeine, but doing so doesn't mean you have to miss out on a tasty mixed drink. Being caffeine-free also makes Italian sodas a great option to buy for kids should you want to take them to a coffee shop with you.
Italian Soda Flavors
The main flavor component of an Italian soda comes from the syrup that you add. Depending on what option you select, you will end up with a drastically different-tasting drink. This is why buying several syrup flavors and creating an Italian soda bar is a great option for parties. It allows everyone to customize their drink to make it something they'll really enjoy. Whether or not cream or half and half is added can also change the end result, leading to a soda that is creamier depending on how much is used.
There are many types of syrup flavors that you can choose from. In addition to the fruity flavors such as strawberry, mango, and others that you are probably most used to seeing used, there are also flavors that mimic other desserts, such as cupcake, cookie dough, and chocolate-flavored options. Some of the more unusual flavors you may come across are chai-tea, pistachio, and even peanut butter.
While using one flavor of syrup per drink is the bare minimum to create a tasty flavor, this doesn't mean you can't mix and match syrups. Many flavors pair well together, and you can create your own twists such as lemon-lime and strawberry-vanilla. Keep in mind that flavored syrups can be very strong. When mixing them, try to keep the resulting ratio of syrup to soda the same as if you had used one flavor.
There are a lot of ways to alter a basic Italian soda to make it more fun and personalized to you. A lot of people create Italian sodas that imitate popular alcoholic drinks as an alcohol-free alternative. This can include pina colada flavored sodas, arnold palmers, and similar. Consider garnishing the finished product with lemon slices, maraschino cherries, sprinkles, or something similar to make them look even more fun and festive. You can also create delicious ice cream floats using Italian soda by topping the drink off with a scoop of ice cream or sherbert instead of using ice.