Sunday, June 8, 2008

Seltzer: At Home in Rhode Island

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         No, of course not, seltzer is not a Rhode Island thing. But when I was in New Jersey a few weeks ago, a visit to a “luncheonette”—complete with old soda fountain—got me thinking about seltzer, which got me thinking about egg creams, which got me thinking about how seltzer was a perfect thing to talk about on a Rhode Island blog.
Confused yet? Let’s break it down.
An egg cream is a classic—indeed, a legendary—fountain drink invented in Brooklyn, NY, of which those of us who grew up in the vicinity have fond memories. The original is made from chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer—no eggs, no cream. That alone is very Rhode Island.
But the real Rhode Island-like characteristic of an egg cream, and the one that reminded me of Rhode Island looking at these beautiful seltzer bottles, is that an egg cream was made from a particular brand of chocolate syrup: Fox’s U-Bet. The egg cream was near-synonymous with that syrup.
You from Rhode Island now know where I’m going with this, and why I was reminded of Rhode Island by seltzer. Coffee syrup, of course. We have our own particular drink syrup—though locals may argue over the distinctions between Autocrat® and Eclipse®—and our official State Drink, coffee milk. Why not add seltzer?
I’ve already written about coffee syrup as a great Rhode Island product on this blog, complete with instructions for making coffee milk (add syrup to milk, stir). So a word here about seltzer. Seltzer is “soda water,” water that has been artificially carbonated by the injection of carbon dioxide under pressure, which generates bubbles when the pressure is released (a bottle opened or a seltzer bottle squeezed). It is distinguished from club soda—but only slightly so—by its lack of added chemical salts. I always have seltzer around because I like carbonation but can’t afford—for many reasons—to drink champagne all day, and it is cheaper and more bubbly than imported carbonated mineral waters. So making the following is as easy as pulling a few things out of the cupboard. (Not the "cabinet": here in Rhode Island, that's a drink, too. . . .)
A true fountain drink, this must be mixed immediately before serving. There are two methods. Method 1 ensures that the frothy head will be white, on top of a  layer of coffee-colored creamy drink, but it is better suited for using a true charger-driven seltzer siphon. If you don’t have one (I don’t), use freshly opened bottled seltzer and Method 2. It will still be nicely layered, but be more of a two-toned drink with a lighter coffee-colored head.
A classic CocaCola® glass, with its narrow bottom and flared top, is ideal if you have one. I substitute a cabernet wine glass with a 12-oz capacity. Serves 1.
1/2 cup icy-cold half and half or whole milk (a little time in the freezer is good)*
1 cup seltzer
1/4 cup Eclipse® or Autocrat® coffee syrup*
Method 1
Pour the half and half or whole milk into the glass. Add seltzer, agitating with an ice-tea spoon or clean chopstick (this is what I use) as you do so to form a frothy white, egg-white-looking head. Gently pour the syrup down the side of the glass and, with the spoon or clean chopstick stir the syrup and milk together along the bottom rim, trying not to disturb the head. Drink now.
Method 2
Pour the half and half or whole milk into the glass. Stir in the syrup until completely combined. Add the seltzer, agitating with the spoon or chopstick all the while. Drink now.
* Don’t even think about using low-fat milk: it won’t work. Likewise, the traditional, non-artisanal coffee syrups are best for this.
                                  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No comments: