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The suds of time: Exploring Brooklyn’s soda-making past and present

The suds of time: Exploring Brooklyn’s soda-making past and present
Photo by Jason Speakman

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, the small-scale soda manufacturer upgrading its Williamsburg operation, is not the first soft-drink-maker to set up shop in the borough.

Manhattan Special has been making its famous coffee-soda drink on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint since 1895, when an entrepreneur had the cool idea of developing a cold beverage for espresso-addicted Italians to drink on hot days.

“Italians love their espresso,” said Aurora Passaro, co-owner of the company founded by her ancestor Michael Garuco. “We gave them a new way to drink it.”

Manhattan Specials’ coffee-drink flavors are cappuccino, French hazelnut, and mocha. The sodas also come in cherry, orange, sarsaparilla, vanilla cream, and Italian gassosa (lemon-lime) varieties.

Across town in Cobble Hill, a new business is serving up carbonated beverages the old-fashioned way — at a soda fountain.

Brooklyn Farmacy only opened in 2010, but it harkens back to the days when soda was a drink young Brooklynites nursed at a bar while gabbing with friends and poring over the latest comics.

“We’re celebrating the origin of sodas in soda fountains and pharmacies as a concept that was big in a really great time in America,” said co-owner Peter Freeman.

Only in this day and age, homemade syrups and seltzers like the Farmacy’s are not the norm and the place wears its old-timey vibe as a badge of honor. Server Justin Rubin whips up egg creams wearing newsboy outfits and the Farmacy hosts folk music performances and throwback events such as silent-movie nights and live disc-jockeying — on a phonograph.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Egg man: Farmacy employee Justin Rubin presents a pair of homemade egg creams.
Photo by Jason Speakman