In honor of Eli Miller’s retirement, two videos I made with him in 2010

In August, 2010, I spent an afternoon driving around Brooklyn with one of the few remaining seltzer men left in New York City: Eli Miller. It was a remarkable experience. I traveled with Eli as research for Seltzertopia. What I experienced that day became a foundational experience for this project, and an inspiration to keep fighting until I found the book a good home.

I had mixed feelings when I learned that Eli retired a few weeks ago – happy he can finally rest, and happy his route was acquired by Alex Gomberg (the youngest seltzerman in the country), yet sad Eli can no longer do what brought so much meaning, and love, into his life.

To make this transition, here – once again – is an edit of my footage from that day seven years ago, when I met Eli for the first time:

And as a bonus, here’s Eli reading to us the children’s story based on his delivery route:

I Competed on Stephen J. Dubner of Freakonomics’ New Podcast

Tonight I had a blast “competing” on Stephen J. Dubner’s (of Freakonomics Radio) new podcast, Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. With guest host Alex Guarnaschelli, the Food Network personality and chef at Butter, I and four others presented at Symphony Space before a packed house, each sharing something we know on the topic of food. (You get one guess about what I spoke about).

It was a super fun night (and great to be there with my sister as my +1) and I look forward to sharing it with you this fall when they launch their next season. Until then, here are a few photos.

Stephen Dubner and I afterwards.
Stephen Dubner and me afterwards.

I found a publisher! Seltzertopia hits the shelves late 2018

Get ready! In the fall of 2018, Seltzertopia: The Effervescent Age will finally hit the shelves.

Burt Reynolds celebrating the upcoming publication of Seltzertopia
Burt Reynolds celebrating the upcoming publication of Seltzertopia by Behrman House.

After more than a decade and a half of original research, delving into texts both ancient and digital, resources human and imbibed, Seltzertopia covers the more than 200 year history of seltzer manufacturing, by introducing the fascinating but little known historical and contemporary figures who have kept the bubbles flowing and exploring its diverse cultural impact in such areas as personal and global health, comedy, personal identity, and much more.

I wrote it because I love a good story, seltzer’s tale has never been told, and once I learned it I could not let it go.

If you are passionate about seltzer, or hold a general interest in food literature, micro-histories, or maker/DIY culture, this is the book for you (or your loved one).

It’s also just a damn good read.

In 1883 the Behrman family landed at Castle Garden in New York Harbor.
In 1883 the Behrman family landed at Castle Garden in New York Harbor.

I am delighted to be working with Behrman House. Nearly a hundred years old, this family run business is in perfect synch with a book that is about maintaining traditions over time through the dedication of mom-and-pop-style business practices.

I can’t thank you enough – the thousands of you who have supported me and this project through email, this blog, the podcast, and on Facebook and Twitter – sending me ideas, providing me feedback, mailing me photos, documents and books, and in general sharing your passion for seltzer.

If you are new here,  join our community of Seltzertopia by hooking up with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Better yet, use the form below to get infrequent notifications about the book, speaking engagements, deals and more.

Finally, maybe you want to help out, or just send me a comment. For that, please use the form below.

Next week, I hit the big time

That’s right, on June 14, at 6pm. I’m going to be on  the most powerful 500 watt station In America. It’s 1460 AM’s very own IN FOCUS With Dr. Dan & Friends on WVOX.

The photo below tells the whole story.

In the bottom is my daughter, wearing her baseball jersey, as we had just finished her game to pick up a present at the local comic store. She is in fact reading her free Wonder Woman comic, as it turned out to be Wonder Woman day (the new film opened the day before, and the store’s celebration included a women dressed as the superhero). Exiting the store, this man with a camera approached our whole family, inviting us to return inside as he writes for the Queens Gazette and he wanted us to pose with Wonder Woman. Which we did. And then after, when I mentioned Seltzertopia, he put away his camera, took out a microphone, and proceeded to interview me, on the spot (above) about the book, for his 6pm radio show.

And there you have it – how my daughter’s baseball, a local comic book store, and a cosplaying Wonder Woman got Seltzertopia and me into AM radio.

2016: The Year in Seltzer

As on-going research for my book, I track seltzer in the news. Who is drinking it? What are they drinking? Why, and with whom?

The trends and highlights I observed I now package for you, my crew of seltzer lovers, as 2016: The Year in Seltzer.

SELTZER IS STILL HOT (AND HIP)

Last year, 2015, was the year the media rediscovered seltzer. Or, rather, finally noticed that America had been rediscovering the drink for decades. “Seltzer’s Fizz Is Back” announced the Wall Street Journal. “How Seltzer Water Became Cooler Than Coke” wrote The Washington Post. The Chicago Tribune’s was my favorite: “How something as tasteless as seltzer water won America’s heart.”

This year, the theme was, as Boston Magazine put it, “America’s Seltzer Obsession Shows No Signs of Fizzling”. The Wall Street Journal offered another example: “New York’s Seltzer Market Bubbles Over– Sales of the fizzy drink are up 42% over the last five years”.

And let’s talk about the hip factor. This one popular tweet captured the seltzer zeitgeist:

As interpreted by a writer at Lucky Peach, “A seltzer renaissance is upon us. The new seltzer wave is much simpler than these so-called ‘analysts’ make it out to be: seltzer is just cool right now. You don’t get a whole wall dedicated to yourself at the new Whole Foods in Williamsburg by being ‘healthy’—you get it because you’re cool.”

SELTZER LOVERS UNITE

From GQ’s combatively titled, “Seltzer Isn’t a Trend, It’s a Way of Life” to the Yale Herald’s “Ode on the soda syphon,” writers were declaring not just their love for the carbonated beverage but claiming an identity as a seltzer lover.

GQ wrote: “Seltzer isn’t a fucking trend to me; it’s always been my beverage of choice, which has nothing to do with an ironically cool can design or using the French word for ‘grapefruit.’ Rather I’m a New York Jew and that’s what we do. We drink seltzer.”

Meanwhile, readers at Yale learned how “Those of us with a die-hard allegiance to effervescence are in a class of our own. We can discuss the mouthfeels and flavors of various carbonated offerings with the kind of technical jargon generally reserved for theoretical physicists.”

How do we know there’s a rise of people identifying as seltzer lovers? Because people are starting to be haters, as in this lame but sincere attempt on Gizmodo: Seltzer Water Sucks”.

UNICORN TEARS AND OTHER FLAVORS

Every season Polar Seltzer, the Boston area-based company, releases seasonal flavors, like Watermelon Margarita and Mango Berry, “to surprise and delight diehard Polar Seltzer aficionados.” They are always warmly welcomed by seltzer lovers. But this year, interest hit a fever pitch.

In March, Polar delivered 5,000 cases of their creatively named, limited-release flavor: Unicorn Kisses. Described by the company as tasting like “sparkling rainbows,” fans came up with their own theories, like cucumber melon mixed with candy apples. Before long, cases were selling on eBay at exorbitantly marked-up prices.

As if one media-savvy flavor run wasn’t enough in 2016, Polar ended the year with yet another new twist: the mystery flavor. Arriving in stores with no warning or description, social media exploded in collaborative efforts to figure out just what was in their seltzer, such as: “It tastes like frosty the snowman melted into a puddle of unicorn tears and angel kisses!”

And unlike in the past, where new flavors were touted on their “Limited Editions” page, this one still remains a mystery, as if it escaped from their flavor research lab out into the wide-world.

THE NEW BUZZ FROM SELTZER

It started in March with Mashable’s “Alcoholic seltzer is the fizz you never knew you craved,” then “Why Spiked Seltzer Will Be Your New Rosé This Summer,” and then it just never seemed to end. Week after week, another article came across my stream announcing the latest trend: alcoholic (or “hard”) seltzer.

Just to give you a taste of the trend, in the last few weeks we’ve seen “Hard Seltzer, A Healthier Alcohol Alternative” (CBS Philly) and “Enter hard seltzer: Alcoholic seltzer finds growing market of health-conscious drinkers” (The Baltimore Sun).

THE SCIENCE OF SELTZER

Every year we see a spat of articles, based on the latest science research, arguing why seltzer is good, or bad, for us. This year science focused our attention on one study that received significant coverage, making the case that cold seltzer is the best way to quench a thirst (compared against warm, flat water). A win for carbonation!

MY BOOK

Last spring I acquired a new editor, who has been fantastic. All summer we worked on the new proposal, and by fall she was out there shopping it around. It you are an editor, or know one, who might be interested in a phenomenal book about this history of seltzer and the passion it ignites in people around the world, please let me know.

I was featured in a fantastic episode of Gastropod, which looked at (everyone say it with me) seltzer.

Finally, I posted by summer 2015 video tour of the Pittsburgh Seltzer Works, the oldest continuous seltzer works in the country. Little did I know, as its proprietor John Seeking displayed his deep commitment to every brutal aspect of running a contemporary works with century old machinery, that he would close its doors just a few weeks later. Will it return some day in a new form? That’s definitely one of the many things to watch for in 2017.

 

Welcome Gastropod listeners!

If you are coming to Seltzertopia through the recent Gastropod episode, welcome!

For the past decade I have been writing the first book on seltzer, detailing both its fascinating history as well as the remarkable people who are leading us today towards what I like to call Seltzertopia. I have an agent and we are currently seeking the right publishing house.

This blog is where I put out the big stories or book updates. For a more regular stream please join the community on Facebook or Twitter.

Fantastic new podcast episode on seltzer from Gastropod

If you like food, then Gastropod is the podcast for you. Co-hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley turned their microphones this episode on seltzer, and included yours truly to provide the historical sweep.

As you well know, I am a harsh critic of seltzer coverage, as  journalists so often get the story wrong. So imagine my surprise when I not only enjoyed this engaging Gastropod episode, but actually learned quite a few new things along the way!

This is the seltzer podcast not to be missed!

Please check it out and pass it around:

You can also learn more about this episode in its show notes (with fantastic photos, links, videos and more).

A Tour of the Pittsburgh Seltzer Works – My 1st Trip

I was in Pittsburgh for a work conference and took some time to call up John Seekings, the central figure throughout my seltzer book, to both meet him in person for the first time AND visit his seltzer works.

It was a beautiful, hot summer day and I arrived at the Works to find the overhead lighting was under repair – nonetheless, my trusty iPhone worked its hardest to capture this lovely 20-minute tour, led of course by the indomitable, and always gracious, John Seekings.

It was thrilling! Enjoy.

End-of-Year Book Update

I thought I would take a quick break from the writing to share a little about the status of the book.

This Fall I have been working on strengthening the second half of the book, focusing on integrating in the story of Original New York Seltzer and it’s father/son founders. It’s a fascinating story and I can’t wait to share it all with you. Tomorrow I will finish a strong draft of this segment, which totals about 40 or so additional pages (a surprise to me, as I thought all core writing was finished earlier this year).

It’s been exciting to throw myself back into the research and writing phase – with new interviews and archives of 30 year old articles to comb through – and I’m almost sad this part is almost done. I get such an adrenaline kick from writing – most often during my morning commute on the M line.

Meanwhile, last week I went to my first “book” event at my agent’s office. It was for author’s pitching non-fiction books and editors looking for new books to sell. At least, that’s what was underneath the surface. On the surface, we were all at the same holiday party, drinking seltzer (what else!), eating cheese, and generally schmoozing. It was the first time I had to really sell my book in person – although, supposedly, I needed to pretend I was doing something else, making small talk or whatever – but it was fun. The my agent’s office couldn’t be more supportive of and excited about the project.

Back to writing!

Conservative Commentator Believes Seltzer Turned NY Jews into Liberals

I thought I heard them all before! In this clip, Michael Savage, a conservative radio host, tries to understand Bernie Sanders, and ends up on this bizarre rant about seltzer:

“I still think the seltzer has something to do with it. If I had the time, I’d go back to my scientific background and I would do an epidemiological study of the use of seltzer and liberalism and the insanity of liberalism. I think that the high carbon dioxide content, the little bubbles of carbon dioxide poisoned the brains of millions of kids in Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. Seltzer bottles. It’s like toxic lead. It’s like Dr. Schuze’s X-ray machines on the feet, the cancer machines.”
Thanks to Right Wing Watch for turning me on to this fascinating soundbite.

The Effervescent Age