Category Archives: Seltzer Means Refreshment

The Word Behind fnnch’s 9 Cans of LaCroix Paintings

If you haven’t heard, there’s a new exhibit, by a San Francisco street artist who goes by the name fnnch, dedicated to paintings, ala Warhol, of cans of LaCroix seltzer.

I CAN’t even. #fnnch #stencil #layers #greycocktails #fridaywiththeboys #andamiyra #nofilter

A post shared by James P-N (@jamespn) on

I wanted to share fnnch’s recent e-newsletter describing the thinking behind the project.

I half-jokingly refer to these LaCroix paintings as “soup cans for Millennials”. The paintings pay homage to the Warhol works in a few ways, being both the same size (16″ x 20″) and having roughly the same perspective on the cans. There’s a quote from Japanese poet Matsuo Basho that goes “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” I believe that I’m exploring some of the same cultural and aesthetic territories as Warhol did with his soup cans.

There’s a wonderful quote from Warhol that I’m going to paste here in its entirety:

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.

There’s something special going on with LaCroix right now. It’s definitely part of the cultural zeitgeist. I believe that its rise can be credited in large part to the fall of sugar sweetened beverages like Coke, a trend I wholeheartedly support. The billionaires of Silicon Valley do not drink Coke. Movie stars do not drink Coke. But they do drink LaCroix. And you can too. There’s something wonderful about that.

The LaCroix cans were originally conceived in collaboration with a collector looking for an installation in his dining room. When I painted the 9 cans, I knew I had to show them to people, and he graciously permitted me to remove them from the house and display them at The SUB. What is for sale, which for simplicity I put on my website, are further paintings from the series. I am offering a limited edition of 5 paintings for each of the flavors except Pamplemousse, which is from an edition of 20. Each of these will have a unique white-on-white background.

fnnch has certainly put a finger on the cultural zeitgeist of the moment.

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.

 

Trying Phosphates and More at Hamilton’s Soda Fountain and Luncheonette

Today my family took my sister for her birthday to Hamilton’s Soda Fountain & Luncheonette, in Greenwich Village. The food is fantastic and cheap – old style luncheonette food at old fashioned prices (a hot dog for $2) – but the star is by far the soda fountain. Alex, the soda jerk, was generous enough to explain his awesome concoctions (based on old recipe guides) that he’s been perfecting for more than a year before they opened.
The video below shows his egg cream. I’ve never seen it made this way before – U-bet’s chocolate syrup last! – but I’ve had worse.

I was SO excited to have my first phosphate. I’ve read all about them but had no way to really understand what they were all about. The base here was cherry and root beer (their cherry syrup is incredible – now my favorite Lime Rickey). The phosphate cuts the sweetness and makes the taste more crisp. It was interesting but not sure it’s my new thing. Check out how it’s made:

My sister ordered this Strawberry Puff (flavored soda with whipped cream). Their seltzer, I have to say, is fantastic!

This Kight’s Egg Phosphate is not just a regular phosphate (which smooths the sweet and heightens the crisp) but also includes a raw egg. I have been equally excited, since writing my book, to try both a phosphate and a raw egg at the same time – and now I got to try both at the same time. I can say now I’ve done it – I can see why people who were low on cash and lower on protein might have favored this – but next time I am at Hamilton’s (and I plan to go back in a few weeks) I will definitely turned to my new favorite – the Lime Rickey.

It is fascinating to visit here after a trip to the Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Foudnation. While everything at Farmacy is phenomenal – and serves my favorite egg creams – I think they seek to evolve the recipes while Hamilton’s aims to bring back or preserve the old recipes. That’s interesting. And even more interesting is to see over time if the city’s new-found interest in soda foundations is big enough to support both directions.

Hungarian Siphon Fountain/Monument

My Hungarian contact, Kiss Imre, sent me this fanastic photo today. He wrote: “How do you like this fountain from GYŐR, the town where our ÁNYOS JEDLIK invented his soda making technology?” According to Wikipedia, he was a Hungarian inventor, engineer, physicist, and Benedictine priest. He is considered by Hungarians and Slovaks to be the unsung father of the dynamo and electric motor.
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But, in any case, isn’t this just so cool! It looks like it is made of a thick glass, the color of the average green seltzer siphon.

New Strange Summer Flavors from Polar Seltzer


For some reason, the good folks at Polar Seltzer release some rather strange flavors to beat the heat. Last winter, as you might recall, we saw Eggnog, Candy Cane, Pumpkin Spice and Granny Smith Apple. This summer we are looking at: Minto Mojito, Ginger Lemonade, Pineapple Passionfruit, Pina Colada and Orange Mango.
The Huffington Post takes one for the team and reviews them all.
Some highlights from the review:
– this flavor had an overwhelming aroma of sunscreen that was “a little scary.”
– It “tastes how it smells, not a compliment,” said one.
– Several noted a “mouthwash” and “toothpaste” taste that ruined the drinking experience.
Read them all here.

Jahn’s Soda Shop

First opened in 1897, Jahn’s (pronounced John’s, was an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and restaurant with locations in the New York City area and Miami-Dade County, Florida, and was famous for its huge Kitchen Sink Sundae. They used to be all over the city. Now the last one, in Jackson Heights, Queens is the only one still operating. Well, it’s actually a Greek diner, but their MENU is Jahn’s, which I will feature below after a photo of my daughter enjoying her Egg Cream. A visit just to read the menu is worth the trip, but don’t ask the waitstaff what any of it means, as no one knows!
Janhs Egg Cream.jpg
Janhs Menu2.jpg

Video with Richie Strell, the seltzer siphon king

Mel Stuart, the director of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, made this video for a TV show which was never to be. This segment takes us into the home of Richie Strell, the seltzer siphon king. Although this show was never produced, Richie has a copy and was generous enough to share it with me so I could share it with all of you. Richie gave me a fantastic interview which is central to the segment in my book on the history of, and current interest in, the seltzer siphon. I am glad to be able to share this, as Richie such an interesting and knowledgeable person.