If you’re trying to cut back on soda, but haven’t quite graduated to kombucha, Italian soda may be the drink for you. Fizzy and thirst-quenching, delightfully sweet Italian soda is made with fruit-based syrup and seltzer. Topped with an optional float of heavy cream—which some may argue officially changes the drink to a French soda—an Italian soda is essentially an egg cream with more diverse flavor options. While you can use whatever seasonal fruit you find appealing to make a batch of syrup worth of an Italian soda, I’ve found that strawberries, peaches, and blackberries are good places to start.
Italian soda starts with syrup. Though store-bought coffee or chocolate syrup can be used in this drink, the best way to create a potent Italian soda is to make your own fruit syrup. Start with a standard simple syrup ratio of 1 part sugar to 1 part water and add 1 ½ parts washed, peeled, and sliced fruit. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to ensure the sugar dissolves. After the syrup boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Pour the syrup over a fine mesh sieve balanced over a bowl and let the syrup strain on its own. You’re going to want to press down on the fruit to drain out every last drop of moisture (and I know, mushing things is just plain fun) but resist the urge. Larger bits of fruit pulp will make the syrup cloudy, which isn’t what we’re going for here. Instead, save that mushy fruit for spooning over yogurt or blending into a smoothie.
After the strained simple syrup has cooled a bit, fill a glass halfway with ice. Spoon in syrup until it just barely covers the ice.
Fill the glass with very fizzy seltzer and swirl just a bit with a spoon. If you’d like to turn the Italian soda into a French soda (also known as an Italian cream soda), pour a bit less seltzer into the glass and top the drink with a splash of heavy cream. Garnish with a slice of citrus and a straw.