What an odd kind of national food holiday! Not that we haven’t had odd ones before, but to have such a specific drink holiday–it must be carbonated, and it must have caffeine!–is a little weird, and oddly-put. Basically, they can’t say, “National Coca-Cola Day,” which is totally what you think this means 😉 But a carbonated, caffeinated drink can be any number of soft drinks, which, by definition, is anything not “hard” (or alcoholic). Hell, you can even had “hard” carbonated beverages, too–I mean, who doesn’t want to celebrate today with a little rum and Coke? 😛
I was really wondering what I could do with this national holiday, because finding a restaurant that serves a signature carbonated, caffeinated drink is basically impossible. Most everyone serves fountain colas (but only 16 ounces or smaller!), and it’s rare when you find a “special” version being concocted somewhere in the city. But there is a New York treat that follows all the directions of this national food holiday: the Manhattan Special! You may not have heard of this drink, but if you come from the Old School part of New York, you’ve seen it in every corner store since you were a kid. Manhattan Special is an espresso coffee soda that’s been made right here in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, since its creation in 1895. It’s not just a coffee flavored soda, because there’s real coffee in the drink–as well as soda. It’s not like anything you’ve ever tried before, and let me tell you, it is definitely caffeinated! 😉 The company makes other drinks as well, but nothing is as popular or iconic as the Manhattan Special espresso coffee soda. Even just looking at the old-time glass bottle with the dapper couple on the label makes you think of a different time in New York’s history. So, for this National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day, forget about those colas Mayor Bloomberg wants to knock out of your hand and pick up a real New York institution, and enjoy a Manhattan Special today!
342 Manhattan Avenue, Williamsburg
“Now 113 years old, Manhattan Special seems to be caught between two worlds, or even four: past and future, New York City and the outside. While old-timers fondly recall the soda of their youth, the mention of Manhattan Special to the average 20- or 30-something New Yorker is often met with a blank stare. The little soda company from Brooklyn has largely slipped out of daily life in much of the city. Instead, the soda is finding its way along terrain unheard of back in the day, like specialty-food niches and online sales.”–The New York Times
“Longtime New Yorkers will recognize the bottle, but those from elsewhere might not. Coffee, or soda? It’s sort of both. When it comes to caffeine, most people opt for one or the other, canned coffee beverages aside. But Manhattan Special’s Espresso Coffee Soda lets you know two things as soon as you pop it open: 1. it’s super fizzy, a fine carbonation that’ll send a fountain of stout-colored soda spraying across the room if you’re not careful; and 2. it’s coffee soda, not just coffee-tinged, a real roasty scent immediately apparent. For the uninitiated, it’s… well, interesting. An acquired taste, but not off-putting. It’s thick and quite sweet, a strong cup of coffee with three or four sugars dumped in; or like the espresso at the bottom of a cup with the undissolved sugar still kicking around. There’s a real body to it, almost like a cream soda. As if someone dropped espresso shots in one, really.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I haven’t seen any Manhattan Special at any deli or bodega I’ve visited lately, which prompts this review, because I miss them. In this age of bespoke mayonnaise, this real product, with a distinctive brand and taste, manufactured in a neighborhood that says it values authenticity… well, it should be a no-brainer. Why aren’t we all drinking Manhattan specials? Why not indeed? This is the real deal. Please buy their soda. Please encourage Choice Brooklyn, Urban Rustik, Brooklyn Victory Garden, etc. etc, to do the same.”–Heather M.
“With all the fancy pansy coffee shops in the city which might only be outnumbered by nail salons or dry cleaners. Most people have never had a REAL coffee drink. I mean something that has not changed for over 8 presidents and every world war we could come up with. Manhattan Special Coffee Soda is that drink. The recipe has not changed, they still use real sugar and the largest word on the ingredient panel is carbonated water. Ice cold this brew is not for the faint of heart, but for people who TRULY enjoy an iced Espresso coffee the way it was meant to be, strong full bodied and bitter sweet…..”–Andrew S.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!