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Jun 3, 2013 03:35 PM

Seltzer, someone enlighten me

I read this great article about a week ago about this guy, Eli Miller, one of the last seltzer men in NYC, and presumably the country.

Accordingto the article, there are only about a handful left. Anyway, Eli says the reason he still does this at 79 is “I don’t want them to have to drink that dreck you buy in the supermarket,”.

So, not ever being exposed to the real thing, i have a few questions.
a. Is this seltzer that much better than grocery store?
b. I assume that most of his customers use it for mixed drinks, as i see in old movies, or is this not the case?
c. Isn't it just carbonated water, or are there other ingredients?
d. since i live where there are no seltzer men to deliver seltzer, what's the closest that i can get to the real thing?

Any information would be helpful.

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  1. Take a look at Darcy O'Neil's Fix the Pumps, which has a brief history of carbonated water. From my brief scan, it looks like it all started as an attempt to recreate naturally carbonated mineral spring waters, which were thought to be medicinal. Siphon bottles were one of the earlier methods to get the carbonated water to the end user, as it kept the gas from escaping.

    It sounds like from the article that Gomberg's Seltzer is filtered, carbonated NY tap water. As I understand it, seltzer is generally straight carbonated water, while club soda has sodium salts added (again, as an attempt to recreate bubbling spring waters).

    Can't say I've ever tried seltzer delivered to my door in a siphon bottle, but I imagine if you filter NY tap water and then carbonate it, you will be pretty close. I also can't imagine it really tastes that much different than the stuff you buy in the supermarket. I'd guess you'd have to do a taste test to find out for sure.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nickls

      According to the article, “You drop one of these, it will explode,” he said, holding one up. “Inside here is triple-filtered New York City water with 80 pounds of carbonic pressure.”

      I assume that is a lot more pressure than you get out of a soda stream or store bought seltzer.

      1. As far as I can tell, the only variables in seltzer are (a) the quality of the water (including its mineral content), and (b) how carbonated it is. If you use quality water you like the taste of and you carbonate it to your preferred pressure in a Sodastream, there shouldn't be any seltzer out there that's any better. Alternately, you might find a brand in the store that you like and stick with that - it's just a matter of tasting a few and seeing which ones you like. For example, I like sipping San Pellegrino because the flavor of the water is nice, but it's not very carbonated so the bubbles just get lost when it's mixed into a cocktail - for mixed drinks, I'd rather use a highly carbonated store brand of seltzer (since the flavor of the water gets lost in the liquors anyway).

        1. I have fond memories of going to a Jewish Russian restaurant in the Lower East Side with my parents about 25 years ago. We ordered an "egg creams" and got a bottle of milk, a bottle of chocolate syrup, and a from-the-seltzer-guy soda siphon. You made it yourself to your liking.

          The Russians at the next table had a bottle of vodka frozen in a block of ice (I think a cardboard milk carton was the mold). They seemed animated and very merry.

          The pickles were redolent with garlic. The sausage was redolent with garlic. In fact, every dish we ordered was redolent with garlic. There were no vampires for miles.

 | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

          2 Replies
          1. re: EvergreenDan

            Same memories here too,esp. the 'egg creams'....2 cents a glass I think? My memories go back 50++ years though.

            1. re: EvergreenDan

              sounds vaguely like sammy's roumanian steak house. they definitely used to freeze their vodka bottles in a milk carton. and garlic was everywhere.

            2. I answered your thread on the OB Board. You can't replicate old fashioned seltzer with sodastream or buy it in a store. The bottles are incredible heavy. The wall of glass is thicker than any other type of bottle you've see. The pressure is amazing. If you hold it up and squeeze the trigger, you will shoot a stream of water 30 feet. I know. I've done it. Filling a glass can be a challenge as the force will cause the water to come right out of the glass if you don't do it right.