The Unexpected Connection Between Italian Soda And Torani Syrup

When the weather is sunny and warm, an Italian soda is a welcome treat. At its most basic, an Italian soda is a mixture of flavored syrup and sparkling water over ice, per A Couple Cooks. Some people add cream and a dollop of whipped cream on top for a sweeter treat. Unlike canned soda, you can control the amount of syrup (and, thus, the amount of sweetness) that goes in it and garnish it however you'd like. Both kids and adults love selecting the flavor they want from the sea of options available, everything from fruits to florals like rose or lavender.

You might assume that the Italian soda was created by a thirsty Sicilian on a sweltering summer day or a fisherman inspired by the sunset on the Amalfi coast, but, in reality, the drink is Italian in name only. While you're likely to find them in any Little Italy in America, don't expect to sip one in the country of Italy itself. In fact, if you try to describe it to an Italian waiter, you're likely to get a Chinotto, a citrusy soda that is popular there, according to La Cucina Italiana. The founders of Italian soda were born in Italy, but it wasn't until they settled in America that they created this beloved, bubbly beverage which became a hit during the era of the soda fountain. And you may be more used to seeing the original syrup brand in a coffee shop than mixed with seltzer.

Meet the Torre's

According to Torani, Rinaldo and Ezilda Torre immigrated to America from Lucca, Italy, in the early 20th century. They settled in the San Francisco, California, area and began to make flavored syrups based on recipes they'd brought from their hometown. The original five flavors they created were anisette, grenadine, lemon, orgeat (almond), and tamarindo. These were the very early days of what would become the Torani syrup company, which now provides 150 flavored syrups all over the globe. The North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco was home to a number of young Italian-Americans who frequented the new and popular soda fountains peppering California and the rest of the country. The Torre's saw an opportunity here and first introduced their syrups to these youths and companies that catered to them, per Pastini.

The company enjoyed success through the 1950s due to the continued popularity of Italian sodas in soda fountain culture, but, as explained by Torani, it found a market in coffee houses beginning in the early 1980s that began to utilize flavored syrups in their specialty drinks. Today, because coffee houses and cafes are typically stocked with a number of syrups, you can order Italian sodas, even if it isn't listed on their menus. According to Starbucks' Secret Menu, all you need to do is purchase sparkling water and ask the barista to put your choice of syrup in a cup over ice. Add the water, and you've got an Italian soda.