TALL COOL ONES: A variety of Italian sodas have been surging in sales at Bertolini's in the Forum Shops of Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas.
Sodas and carbonated drink ideas play an integral part in everyday life in this country. They're effervescent, flavorful and Americans love them. Imagine an office building or public venue without a soda vending machine. Not a chance: It could incite mayhem.
No one need convince Nick Cantenella how popular sodas are. He's the managing partner of Bertolini's, a chic and authentic trattoria located in the Forum Shops of Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. At Bertolini's, a restaurant where cappuccinos, lattes and espressos rule supreme, Italian sodas have recently been surging in sales.
These effervescent gems are slightly sweet iced drinks made with club soda, three ounces of Torani syrup, and a float of whipping cream.
"We serve our Italian sodas in classic 14-oz. pilsner glasses. The drinks are not only extraordinarily delicious, they're attractive and highly marketable," says Cantenella. "We've created table cards to promote the Italian sodas with a picture of the drinks and a listing of the flavor options. We also market them in our food menu. It's really impressive how well they sell."
Bertolini's, a part of Morton's Restaurant group, offers fare that appeals to the estimated 45,000 people a day who stroll by the venue¯specialties such as upscale brick oven-fired pizzas, clam linguini and chicken scaloppini. Cantenella estimates that Bertolini's sells 1,000 to 1,500 Italian sodas a month¯up to 2,000 in summer months. Favorite flavors include cherry, grape, piña colada and raspberry. Reasonably priced at $4.25, they represent a sizeable revenue source.
Creating Soda Pop Classics
Among the advantages to marketing Italian sodas are their simplicity and creative potential. The concoction is little more than ice, soda water and a measure of one or more flavoring syrups, brands such as Monin and Torani. The delicate flavoring dissolves immediately into the seltzer, transforming it into a marvelously light soda. Flavored syrups are readily available in different varieties ranging from fruits and spice to nuts and classic dessert recreations.
While Italian sodas are typically prepared with a single flavored syrup, an effortless way of devising an alcohol-free smash is to use syrups in combination. Classic taste pairings include kiwi/lime, water-melon/blueberry or coffee/chocolate, although these barely scratch the surface of what's possible. Some may want to also upgrade the water used in the drink, from club soda to bottled mineral waters such as San Pellegrino and Perrier.
The specialty Italian sodas at Bertolini's are topped with a layer of whipping cream, which sweetens, adds substance and greatly enhances the drink's appearance. "Our guests use the long straws to gently swirl the whipping cream into their drinks. It's fun to do and creates a great-looking drink," adds Cantenella.
Another creative twist is hoisting a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet into the concoction. The melting of flavors and textures, the melding of cold, creamy ice cream or sorbet and flavorcharged soda make an Italian Float a sublime experience.
Fortunately for us, Italian sodas know no creative limitations. The Italian Cream Soda is made with equal parts of passion fruit and watermelon syrups, a fill with a highly carbonated mineral water¯Perrier fits the bill¯and a heaping scoop of French vanilla ice cream. Try pairing a soda made with a hearty black cherry syrup with a layer of raspberry sorbet, or a coffee-flavored soda with vanilla ice cream.
Whether judged on taste, panache or profit margin, Italian sodas are one of the finest things that can be sipped through a straw.
Robert Plotkin is a judge at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the author of numerous books, including the 5th edition of The Bartender's Companion: The Original Guide to American Cocktails and Drinks, and Drinks for All Ages: The Original Guide to Alcohol-Free Beverages and Drinks.