The suds of time: Exploring Brooklyn’s soda-making past and present

The Brooklyn Paper
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Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, the small-scale soda manufacturer upgrading its Williamsburg operation, is not the first soft-drink-maker to set up shop in the borough.

Manhattan Special has been making its famous coffee-soda drink on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint since 1895, when an entrepreneur had the cool idea of developing a cold beverage for espresso-addicted Italians to drink on hot days.

“Italians love their espresso,” said Aurora Passaro, co-owner of the company founded by her ancestor Michael Garuco. “We gave them a new way to drink it.”

Manhattan Specials’ coffee-drink flavors are cappuccino, French hazelnut, and mocha. The sodas also come in cherry, orange, sarsaparilla, vanilla cream, and Italian gassosa (lemon-lime) varieties.

Across town in Cobble Hill, a new business is serving up carbonated beverages the old-fashioned way — at a soda fountain.

Brooklyn Farmacy only opened in 2010, but it harkens back to the days when soda was a drink young Brooklynites nursed at a bar while gabbing with friends and poring over the latest comics.

“We’re celebrating the origin of sodas in soda fountains and pharmacies as a concept that was big in a really great time in America,” said co-owner Peter Freeman.

Only in this day and age, homemade syrups and seltzers like the Farmacy’s are not the norm and the place wears its old-timey vibe as a badge of honor. Server Justin Rubin whips up egg creams wearing newsboy outfits and the Farmacy hosts folk music performances and throwback events such as silent-movie nights and live disc-jockeying — on a phonograph.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
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Reasonable discourse

diehipster from Blowtorching Becketts says:
Manhattan Special = BROOKLYN

Paperboy costume wearing eggcream server in place called "Farmacy" in the year 2014 = NOT BROOKLYN

Welcome to Nieuw Breuckelen, it's all fun and games. We got anything you want, just ask Mom to pay.
March 27, 2014, 5:51 am
SwampYankee from runined Brooklyn says:
So one the one hand we have Manhattan Special, a business owned and run by the same family for generations. They sell millions of bottles of soda and have been employing locals for as long as anyone can remember. On the other hand we have someone dressed up like a newspaper boy who has been here for about 18 months and thinks Brooklyn is just a playground for him to play dress up. Who's picture does the Brooklyn Paper run? The Passaro family, pillars of the community, or a gentrifying hipster?
March 27, 2014, 6:17 am
bkdude64 says:
And how much for some syrup, seltzer and milk? 6 bucks? gtfo
March 27, 2014, 6:52 am
Pat I from 70's Brooklyn says:
Isn't Farmacy the place on Sackett and Henry Sts?

This is the transplant who proclaimed "Brooklyn didn't know a good egg cream until HE arrived".


Oh and Here's to The Passaro family!
March 27, 2014, 8 am
NYPD from NY says:
↑↑↑↑↑Look at all the BUTTHURT↑↑↑↑↑
March 27, 2014, 9:25 am
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:

12 bucks for a sundae. 'nuff said.
March 27, 2014, 9:44 am
Hen from Chicken Farm says:
They all want the cream - but they've never laid an egg in their life!

March 27, 2014, 10:12 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Brooklyn has not had a real egg cream soda in fifty years. Now we've got one. Abbrakazabbazoom baby.
March 27, 2014, 1:20 pm
ty from pps says:
So... a guy moves to Brooklyn and decides to (a) renovate and restore an old space in Cobble Hill that was collapsing under its own decay and (b) sell nice things that harken back to a Brooklyn that is long gone -- yes, it is whatever you say -- and this is a horrible affront to all that is Holy in the realm of "Real Brooklyn"??

I guess it would have been better if the old corner store/pharmacy/soda shop was gutted and turned into a Bank of America ATM.... right? Better than a damn "transplant" opening a business.

(By the way, I actually know the owner -- met long ago in a land far away -- and I bet he works harder at running this shop than certainly Mr. Diehipster does at whining.)
March 27, 2014, 8:12 pm
Mark from Kensington says:
I'm all for places trying to bring things like egg creams (though I grew up simply making them at home with seltzer and Fox's Ubet from the soda man) but why does that guy have just dress up in that stupid newsboy outfit?
March 27, 2014, 8:23 pm
ty from pps says:
Why not? Is a silly outfit really that offensive? When football teams have a "throwback" game and wear their uniforms from the 70s... are you offended?
March 27, 2014, 8:27 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
The newsie outfit does look a bit silly, in the way that barbers who cultivate handlebar moustaches look a bit silly.
March 28, 2014, 11:47 am
Justin Rubin from Bensonhurst says:
Yup, I'm a hipster who's only been here for 18 months. Not 3rd generation Brooklyn from Bensonhurst. You got me. You know my whole life. And if you were from Brooklyn or actually knew about its history you'd know soda fountains are a traditional piece of old Brooklyn. Heaven forbid somebody try to run a successful business harkening back to Brooklyn's past rather than just sit on a computer and make judgmental criticisms about what other people do with their life.
March 29, 2014, 1:15 pm
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
↑↑↑↑↑Is that the real Justin Rubin↑↑↑↑↑? The man in the picture????↑↑↑↑↑
March 31, 2014, 5:16 pm
Brooklyn Farmacy owner, Gia Giasullo from Carroll Gardens says:
For what it's worth, our egg creams are $2.50 and Justin, who has worked with us for almost two years, is about as old school Brooklyn as it gets. We work hard, try to make the world a good place, and respect our elders. Oh, and we have a bit of fun dressing up sometimes, too. Thank you for your continued support of our small, family run business.
April 8, 2014, 2:50 pm
Maggie from Gowanus/Carroll Gardens says:
Pat I from 70's Brooklyn,

If you're going to use quotation marks, I am going to require some source material. There is no way in hell that Peter Freeman said that. You misunderstood his claim. He likely acknowledged that he was attempting to restore the place of the egg cream in Brooklyn; he is in no way misinformed about the egg cream's origin. In fact, he wholly understands and deeply respects the intrinsic relationship between the Borough and the beverage. That is what the whole operation is about! I'm sorry that you misunderstood his intent. It seems like you also care about egg creams, so maybe you should give it a chance and ask him about his mission? He's generally pretty happy to share his thoughts on the subject.
April 8, 2014, 11:38 pm
Ann from Cobble Hill says:
I live around the corner from Brooklyn Farmacy and the thing I love most about it is that although it might sound gimmicky; it's such a regular place. The prices are amazingly reasonable and everything they serve is yummy. You can go in and sit at the counter, read and drink a coffee and no one bothers you. And the other thing that strikes me about it is that people talk to one another. There aren't a bunch of people in there on their laptops or just reading facebook on their iphones. It's truly a friendly place. I love it and while i'm not a native Brooklyn person it reminds me of several small town diners/cafes I've been to in the various parts of the country where I've lived.
April 10, 2014, 6:15 pm

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