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Italian cream soda isn’t actually Italian — so what is it?

Learn the surprising truth about the origin of Italian cream soda and how to make this refreshing drink with our easy recipe and tips.

Italian cream soda, a sweet and fizzy beverage, has become a beloved treat for many around the world. But here’s the surprising truth: despite its name, this drink didn’t originate in Italy. It’s actually from the United States — Torani, a California-based company known for its flavoring syrups, came up with the idea.

So, what is Italian cream soda made of? And why do we call it “Italian”? As we explore its history, we’ll learn how it got its name and why it became so popular.

italian cream soda with raspberries

Source: Unknown (Canva)

What is Italian cream soda?

Italian cream soda is a sweet, creamy drink made with club soda, flavored syrup, and cream. The syrup can be any flavor you like, such as vanilla, raspberry, or orange.

In the 1920s, Torani founder, Rinaldo Torre, started making flavored syrups in San Francisco with recipes from Lucca, Italy. He mixed these syrups with soda water and cream — and the Italian cream soda was born! Today, you can find it at coffee shops, ice cream parlors, and restaurants like The Old Spaghetti Factory.

What’s the difference between Italian cream soda and cream soda?

People often confuse Italian cream soda with cream soda because they sound similar. But cream soda is actually a soft drink flavored with vanilla and sweetened with sugar. Unlike Italian cream soda, it usually doesn’t contain any real cream. It gets its name from the creamy vanilla flavor. You can buy cream soda in cans or bottles at most grocery stores.

In contrast, Italian cream soda is made fresh by mixing club soda, flavored syrup, and a splash of cream. The cream is what sets it apart from regular flavored sodas. It adds a rich, smooth texture and a slightly creamy taste. Plus, you can choose from various syrup flavors to make your perfect drink.

woman enjoying her italian cream soda

Source: Anna Tarazevich

How do you make an Italian cream soda?

Making an Italian cream soda is easy and fun! You only need a few simple ingredients — and they’re available at most grocery stores. Once you have everything, it’s pretty quick to make.

Ingredients:

  • Ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup club soda or sparkling water
  • 2-3 tbsp flavored syrup of your choice
  • 2 tbsp half-and-half or heavy cream

Instructions:

  1. Fill a tall glass with ice.
  2. Pour the flavored syrup over the ice.
  3. Add the club soda or sparkling water.
  4. Gently pour the half-and-half or heavy cream over the top.
  5. Stir gently with a straw or spoon, and garnish with fresh fruit on top if you’d like.
  6. Enjoy your homemade Italian cream soda!

How to make Italian cream soda without cream

You can still enjoy Italian cream soda if you’re vegan or dairy-free. Simply swap the regular cream for a plant-based alternative like Silk’s dairy-free heavy whipping cream alternative. Follow the same recipe above using your dairy-free cream instead. Yum!

italian cream soda ingredients

Source: Sharon Wu

Best syrup for Italian cream sodas

While you can use store-bought flavored syrups like Torani’s, making your own syrup at home is easy and tastes even better. The best syrups are made with fresh fruit, which gives your Italian cream soda a natural, vibrant color.

To make homemade syrup, you’ll need sugar, water, and your favorite fresh fruits like strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries.

Here’s a simple recipe for homemade fruit syrup:

Ingredients for a small batch:

  • 2 cups water
  • 12 oz fresh fruit
  • 1 cup sugar

Have frozen fruit sitting in the freezer? You can use those instead of fresh fruit — but they might not taste as sweet.

Instructions:

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan or pot.
  2. Pour in and stir the sugar until it dissolves.
  3. Add the fresh fruit to the sugar-water mixture.
  4. Using the back of a spoon, mash the fruit to release its juices.
  5. Let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Turn off the stove and let the mixture cool for 20 minutes.
  7. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer into a glass container (to remove the pulp).
  8. Keep it refrigerated when not in use.

Author’s tip: I compared my homemade syrup to a store-bought one and found the latter tasted too artificial. If you decide to make syrup, don’t be afraid to make a bigger batch to save time and effort. It’ll stay fresh in the fridge if you store it in a tight container. I tripled the recipe above to make yummy raspberry syrup for days!

Kick off summer with an Italian soda

As the weather warms up and summer fun begins, why not cool down with a refreshing Italian cream soda? Whether you’re hosting a pool party or relaxing in your backyard, this sweet and creamy drink is the perfect way to beat the heat. With so many scrumptious flavor combinations to try, you can make every day feel like a special occasion.

Frequently asked questions

Can you use heavy whipping cream in Italian sodas?

Yes, you can use heavy whipping cream in Italian sodas. In fact, it’s a great choice if you want an extra rich and creamy texture. Just remember heavy whipping cream has a higher fat content than regular cream, so your drink may be more indulgent.

Are Italian cream sodas high in sugar?

Italian cream sodas can be high in sugar, especially if you use a lot of flavored syrup. You can control the amount of sugar in your drink by adjusting the amount of syrup you use or by choosing a sugar-free syrup. If you’re watching your sugar intake, making your own syrup with fresh fruit can be a healthier option.

Italian sodas vs. regular sodas: Which are healthier?

Italian cream sodas can be slightly healthier even though both sodas have sugar. You have more control over the ingredients, such as the amount of syrup and the cream type you use. Plus, making your own syrup with fresh fruit adds natural flavors not found in regular sodas.

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