New Orleans’ own “nectar”, that is — it began life as a soda fountain flavor at Katz and Besthoff drugstores in the Crescent City (known to the locals, of course, as “K&B”). I’m just barely old enough to remember the soda fountains at K&B — great burgers and fries, BLTs and, of course, those fabulous nectar sodas and floats.
Nectar is a New Orleans original, and I’ve had a hankering for it lately. Deep red, with an almond-vanilla flavor that was best described as tasting “like wedding cake”, it may have died out when the soda fountains did, but still lives on as a sno-ball flavor, and has even been resurrected by a little company in Mandeville. A little Googling revealed a forum on nectar on eGullet, a wonderful article from the Times-Picayune about it, and I was pleased to see that the New Orleans Nectar Soda Company is still around, kind of — their website has no real content, although when I was home for Christmas I bought a bottle of New Orleans Nectar Soda at the Rouse’s in the Quarter.
Pableaux Johnson, who wrote the T-P article, also says, “Folks craving the goodness of nectar closer to home might do well to check the shelves of a neighborhood grocery store. The Mandeville-based Nectar Soda Co. sells fridge-friendly six-packs of the stuff for open-and-sip convenience. The company also markets 16-ounce bottles of the syrup for those keen on mixing their own.
Syrup and soda are available at Dorignac’s, Langenstein’s Metairie Road store and most Sav-a-Center stores. Call (877) 463-2827 or e-mail nscmail (at) nectarsoda (dot) com for information.”
He was also kind enough to provide some “nectar sipping spots”, places in the Crescent City where you can go and have a soda the old-fashioned way:
Sophie’s Ice Cream, 1912 Magazine St. (504) 561-0291
Tuesday- Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Monday
Creole Creamery, 4924 Prytania St. (504) 894-8680
Sunday-Thursday, Noon to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Noon to 11 p.m.
Plum Street Snowballs, 1300 Burdette St. (504) 866-7996
Monday-Saturday, Noon – 9 p.m., Sunday, 2 – 9 p.m.
Closed Oct. 15 through March 15
Ah, Plum Street. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of huge Chinese takeout tubs full of finely shaved ice and syrup I’ve had there over the years. There you won’t get a soda or a float, but a gorgeous sno-ball drenched with nectar syrup and topped with a frightening amount of sweetened condensed milk. Heaven.
Finally, for do-it-yourselfers, I managed to find some homemade nectar recipes and made up a batch of both syrups. Recipe no. 1 seems to be the one; I wasn’t all that thrilled with no. 2, but maybe with tweaking (like more sugar, less water) it’d work.
Most importantly … when you’re making nectar soda, DO NOT use club soda! Use sparkling/carbonated water only, with a sodium content of 0. Club soda contains salt and sodium bicarbonate, and that really throws off the flavor of the nectar. If you’ve got a soda siphon, this is the perfect thing to use it for (other than gin fizzes, of course).
NECTAR SYRUP I
3 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
Bring sugar and water to a boil over medium heat. Let mixture cook about 8 to 10 seconds. Cool. Add vanilla, almond and coloring. Makes about 1 pint.
NECTAR SYRUP II
3 cups sugar
6 cups water
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons almond essence
2 teaspoons red food coloring
Over low heat dissolve sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Cool. Add the condensed milk, vanilla extract, almond essence and red coloring. Stir well. Store in refrigerator. Makes about 1-1/2 quart.
NECTAR SYRUP III (quick and dirty)
1 bottle Torani vanilla syrup
1 bottle Torani almond syrup.
2 teaspoons red food coloring.
Combine both syrups. Add coloring. Rebottle.
Makes 2 bottles. (This actually isn’t half-bad.)
Sparkling/carbonated water or seltzer (NO sodium!).
Pour an inch or so of nectar syrup into a tall glass. Fill with sparkling water and ice. Stir to mix.
Vanilla ice cream
Sparkling/carbonated water or seltzer (NO sodium!)
Pour an inch of nectar syrup into a tall glass. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and sparkling water. Stir to mix. Serve with a scoop of ice cream on top or whipped cream and a cherry.
NEW ORLEANS NECTAR ICE CREAM
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup nectar syrup (homemade or purchased New Orleans Nectar®)
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste.
(For this recipe you may want to experiment with the amount of sugar.)
In a heavy saucepan bring whole milk and heavy cream to a boil, reduce to a simmer and then remove from heat. Stir in nectar syrup and put the milk mixture to the side.
In a separate bowl whisk egg yolks with sugar until smooth. Return milk mixture to heat and bring to simmer again, slowly whisking in the egg yolk mixture. Strain the combined mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and cool. Proceed according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
Makes 1 quart.
That oughta keep you busy for a while. Happy Thanksgiving!