Original New York Seltzer


I’m not nostalgic for much about the ’80s; the graphic design and fashion trends were hideous, the music was largely disposable, and many of the movies utterly forgettable, but there were some great things about the era. One of those was Original New York Seltzer, a delicious and refreshing beverage that seemed to suddenly vanish from the market sometime in the early ’90s.

Back in the mid-’80s, when Terri and I were a young couple just starting out, we paid for Christmas by painting holiday decorations on store windows. Starting the weekend after Thanksgiving, we’d spend the next four weeks bringing in easy money, using water-based tempera to festoon the fronts of local pet stores, pizza joints, supermarkets and frozen yogurt shops with holly leaves and snowmen. Eventually we got busy enough to warrant bringing in help; our friend Kevin said he could use the extra money, and we knew he would be fun to work with, so he joined the team. We had some great fun together, and what had been a strictly mercenary venture became a laugh-filled adventure in friendship.

One of the many Penguin's Frozen Yogurt shops we decorated for Christmas.

One of the many Penguin’s Frozen Yogurt shops we decorated for Christmas.

We got booked to decorate several franchises of a company called Penguin’s Frozen Yogurt, another ’80s company that burned brightly for a short time before eventually slipping into memory. When we negotiated the price, we included an extra request; along with the cash, we also each got a serving of fro-yo and an Original New York Seltzer, which the chain carried.

We stopped doing the holiday windows after a few years (a casualty of parenthood), Kevin moved to the Midwest, and life went on, but just the sight of Original New York Seltzer or Penguin’s Frozen Yogurt would instantly bring Kevin and those cold evenings and long weekends to mind. Sadly, by the early ’90s, both companies were pretty much gone. Today only two of the original 120+ Penguin’s shops are still in operation; the parent company went bankrupt in 1991, around the same time that the Original New York Seltzer Company went under.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post on Facebook announcing that Original New York Seltzer was back. I immediately searched out their website, and was pleased to see that the bottles still look the same, the advertising is similar, and the owners of the new company insisted they were going to make the same product we remembered.

Today, when I got home from work, I found that Terri had gone out to Cost Plus World Market and picked up an assortment of flavors. They were out of the root beer flavor, and in fact Terri had grabbed four of the eight bottles remaining in the store; two lemon-lime, one vanilla and one raspberry. The other four were peach. I can assure you that the Raspberry flavor is exactly as I remember it. Apparently the store can’t keep the Seltzer in stock, but we’re going to go back soon and try to grab some more.

If you want a blast of nostalgia, you can sit down and watch Breakfast Club or listen to Flock of Seagulls if you like, but I’ll just grab an Original New York Seltzer out of the fridge. I can’t tell you how happy I am tonight. The only thing that would make it better would be hanging out with Kevin. With some Penguin’s Frozen Yogurt. At least now it’s possible.




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