Passaro, who runs Manhattan Special with her brother Louis, doesn't believe that the soda was inspired by any particular Italian cold coffee refreshment, such as granita. More likely, her great-grandmother's invention is an American answer to an Italian craving. "Italian immigrants drank a lot of espresso with sugar," Passaro told me. "During the summer they'd cool it down, but no one wanted to drink it with ice and dilute it." Those were the days when seltzer salesmen made home deliveries and drugstore soda fountains added flavored syrups to fizzy water. So, Teresa Cimino concocted a drink, the recipe for which remains essentially unchanged, tailored to her community: she brewed heavily roasted espresso coffee, sweetened it with cane sugar to make a syrup, and added carbonated water. This summer, the company began selling the beverage through its online store (www.manhattanspecial.com), and, though it has recently introduced a line of its own, Starbucks-esque bottled coffee drinks, Passaro knows where her customers' loyalties lie: "Once you've developed a taste for our soda," she said, "it's hard to go back."