[Photograph: Stephanie Klose]

If you associate cream soda with the kind of heavy, cloying sweetness that leaves you needing another drink to wash it down, you might be pleasantly surprised by P&H Soda's cream soda syrup. When mixed with seltzer, the resulting beverage "will actually quench your thirst," says founder and president Anton Nocito. The secret to the surprisingly sophisticated, complex flavor: caramelized sugar and plenty of vanilla bean, the latter readily visible as dark, floating flecks in the bottle. "People sometimes ask if it's dirt," Nocito says, "but it's just vanilla."

A chef who dreams of owning a soda shoppe one day, Nocito is the one-man force behind P&H, doing everything from developing flavors to capping the bottles himself. The company's name is a nod to his wife's letterpress stationery company, Pumpkin & Honey Bunny, the pet names of the diner-heist couple in Pulp Fiction.

The full line of P&H syrup flavors includes hibiscus, lime, ginger, and seasonal flavors like quince or Meyer lemon. While they are a natural fit with one of this past holiday season's most popular gifts, home soda makers like the SodaStream, regular store-bought seltzer will work just fine.

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