Edit: I seem to recall a write-up here in former times that pointed out that Manhattan Special is coffee soda, but obviously it's gone now.
The name "Manhattan Special" comes from the company's location on Manhattan Avenue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The Passaro family has made espresso soda there since 1895.
The product line also includes lemon-lime gassosa, cream soda, ginger ale, and ostensibly naturally flavored* sarsaparilla. The company also recently introduced flavored iced coffee drinks. The staple, however, is espresso soda
One thing that makes the product stand out is the use of cane sugar -- common among boutique beverage makers but not common in the world at large. The coffee is "hand brewed," according to the website (www.manhattanspecial.com**), and the label notes that Manhattan Special Espresso Soda has won several international awards.
It's a bitter-tasting liquid -- as you'd expect -- but only compared to Coca-Cola and its ilk. In fact, it fairly faithfully reproduces the taste of (sweetened) espresso, albeit in soda form. It should be pointed out that assuming you manage to track the stuff down, it's also costly compared to Coca-Cola, even Coke at fast food prices. I treat myself not infrequently, but it's not the beverage staple or even caffeine staple Pepsi is.
However, the appeal goes beyond the coffee taste. I don't drink coffee, as a rule -- I'm a tea-drinker -- but this I'll drink. Part of the reason is the cachet, which may also be part of the reason I'm a tea-drinker. Drinking Manhattan Special makes you a member of the club. And it doesn't have the brand name recognition or ubiquity of Mountain Dew or Jolt, making the club that much more exclusive. My exgirlfriend thinks the stuff is disgusting, which frankly was part of the appeal even when we were still together -- another way of measuring cachet.
*Pint informs me sassafrass, the original sarsaparilla beverage flavoring, is a controlled substance in the U.S.
**Web site uses Flash