I don’t know about you but I drink quite a bit through the day. No, I don’t belly up to the bar. I mostly drink water. What can I say? I’m a very boring person. But I have to have a glass of unsweet iced tea with my lunch. Two years ago at my doctor’s urging, I gave up my Diet Dr Pepper. I used to think no day was complete without them. That wasn’t the case at all. It was my crazy brain telling me.
The cowboys in my stories often order a Sarsaparilla in the saloon. In Texas Mail Order Bride, Cooper Thorne always drank them to wash down a fried hand pie. But how common were these drinks?
They bottles didn’t have screw-off caps. Nope, they were corked and had a metal lever on top.
The first marketed soft drinks appeared in the 17th century. I was astounded that they’ve been around so long. In 1676 the Compagnie de Limonadiers of Paris were granted a monopoly to sell lemonade soft drinks. Vendors toted tanks of it on their backs and sold cups of it to thirsty Parisians.
But far earlier in the timeline, enterprising men discovered mineral water, which is the basis for soft drinks, found in natural springs contained bubbles caused by carbon dioxide. People long believed the natural springs held medicinal properties. I guess they figured if it was good enough to bathe in, it was good enough to drink.
In 1832 John Matthews, the Father of American Soda Water, built a carbonating machine. Early soda water was served cold and unflavored. Yuck! Don’t think it’d taste too good.
A few years went by and American pharmacists began adding medicinal and flavorful herbs to unflavored mineral water. Some of the earliest flavorings came from birch bark, dandelion, sarsaparilla, and fruit extracts. The pharmacists began tinkering with the concoctions as a way to get their customers to take the awful tasting medicines of the day. They sold their creations for 5 cents a glass.
In 1835 the first bottled soda water in the U.S. was produced.
In 1866 Vernors Ginger Ale (the oldest soft drink in America) was produced.
In 1876 Root Beer was marketed.
In 1885 Charles Alderton, a pharmacist in Waco, Texas, came up with Dr Pepper.
In 1886 Dr. John Pemberton discovered Coca Cola in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 1898 Caleb Bradham added Pepsi Cola to the list of soft drinks.
Vernors Ginger Ale was created pretty much by accident. Pharmacist James Vernor mixed together ginger, vanilla, and a few other ingredients in an oak cask then enlisted to fight in the Civil War. When he returned home and opened the cask, the aging process had created the famous ginger-flavored soda. I’m not a big fan of Ginger Ale. Don’t like the taste particularly.
I believe sarsaparilla was the first soft drink to make it to the Old West and it was served in saloons because of the scarcity of pharmacies (or apothecaries) at the time. Sarsaparilla was used during the Civil War as a treatment for syphilis and was touted as a blood purifier. I’m told it tasted a lot like Root Beer. I don’t know since I’ve never had any.
An interesting side note: Dr Pepper drinkers were urged to consume at 10, 2, and 4—a reminder embossed on early bottles—to prevent energy slumps. Supposedly. But I see it as an excellent marketing strategy. They were able to increase their sales this way. Charles Alderton was no dummy.
For those who might’ve heard that Coca Cola actually contained cocaine in it….Snopes.com says it was true. The two main ingredients were extract of coca leaves and kola nuts. Just how much cocaine was originally in the formula isn’t known, but traces remained in it until 1929.This is hardly surprising though seeing as how it was considered a patent medicine in the beginning.
But once sodas were here, there was a problem with distribution. People wanted it bottled to take home with them. The early bottles had to be blown by mouth. And because the carbonated contents were under immense pressure, they couldn’t find a way to keep it from blowing the corks out of the bottles or preventing the bubbles from escaping. That is until 1892 when William Painter patented his Crown Cork Bottle Seal. It marked the first successful method of keeping the carbonation fresh until opened. After that, the industry really took off like a shot.
And I’m really glad it did. When I grew up in the 50’s, I remember that a nickel would buy a bottle of refreshing Coca Cola. Even though it was so cheap it was a real treat to get one. People didn’t keep them in their refrigerators like they do now. Maybe that’s why they were appreciated a lot more back then.
Another favorite memory was when we used to make our yearly trips to California to visit my grandparents. We’d always stop in Arizona for a bottle of Delaware Punch. That was so good, especially when it nice and cold. I never saw it sold anywhere outside of Arizona though.
Do you have a favorite memory involving soft drinks? Which ones do you prefer? And do you call it a soft drink, pop, soda, or just lump everything together and call it a Coke like we do here?