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Soft Drinks and their History

Posted by on April 20, 2016

Those sweetened flavored drinks with carbon added has been around for a long time. What makes them fizz? I ask although I know carbon is behind all this soft drink activity because most people refer to this drink as carbonated drinks. But who first  bottled them? These drinks came about in the 1800s by scientists who had nothing better to do but to instill air into drinks and to experiment with different effects bicarbonate of soda and other chemicals had when mixed with water.

Was this something new or was this another experiment where art mimicked nature? Art mimicked nature in that artesian bubbling water oozed up from underground artesian wells in Europe since antiquity. Some entrepreneur thought to bottle and sell it. Yet before the bubbly water industry came into being, the first soft drinks were indeed softer! At first, according to Britannica, these, in the 17th century, were only lemonade. And yes, it was called lemonade.

Business acuity then was onto something good in the Paris of 1576 and one company – Comapagnie de Limonadiers – secured a monopoly. Small operators of lemonade stands on sidewalks and at Little League parks on hot summer days need not have to know that their brew has an old, old, history. That others had their idea before them. Of course if they do know they will be heartened to know that the ancient vendors carried tanks on their backs from which they dispensed cups of lemonade.

One idea leads off into more equally lucrative business concerns, and so did the European bottling companies. Assuming that this special water inundated with carbon from underground sources were good for health purposes, they were advertised as such. It is not precisely known whether there were real cures or only probabilities built into their sales pitches. Water of course is good for you and is natural and if water is naturally filled with air or some chemical that creates activity within, then surely it must be ‘good for you’. Was this a European style snake oil deal? If so, in retrospect, proving that business is business and is often not what it claims to be. A conjecture of mine, of course.

Scientific facts confirming or denying came about when the European scientist Robert Boyle wrote about his experiments in 1665. He also invented an air pump. Yet for all his chemical experiments and his designated honor -Father of Chemistry – it was Joseph Priestly who is credited with the beginning soft drink industry. He brewed kegs of brew for his experiments of the effects of gas and showed how air and water could be forcefully mixed.

Thomas Henry, an Englishman, actually first produced carbonated water, but Schweppe, reading about the experiment, duplicated the effort and sold his brew. Ginger was added to the ale in 1829, lemon in 1830’s and a tonic in 1858. And then Coca-Cola was produced by John Pemberton, a druggist in Atlanta, Georgia. Many other soft drinks soon followed. Pepsi, so named for an ingredient that was supposed to be good for an upset stomach came from the Carolinas; elsewhere in the US – and at other places around the globe – other soft drink Brands followed such as Orange Crush, Dr. Pepper and so on. Each trip to the super market new ones seem to be inviting consumers to take a sip.

Have soft drinks lived up to their claim of being good for your health? In some isolated instances they can have a remedial use, but as they are now consumed? Absolutely not. They are a health hazard and must claim some of the blame for our obese youth.

1. Soft drink
2. Is Brown Sugar Evil?
3. Introduction to Pop – The History of Soft Drinks – Inventors –

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