~ Is it soda or pop, and what is the path this beverage has traveled? ~
Left: Schweppes 1883 advertisement. Right: Equipment used by Joseph Priestley in his experiments on gases and the carbonization of water. Via Wikipedia.
Americans consume nearly 13 billion gallons of soda a year. In The LAB's world soda doesn't contain caramel coloring or Acesulfame-K. As we all know, soda, or pop, is as American as jazz and baseball. Or is it? The first Coca-Cola advertisement was 129 years ago. The story starts at least a hundred years prior to that, and not in the United States.
How it started: The fizzy drink has roots as a healthy beverage option. The origin came from mineral water from natural springs to a progression of adding lemon and honey to the liquid. In 1676, a lemonade soft drink was produced in Paris by the the Compagnie de Limonadiers. Nearly a century later the English doctor Joseph Priestley was the first to create a carbonated beverage in glass. It wasn't until 1806 when America got involved. Yale University chemistry professor Benjamin Silliman sold his drinks locally, including the Tontine coffeehouse inside the New York Stock Exchange. Silliman sold his drinks as a side project, and as a health benefit. Others in New York and Philadelphia followed his lead, but production didn't take off until the advancement of glass manufacturing in the 1890s. Just before Prohibition the U.S. already had over 125,000 soda fountain locations. Fast forward 90 years, and in 2011, Interbrand's best global brand study showed that Coca-Cola was the world's most valuable brand.
A 1797 oil painting of the Tontine Coffee House (building with the flag) by Francis Guy.
Behind the name: Soda was coined as the flavoring that went into these fizzy drinks. The name soda pop comes from Charles Hutchinson's invention in 1897 for a spring soda-bottle stopper that created a "pop" sound when released. Pop was also used by English poet Robert Southey's stating that, "pop goes the cork" in an 1812 poem. Many referenced this term individually due to the sound of releasing a cork throughout the 1800s.
Soft drinks got their name because they were considered soft up against their alcoholic counterpart. There's a regional debate in this country on the soda versus pop term for this carbonated drink. See below for an interesting breakdown by location.
Graphic on soda va pop name usage from Pop vs Soda.
From mass back to craft: Sodas continued to be thought of as a healthy option, and therefore were almost always available in pharmacies. Pharmacists also had the skill set to create syrups and flavoring, which was used to mask a bitter taste. Believe it or not, sarsaparilla was linked to curing syphilis, and lemon was so popular because it was already being utilized for several medicines. There weren't any restrictions. Cocaine was even used.
Sodas took a turn to the dark side in the 1980s with the addition of high fructose corn syrup. Luckily the current movement of craft breweries, distilleries, and specialty coffee, soda is finally starting to get back to better options. There are local companies again with smaller, more specialized brewed batches, and better ingredients. Estimations show that the craft soda category, which has a blurry definition, is only about 1% of the total soda market. We predict that will continue to increase like the transition we've seen with other beverages.
Early advertisements for tonic and sodas.
On our travels we're seeing more craft soda companies appear, and cocktail bars making their own concoctions inhouse. In Philadelphia there's the acclaimed Franklin Fountain with its own unique story. During my path in this industry, I've heard many references of recipes to the 1894 New Guide, or, Hints to Soda Water Dispensers by DeForest Saxe. Last weekend in D.C. I had a Thunder Beast root beer made locally. From Hawaii to Upstate New York artisan soda is brewing. Delish created this list of 10 regional soda companies in the U.S., and if that list isn't good enough, here's a heftier list of 50 from First We Feast a few years ago.
A lot of Americana is wrapped up in drinking a soda on a hot summer day. Seek out a local favorite in your area, and be sure to support the local brewers. - Jason