Soft Drinks: These days, we don’t give much thought to soft drinks. They come in metal cans or they come in plastic bottles, we open them, we drink them, we burp, we throw them away. We think of them as modern inventions. But they’re not, are they? Back in the old days, soft drinks were very different. Apart from being cheaper, they were also manufactured and marketed very differently. Coca-Cola, created in 1886, was first marketed as a medicinal syrup! By the early 1900s, it was a popular everyday beverage. Why is it called ‘coca’ cola? Because one of the chief ingredients used to be the product of the coca plant…cocaine! And you didn’t always buy ‘Coke’ in bottle form, either. It used to be that you went down to the local milk bar and it was served ‘fresh’ to you, specially mixed from a soda-fountain. Coke was first sold in bottles in 1894 (the first experimental bottlings had started a couple of years before in 1891), but in most small towns, you could still order Coke ‘fresh’ out of the soda-fountain, served up to you by an occupation that has since disappeared, along with the soda-fountain…no this isn’t rude, it’s the actual job-title…but a fellow known as a ‘soda-jerk’ used to serve you your fresh, fizzy coca-cola, straight from the fountain. Soda-jerks probably got their name because they were constantly ‘jerking’ on the pump-handles which operated early soda-machines.
But what if you didn’t have the money to buy soft drinks? What then? Believe it or not, people used to make their own soft drinks! Yep, right at home in their kitchens. Mostly, it was lemonade or ginger beer, or other fizzy or sweet drinks made from the juice of various citrus fruits. You took lemon-juice, sugar, water and baking-soda (that’s Bicarbonate of Soda or Sodium Bicarbonate) and mixed the ingredients in correct quantities. You left the mixture to stand for a while, to give the baking-soda time to react with the lemon-juice and the other ingredients, the result being that it fizzed up, to create fizzy lemonade. You can still make homemade lemonade like this, and recipes are available on the internet. Some substitute the baking-soda and water for soda-water instead, but the results are all similar. Fizzy, sweet, lemon-flavoured goodness on a hot summer’s day.