Wikimedia/ Library of Congress
If you only think of Coke and Pepsi when you hear the words "soda fountain," you’re forgetting the classic drinks' roots. Long before soda meant extra calories and sugar, soda fountains were all the rage — and they’re making their comeback today.
Manmade carbonated drinks were discovered in 1767, explains Darcy O’Neil of the blog The Art of the Drink, but it wasn’t until the soda syphon was invented by Charles Plinth in 1813 that the idea took off. By 1836, there were an estimated 630 soda fountains in New York City; by 1875, "there was a soda fountain in almost every city across America," writes O’Neil on his blog. "It was now becoming part of the American culture. In the peak of summer, sales were reaching 1,200 glasses of soda per day." By 1925, there were about 125,000 soda shops. And those sodas were, well, addicting. In quite possibly the best newspaper article ever, a 1902 Los Angeles Times story compares Coca-Cola to cocaine (which, in fact, was in Coca-Cola long before regulations were put in place): "A well-dressed business man yesterday dropped into a Spring-street ice-cream parlor, where soda water may be had in all its alluring variety of concoctions. As soon as he had entered the door, one of the white-coated attendants said to another, 'There comes one of our coca cola fiends.'"
This isn't to say that you should be using soda like drugs, but we’re excited that the old-time confections from soda shops, pharmacies, and soda fountains are gaining speed the same way craft cocktails did five years ago. As Imbibe points out, it was the soda jerks that first picked up the ice picks, homemade syrups, shakers, and strainers that you find so commonly behind the bar at your favorite craft cocktail bar these days. If you’re looking to switch up your bar routine, look no further than a soda shop. From Philadelphia to the Twin Cities to Los Angeles, we’re finding soda shops cropping up with innovative concoctions. Click ahead to see why we love soda fountains, and why we’re excited they’re coming back.