The term ‘soft drink’ is used to mean any cold drink which does not contain alcohol. Strictly speaking, a soft drink is actually more specific. It is a carbonated drink containing sugar and flavourings.
Romans and Greeks, 2000 years ago, believed in the curing values of bathing in mineral water. In the 1700s Europeans and Americans started to drink mineral water, believing it to be beneficial to health. In 1809 soda water was patented in the US; it was made by adding bicarbonate of soda to water. Pharmacists believed that this beverage could be a cure for all ills, including hangovers.
If you are interested in investigating further and would like to find out more about the wider history of food and drink, take a look at: https://www.history.ac.uk/library/collections/food-history.
In the 1700s and 1800s soft drinks were the focus of pharmacies rather than shops. Soda fountains became popular meeting places. In the 1830s soda water was put into glass bottles. Ever more interesting flavours began to be made, including ginger and lemon. Coca-Cola is a combination of coca leaves and cola nuts. West African workers chewed the cola nuts and Bolivian Indians chewed coca; both groups found that these plants were good for warding off fatigue and acting as a stimulant. In 1886 John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, combined the two, thus creating the famous drink.
The production of soft drinks in pubs and cafes nowadays is more straightforward, with the availability of post mix suppliers, eliminating the need for soda syphons. The syrups are dispensed in measured quantities and mixed with carbonated water. This transition is rooted in the change from using bicarbonate of soda to the invention of the crown cap in 1892; the cap contained the carbon dioxide gas in glass bottles.
The term ‘soft drink’ was preferred to the alternatives of ‘marble water’ and ‘syrup water’ and it was hoped that it would overtake the popularity of ‘hard liquor.’ This did not happen though. Post mix suppliers have brought the soft drink industry on a long way; the emergence of companies such as Empire UK post mix suppliers is testament to this.
This whistle-stop tour of the history of the soft drink just shows how from humble beginnings carbonated water has had such an important part in our history and drinking habits.