A short history of soft drinks

What do you get when you mix something wet, something sweet and something fizzy? Soft drinks as we know them have been around since German inventor Johan Jakob Schweppe first started to bottle naturally carbonated mineral water in 1780.

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From natural bubbles to fizzy drinks

Naturally sparkling mineral springs have been around since the dawn of time. Once carbon dioxide was identified as the source of these bubbles, it was an easy next step to add the gas to still water for instant fizz.

The first Schweppe factory opened in London in 1792. Originally the water was shipped in egg-shaped bottles to preserve the bubbles. Soft drink production started in the early 19th century when flavoured syrups started to become all the rage and made a refreshing beverage mixed with fizzy water.

The king of them all

Syrup was the magic ingredient that turned fizzy water into a thirst-quenching soft drink. In 1886, American pharmacist John Pemberton – who was known as Doc – created a new syrup that he felt was particularly refreshing and capable of curing headaches and fatigue.

This beverage was Coca-Cola and it started a multi-billion-dollar soft drinks industry. Today, the familiar bottles and red and white branding are known all over the world.

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One of the chief attractions of all soft drinks was that they were alcohol-free. This meant they could be consumed freely during the 1920s and 1930s when Prohibition came into force in the US; in fact, Canada Dry ginger ale was marketed as an alternative to alcohol thanks to its look and colour.

Modern manufacturing methods

Water, syrup and carbon monoxide remain the three key ingredients of fizzy drinks; however, modern technology means that fizzy drinks no longer have to be bottled – instead, they can be dispensed using post mix equipment from suppliers such as https://empireuk.com/post-mix-equipment/. A similar effect can be achieved at home using a soda machine.

The syrup and water are mixed in proportions that are often a trade secret before being carbonated. Modern energy drinks have a very high caffeine content, while acidulants and colourings are used to create drinks with different flavour profiles. Concerns about sugar content and the introduction of the sugar tax in the UK have led to the use of various artificial and natural sweeteners in place of refined sugar.

Richard Anderson


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