“The soda fountain was once an equivalent to the local saloon,” says Darcy O’Neil, the author ofFix the Pumps, a history of the golden age of soda fountains. In 1875, he explains, there was a soda counter in almost every American city….
“In the beginning, pharmacists are using good flavors to hide flavors they need us to drink,” explains mixologist Owen Thompson….
So, you’d walk into the pharmacy, pick up your foul-tasting medicine, and then walk to the other side of the counter, where the pharmacist had a soda jerk. He’d mix the medicine with a sweet, flavored syrup and soda water.
“At first, [the pharmacists] used sweetened soda water to conceal the taste of bitter drugs like quinine and iron. Then they started to add more exotic substances,” says O’Neil, the drink historian. (NPR)
Photo: A 1939 soda jerk flips ice cream into malted milk shakes in Corpus Christi, Texas. (Library of Congress)