August 6th is National Root Beer Float Day; in honor of this significant holiday, please enjoy the following historic articles about one of my favorite treats. (And don't forget to have one yourself!)
ORIGIN OF ICE-CREAM SODA WATER.
[Article written 1892]
The now quite general custom of serving ice cream with soda water is not of so recent origin as is commonly assumed. The American Carbonator is our authority for this history of the practice:
Mr. Eugene Rouselle, who kept an elegant establishment on Chestnut street, below Fourth, Philadelphia, and who first introduced bottled soda in the United States, used to dispense from his soda fountains what he called ice-cream soda. This was some thirty-five years ago. It was concocted as follows: He had arranged a carpenter's plane, bottom up. On this he shaved his ice. In a large glass he would put the desired syrup and a little plain cream. The glass was then treated to a liberal quantity of the shaven ice, and upon these the soda water was drawn. His syrups, cream and soda fountain were all kept buried in ice; consequently the beverage was as cold as the ice itself, and formed a most delicious and cooling drink in hot weather. Rouselle did a great soda business. Soon others took up his plan, but many of them found much trouble in it. Their cream was often sour; more ice was consumed than they liked. Then the fancy drug stores, all of which had soda fountains, adopted the plan of putting a spoonful of ice cream into the glass instead of plain cream and shaven ice. Some of them sweetened and drew the soda, and put a spoonful of ice cream on top. It is not known what druggist first followed the example, but ice-cream soda water did make its first appearance in Philadelphia at least thirty years ago.
-Source: "Origin of Ice-Cream Soda Water." Editorial. The Western Druggist: A Journal of Pharmacy, Chemistry, and Allied Sciences. Volume 14. 1892. page 185.
THE AMERICAN DRINK
[Article written 1897]
There has been much discussion of the question what might properly be selected as the national flower, and the delicate, sunny, graceful obiquitous [sic] golden rod, which blooms for all, has by general consent been given the post of honor. This question having been settled to the satisfaction of many at least, another may be raised: What is the national beverage? Not tea or coffee or beer or whiskey. All of these have their admirers in this country, but their use and abuse are not confined to America by any means. What then? The merry fizz of the soda fountain throughout the land is surely a sufficient answer to the question. The great American drink is soda in all its various forms. Those who have been abroad will tell you that soda water is a rarity in foreign countries and is not fit to drink. A fortune awaits the enterprising Yankee who first locates in Paris with a high grade soda fountain and reveals to the multitude at the French capital the delights of ice cream soda for two. Soda water, therefore, is as distinctively American as is pie or water melon, and has developed a tremendous industry. Fifty million dollars are invested in soda making apparatus. The soda water trust (for our favorite drink is both charged and trusted) is capitalized at thirteen millions.
The beginning of soda water is lost in the misty realms of the past. It is largely an evolution, yet someone must have made a start. Someone, utterly reckless for the stomach's sake, once stirred together a little common baking soda and tartaric acid, and drank the foaming compound with a relish. And what shall we say of that other who ten years ago dropped some ice cream into his glass of soda? Perhaps he, too, was experimenting; perhaps it was an accident, pure and simple. There is yet a third to complete this illustrious trinity of humanity's benefactors. The late John Matthews, of New York, was the first man to conceive the idea of manufacturing gas with which to charge water. This was in 1832.
Soda water, which by the way, contains no soda whatever, is water charged with carbonic acid gas and flavored to suit the taste. Like other things that are charged, it is largely a matter of faith. It used to be more faith than anything else. Nowadays there is less foam and more substance to the beverage. Carbonic acid gas, to which the world owes much, is a poison when taken into the lungs, but in the stomach it is said to be healthful. Soda water, then, shoud not be inhaled and should not be permitted to go down the wrong way. After performing its mission in a glass of soda water, the gas usually escapes through the nose of the drinker with a sensation which must be experienced to be appreciated. From this simple mixture of bi-carbonate of soda and tartaric acid developed a drink which consisted literally of wind to a great extent. Quantities of air were forced from a reservoir into the beverage to make it sparkle. Then came the use of carbonic acid gas, and John Matthews. Druggists used to make their own gas from sulphuric acid and marble dust, using extracts for flavoring. Now, there are large business firms growing rich in the manufacture of crushed fruit flavors for soda dispensers, and the carbonate acid gas is not a gas at all but a liquid when it reached the druggist. Subjected to great pressure, the gas is liquified and is then shipped in strong drums which hold twenty pounds, enough to charge one hundred gallons of water. And these drums of liquid gas for carbonating water are to be obtained - let this be whispered, not spoken aloud - from the nearest brewery. Think of it, ye teetotalers who smack your lips over your glasses of vanilla. It is true. Beer, too, is carbonated; the brewing companies, buying such quantities of the liquid gas, can get it purer than it can be made in small amounts. Consequently, the druggists buy theirs from the breweries whenever convenient.
From one fountain a great variety of drinks can be drawn according to the skill of the presiding genius. The soda water expert experiments with mixing flavors, produces a new drink and lies awake nights thinking up a name for it. The new mixture has a run for a few days and the thirsty public goes back to the standard flavors. Chocolate is the favorite. Next, in the order named, come vanilla, strawberry and lemon. The bulk of the ice cream soda is consumed by women and children. Men often enjoy it, but usually call for phosphates or egg drinks.
-Source: Burton, Charles Pierce. "The American Drink." Current Literature. Volume 21. 1897. p. 51.
[Article written 1896]
First and foremost, let me sound a warning which will stand much repetition. If you do not like the soda business, or think the fountain a nuisance, or consider the whole as demeaning to your profession, leave it severely alone. Should a clerk get some such notion in his head, either from you or from some one else, or because of his own inherent inertia, never send him to that part of the store, for he will drive away more custom in a day than the best of men can build up in a week. This applies to yourself also. Consider whether you are good at that line. Quite possibly it may be better to hire a boy.
When you have decided to go into soda water, get your thinking cap from the safety deposit vault and wear it occasionally. It is, in fact, a good plan to have it on all the time, for the necessity is that the dear public may know you are in business for keeps, remembering that it is the nickel in the public pocket which the soda magnate is intended to draw out...
Ice Cream Soda
If it is concluded to admit ice cream to the sacred precinct of the drug store soda fountain, and sooner or later you will be obliged to, go it strong, don't give a 1 percent solution; have it good and get a corresponding price. Ice cream cabinets have made this matter easy, and there are makers in plenty who will deliver you quantities as wanted, and if necessary several times a day.
A Jack Frost Freezer, which is not expensive, will furnish cream as needed, and is handy where trade is intermittent. The custard being made up each morning and kept on ice, a little may be poured into the trough from time to time during the day. The cylinder being kept packed with ice and salt, a turn or two of the crank pushes fresh-made cream from the spout into the tumbler.
There is this advantage in handling ice cream. The amount of syrup, of flavors and of plain cream consumed is reduced nearly one half, making the actual cost for ice cream soda but little more than for a good, rich glass of old-fashioned, regular "with cream." When an appreciative trade can be found, crushed fruits and shaved ice go well, or fruit and ice cream, either making a very taking combination.
In an endeavor to build up a good soda trade, or having so built, it is best to have in the store one or more hands to whom that shall be the principal occupation. I see many places where the boy is shouted for from the back room, to travel the length of a long store while two or three would-be drinkers are supposed to wait patiently [for] his slow advent. But whoever you have, whether man or boy or girl, skill and appropriate attire become an exceedingly large factor in the result.
-Source: Stevens, Luther F. "Soda Water." American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record: A Semi-monthly Illustrated Journal of Practical Pharmacy. Volume 29. July 1896. p. 3
HOW TO DRAW A GLASS OF ICE CREAM SODA
[Article written 1893]
Very few dispensers know how to draw a glass of ice cream soda properly. This may seem strange, but it is nevertheless a fact. The usual method is syrup first, ice cream next, then a little wind and water, that's all. This makes a very unsatisfactory drink as it is not properly mixed, and cannot be properly mixed in this manner, unless you use a spoon and make a mush of it. In drinking a glass of soda served as above, 1st you taste wind, 2d plain soda, 3d ice cream, 4th syrup, all separate. This leads the customer to think that your ice cream soda is bad, and he goes out dissatisfied, but had you mixed the drink properly, using the same material, no doubt he would have been well pleased.
I always teach my soda men to draw the syrup first, then turn on the fine soda stream a moment, then the course, and again fine till the glass is about one-half full, and the syrup is thoroughly mixed with the water, then drop in the ice cream, and top off with a fine stream of soda. In this way you have a glass of soda thoroughly mixed, with the ice cream in the center, floating around, and not adhering to the sides of the glass. Try my way and see if your customers are not better satisfied with the result.
-Source: Saxe, D.W. Saxe's New Guide, or Hints to Soda Water Dispensers. Chicago: The Saxe Publishing Co., 1893. pp. 21-22.
EVILS OF ENCOURAGING THE ICE CREAM SODA TRADE
THIS APPLIES ESPECIALLY TO DRUGGISTS
[Article written 1897]
In hot weather room is valuable and time is money at the soda counter, therefore the foreseeing and level headed dispenser will work every scheme possible to serve as many people in as short a space of time as he can. The old saw, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink," is, of course, true, - but experience teaches me that you can educate your soda trade to drink almost anything you have a mind to, providing always the drink has merit.
I claim (and I speak from experience, - not theory) the Ice Cream Soda trade is becoming every day more and more a nuisance to the druggist especially, and while you nearly all acknowledge this fact you claim there is no help for it, or your customers want nothing else but Ice Cream Soda. This is all nonsense and can easily be overcome by a little tact and skill on your part by introducing something new to deviate the attention of your customers from Ice Cream.
It is much easier now to make this change in your soda trade since nearly everybody, young and old, have taken to riding a wheel. Wheelmen of any experience whatever all know that Ice Cream Soda is not the proper drink to when riding, and they want something to quench thirst and relieve the dryness of the throat and tongue. There is nothing better for this purpose than one of Saxe's long, cool, Raspberry Cordials or Blood Orange Phosphates, and besides when you once get your customer educated to this style of drink while he will want three or four of them in an evening while riding; whereas one glass of Ice Cream Soda and two glasses of ice water is the old rule.
You can wait on ten customers for still drinks as quickly as one for Ice Cream Soda, and the per cent of profit is more than double. In other words, 100 customers for still drinks will not take any more time or room at your counter than ten (10) will for Cream Soda.
Now, then, is it not worth your while to push almost anything but Ice Cream Soda? I don't mean by this that you can do away with Ice Cream entirely, for there are lots of customers who will have nothing else, and especially if they think you are trying to palm off other drinks because you have no Ice Cream. Simply keep your Ice Cream in the back-ground and don't advertise it, for at present Ice Cream Soda needs no advertising. Get up a classified list of drinks in the form of a neat folder and place on your counter in a receiver of some kind suitable for the purpose; then every few days spring some new drink on your customers and push it hard for a week or so. Keep them guessing all the time and looking for something new. I don't mean in the way of new patent drinks, but something you can make yourself from SAXE'S FORMULA, cheap, practical, and easy to serve...
In regard to Ice Cream Soda again. Many who read this article will think, "Well, Saxe's ideas on this subject may be all right for a large city like Chicago or Boston, but it wouldn't work with my trade, for they positively won't have anything else but Ice Cream Soda." Well, now, how do you know they won't have anything else? Is it not a fact that you have never tried any scheme, and it is not a fact that right now the only sign you have up at your soda counter is one that tells them what fine Ice Cream Soda you have and what lots of it you give for a nickel? I tell you my idea WILL WORK, and in fact IS working to good advantage with the better dispensers in lots of places. This change cannot be accomplished in a day, or a month, or even in a year, but by degrees a wide awake dispenser can educate his trade to let Ice Cream Soda alone and to drink something that is far better, more refreshing and that yields a better per cent of profit. An old saying and a true one is that a good salesman is one who can sell, not what the customer wants, but what he (the salesman) wants to sell, and I wouldn't give five cents for a soda dispenser who couldn't do this. The two drinks I referred to in the commencement of this article, SAXE'S BLOOD ORANGE PHOSPHATE and RASPBERRY CORDIAL, are both winners, and great thirst quenchers, and if made exactly according to my instructions (using the Black Raspberry juice in both drinks) and pushed a little sill soom secure a reputation for themselves and become old reliables. Try them.
-Source: Saxe, D.W. Saxe's New Guide, or Hints to Soda Water Dispensers - Revised and Enlarged. Milwaukee: The Saxe Guide Publishing Co., 1897. pp. 10-14.
ICE CREAM SODA
SERVING ICE CREAM SODA.
[Article written 1901]
My experience leads me to believe that no one comes to your counter who knows so well when he has been properly served, as does the lover of an ice cream soda.
When we find as we do, in some places out of town, that the syrup is to be found largely at the bottom of the glass, and generally far too much of it, making the first taste of the drink very much like plain soda, and the last so sweet and sickish that one can hardly drink it; is it any wonder that the customer is disatisfied?
Never let this be said of a drink you serve.
Use good materials, and then by following these directions you will in a short time with a reasonable amount of practice become proficient.
The finest glass that can be used is a 14 1-2 oz thin soda glass. We now draw one ounce of syrup, or if it be a fruit flavor one-half the amount will be sufficient, into the glass. Then with the coarse stream we draw the glass about one-fourth full of soda, and with the fine stream mix the soda thoroughly. Your glass is then about one-half full. Now add your ice cream, and where fruits are used add them at the same time, then fill the glass nearly full with soda and syrup as well as possible, taking care not to cut the ice cream any more than than is necessary.
It is impossible to lay down any set rule as to the amount of syrup to be used, one must study the wants of a customer; but, as a general thing, the quantity given above will be correct. Young ladies generally like things sweeter than the gentlemen. Try and find out what each of your customers likes, and then always see that they have it.
Ice cream may be served with any flavor desired, though some are more preferable than others.
Ice Cream for Fountain Use
The question to settle first is, "Will it pay me to serve an ice cream soda?" Nearly every one does and space will not permit the discussion of the subject here.
-Source: White, E.F. The Spatula Soda Water Guide and Book of Formulas for Soda Water Dispensers. Boston: Spatula Publishing Company. 1901. pp. 54-57.