Fun and Bubbles: A History of Fizzy Drinks
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From soda to champagne, the ‘fizz’ factor in drinks is one of the most exciting beverage attributes there is. Love it or hate it, there is some sort of wonder that somehow a drink can just produce bubbles. Even though this kind of bubble technology may seem recent, fizzy drinks have had a long history.
At its core, the fizz from drinks comes from the dissolving carbon dioxide within water. The carbon dioxide can be trapped within the water under pressure through artificial or natural means, and once that pressure is released, the carbon dioxide in bubble form starts to rise to the top of the liquid and gets released into the air (Cnet). Before we started finding ways to artificially carbonate liquids, there was always been sources of naturally carbonated water, namely mineral water. Natural mineral water gets its carbon dioxide from its surroundings, such as limestone or volcanic magma (Gerolstiner, ThoughtCo.) Mineral water has been tauted as a curative substance (Alimentarium). In the Middle Ages, people would drink and bathe in it to get rid of their aches and pains.
One of our most early and well-known forays into fizzy drinks was through alcohol. When it comes to drinks like sparkling wine and champagne, the carbon dioxide gas is a product of the fermentation process (scroll.in). Some of that fermentation happens after bottling. Because the bottle is closed, the carbon dioxide can’t escape, building pressure within the bottle and storing large quantities of gas within the drink. Perhaps the most iconic example would have to be champagne. The 17th-century French Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon, is widely regarded as the one most responsible for initially refining the bottling and creation of champagne. Ironically, Dom Pérignon spent most of his life trying to figure out how to make wine less bubbly (National Geographic). He made great strides in finding the best ways to bottle and cork wine for later consumption.
In the soft drink department, artificially carbonated water did not become available until the latter part of the 1700s. Before that, vendors would sell non-carbonated water sweetened with lemon juice and honey (Thought Co.) In 1767, English scientist Joseph Priestly was the first person to artificially dissolve carbon dioxide into water. However, 13 years later in 1780, Johan Jakob Schweppe made a more efficient way to carbonate water (Alementarium). Johan believed in the health properties of carbonated water and wanted it to be available for everyone. The first bottles made were egg-shaped to better retain gas. Most carbonated beverages were marketed as health and spa drinks across the United States and Europe for a while. Physicians believed that drinking mineral water would be healthy for you (ThoughtCo). Pharmasists started adding medicinal and flavorful ingredients like birch bark, sarsaparilla, and fruit extracts to the unflavored mineral water to add to its supposed benefits and make it taste better. The first person to be credited for making a flavored carbonated soft drink was Dr. Philip Syng Physick. Many of the most iconic soft beverages were created during the 1800s, including ginger ale (1851), root beer (1876), and cola (1881).
Fizzy drinks have long been with us, and we have always been trying to tinker with ways to best refine and distribute carbonated drinks. While the alcoholic fizzy drink has been with us since the invention of alcohol itself, the carbonated soft drink did not really come into its own until the 1700-1800s. Either way, carbonated drinks have become a fixture in many people’s lives through today, and it’s here to stay.