A Brief History of Soda

Assorted flavors and brands of glass soda bottles lined on two shelves
In the late 18th century an English chemist named Joseph Priestley created carbonated water by suspending a bowl of water over a vat of beer. The carbon dioxide escaping from the fermented beer found its way into the water and the rest, as they say, is history. The word "soda" can be attributed to the fact that carbonated water contains sodium chloride, sodium citrate and sodium bicarbonate. So it's no mystery why people began calling carbonated water "soda water". In this post, the team at Rocky Mountain Soda will look at the history of regular and natural soda, and track some of the ups and downs soda’s gone through since its invention.

Before There Was Soda, There Was Beer

We like to think of soda as being the first carbonated beverage but it actually was pretty late to the game when compared to beer. Beer has been around since before ancient Greece and was popular with the Roman plebs (but not the aristocrats who considered it vulgar and barbarian). And let’s not forget, Joseph Priestley (who we mentioned in the opening) hung his bowl of water over a vat of beer to infuse it with carbon dioxide and create soda water.

From Soda Water to Just Soda

Now that we’ve given props to beer for being the original carbonated beverage let's get back to the history of soda.

After Priestley first developed his method of creating carbonated water a decade and a half passed before anyone did anything with it. The person who first realized the commercial potential of soda was one Johann Jacob Schweppe, and if that name sounds familiar, it should. The company he founded in 1783 to sell his carbonated water is still in business today and is most famous for one particular product: Schweppe's Ginger Ale.

But although Schweppe’s original carbonated water was a hit with the upper crust most people at the time paid it little heed and it seemed like the commercial potential of soda water was perhaps limited. But the fates had something else in mind for Priestley’s invention.

Introducing: Flavor

At some point in the early 19th century, more than 20 years after Herr Schweppe started marketing his natural soda water, someone had a lightbulb moment and combined wine with carbonated water. The result would be familiar to anyone who’s ever had a wine spritzer. This new hybrid beverage became an instant hit, but there was a snag. Not everyone could afford the wine and carbonated water necessary to create the drink. And even though some folks began adding flavored syrups to soda water instead of the more expensive wine, uptake by the common man was still slow.

The Power of the Media

It wasn’t until after the end of the US Civil War that newspaper readership really took off in the US. And with the proliferation of newspapers came the proliferation of advertisements for all manner of Victorian era delights, including the newfangled flavored soda drinks. This caused a surge in demand for soda.

In 1892 an enterprising gentleman in Atlanta, Georgia patented a recipe for his own carbonated beverage that used cola nuts and a dash of cocaine to provide a nifty energy boost. He called his drink Coca-Cola or Coke for short. And although the cocaine was replaced with caffeine a few decades later the name Coke was here to stay.

Other soft drinks soon entered the market including modern staples like Hires Root Beer, Dr. Pepper and Pepsi. Again, however, there was an issue that was holding back the market: the lack of effective packaging. Because of that the new drinks were largely relegated to pharmacy soda fountains. But a lack of portability wasn’t the only issue. WWI, the Great Depression and WWII all dealt the fledgling soda industry major setbacks.

Enter the Soda Can

The decades following the Second World War saw the soda industry finally climb to its feet and start beating its chest. In 1948 Pepsi first began offering its product in cans, followed by Coke in 1955. In 1964 Royal Crown embraced the aluminum can and three years later Pepsi and Coke followed suit. 1962 saw the first pull tabs on cans, 1970 the first plastic bottles and in 1974 stay-on tabs were invented.

The rise of effective delivery methods for soda did create one significant victim: the venerable soda fountain. As more and more manufacturers embraced the can the popularity of these cultural touchstones began to wane, and by 1970 most soda fountains had been shut down for good.

Gluten-Free Vegan Natural Soda for a More Enlightened Age

Today soda is an integral part of global culture. Coca-Cola alone sells nearly two billion cans and bottles of its various sodas every day. But as soda has taken up a prominent place in the zeitgeist people have also begun to clamor for a better kind of soft drink.

Enter Rocky Mountain Soda.

Our natural soda is completely free of genetically modified organisms, as well as gluten, and is both vegan and kosher. We believe our customers deserve a soft drink they can enjoy without reservations, and the feedback we get from them only confirms that we’re on to something good. But don’t just take our word for it. Try any one of our soda flavors (or better yet, all of them) and see for yourself. We’re confident you’ll agree that Rocky Mountain Soda is what a soft drink should be.