Behind the 19th century soda fountain counter, “baristas” known as Dispensers or Soda Men, knew a tremendous amount about customer service, the making of an ever-growing list of beverages, and the care and use of operating the soda apparatus. While other trained men mixed syrups, compounded recipes for everything from soda water to flavorings to syrups, and cleaned and repaired the machines, this article focuses on the Soda Men and their key role in the success of a Victorian-American Soda Fountain. This post is filled with primary-source recipes, tips for excellent customer service, and instructions to properly pour a soda water or ice cream soda.
The Soda Fountain was a hallmark of late Victorian-era United States culture. Numerous patents and patent renewals show the developments in technology–just how complicated and how effectively simple the designs were. Vintage newspaper articles explain Europe’s reaction to Dows’ Soda Fountain in the American Restaurant at Paris’s Universal Exhibition. Soda fountains have come a long way!