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!
Milk Shakes, a frothy, cold beverage was all the rage in the late 19th century (though made without ice cream until the 20th century). Machines shook the beverage until the milk-fat whipped and the flavorings mixed in. Ice cream sodas and shave ice (first snow cones, sold as “snow balls”) became popular, too. Victorians, even in the Old West, enjoyed icy treats and drinks in the heat of the summer.