The Ladies' Tea Guild

Monday, June 1, 2009

More Victorian soft drinks

Soft drinks, as we know them (i.e. soda, soda pop, cola, etc.) seem to have been invented in the early 19th century as a health drink; mineral waters had been touted as a healthy liquid for bathing in (the origin of spas), and were recommended health-giving beverages, as well. Some mineral water was naturally fizzy or carbonated, and the custom of making fruit-flavored or herb-flavored fizzy beverages began in imitation of these fizzy mineral waters. Recipes for these drinks, which could be compounded at home, rather than at the apothecary or druggist's shop, involved the combination of cream of tartar, baking soda, and water with sugar and flavorings. The prepared powders were often called "sherbet" or "kali", and were meant to be assembled in advance, and then mixed with cold water immediately before serving. The following recipes are from a book called Inquire Within for Anything You Want to Know, published in 1858.

Lemon and Kali, or Sherbet
.—Large quantities of this wholesome and refreshing preparation are manufactured and consumed every summer; it is sold in bottles, and also as a beverage, made by dissolving a large tea-spoonful in a tumbler two-thirds filled with water. Ground white sugar, half a pound; tartaric acid, carbonate of soda, of each a quarter of a pound; essence of lemon, forty drops. All the powders should be well dried; add the essence to the sugar, then the other powders; stir all together, and mix by passing twice through a hair sieve. Must be kept in tightly-corked bottles, into which a damp spoon must not be inserted. All the materials may be obtained at a wholesale druggist’s. The sugar must be ground, as, if merely powdered, the coarser parts remain undissolved.

Ginger-Beer Powders. Blue paper: Carbonate of soda, thirty grains; powdered ginger, five grains; ground white sugar, one drachm to one drachm and a-half; essence of lemon, one drop. Add the essence to the sugar, then the other ingredients. A quantity should be mixed and divided, as recommended for Seidlitz powders.—White paper: Tartaric acid, thirty grains.
Directions.—Dissolve the contents of the blue paper in water, stir in the contents of the white paper, and drink during effervescence. Ginger-beer powders do not meet with such general approbation as lemon and kali, the powdered ginger rendering the liquid slightly turbid.

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)