Can you imagine a far away time in New York when soda fountains were everywhere? In 1836, when NYC was much, much smaller there were 670 soda draught fountains would you believe. And then they just got more and more popular as various combinations of sweetened syrups, ice creams and other flavors were added. They became palaces, built with gilt and marble, gold and mirrors not to mention the beauty of the actual soda fountains temselves with their high curving pipes of silver with the handleaat just the right height for the soda jerk to grab and pull.
These soda jerks were the then masters of mixology before those upstart cocktails mixers got in on the act. Soda jerks added little understood drops of this and that, swirled in bright syrups, jerked those soda fountains to add the soda, used spoons and even shakers to get the right froth and mix and then perhaps topped off a delicious drink with something that added even more deliciousness. And everyone met at the soda fountain and socialized because it was safe, fun and besides that’s just where everyone went.
Then it all ground to a halt in the 1940′s because mass produced carbonated drinks were being sold, many soda fountains became automated and they all but vanished. In NYC today you can find a few leftovers like the Lexington Candy shop in the Upper East Side and Eddies Sweet ShopBrooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain doing very well by pitching nostalgia and also capitalizing on the Brooklyn preference for all things artisanal. Another is Hamilton Soda Fountain & Luncheonette in Greenwich Vilalge also tapping into that same rich vein of nostalgia.
One great byproduct of this new intereset in the art of being a soda jerk and creating fabulous concoctions using soda has been a revival of interest on some of NYC’s most iconic drinks such as the Egg Cream, which as everyone will tell you has neither egg or cream in it. But it is the Ground Zero of soda foutain mixology. If you can’t make one that passes the high bar of authenticity set by long time aficionados of the drink then your chances of being successful in the soda fountain business are not bright.