In its battle for market dominance, the Coca-Cola Company will often tout the fact that it has been around for longer than its primary competitor, Pepsi.
But although this is undeniably true, Coca-Cola is far from the oldest soda ever concocted, and that honorary title entirely belongs to a different regular soda.
So what’s the oldest soda ever made?
Vernors Ginger Ale is widely recognized as the world’s oldest soda by most people since it is made with carbonated water and has a distinct flavor.
That said, 1767 was the year carbonated drinking water was first created.
But the first flavored carbonated drink was this ginger ale, developed in 1866.
What Was the First Soda Ever Made?
Although people agree that Vernors Ginger Ale is the oldest soft drink. However, there’s certainly an argument to be made that Schweppe’s carbonated waters, first created in 1767, are the true heirs to the title of “Oldest Soda Ever.”
It boils down to how you define a soda beverage, which can vary from person to person.
Interestingly, most of the major soda brands we know and love today weren’t created until the late 1800s, after Vernors Ginger Ale.
Soda creation seemed to reach a peak 50 or so years where many of the world’s favorite sodas came into production one right after the other.
Schweppes vs. Vernors Battle of the Oldest Soda
The heart of the disagreement about which of the two fizzy drinks or sugary drinks is the first “soda” lies in the definition of what constitutes a soda pop the way we think of them today.
Technically speaking, the first time anyone could enjoy a beverage remotely similar to modern-day soda would have been 1767. Dr. Joseph Priestley, an Englishman, drank the first artificial glass of carbonated water.
As you might already know, all soda is defined by its fizzy or carbonated nature.
But few people would call mere carbonated water a soda.
The founder of the Schweppes Company, Johann Jacob Schweppe, manufactured and sold carbonated mineral waters starting in 1783, which is around 80 years before the first Vernors Ginger Ales were beginning to crop up.
Schweppe’s secret was the development of a special bottle that allowed his drinks to retain their carbonation over extended periods.
He also gained access to a machine enabling him to quickly carbonate large amounts of water.
His carbonated mineral waters became a sensation and allowed Schweppe to expand his business empire.
He even started selling Schweppe ginger ale when the formula was widely-accessible starting in 1870… which was four years after Vernors Ginger Ale had taken off.
What Was the First Flavored Soda?
So from one point of view, Schweppe managed to be the first person to sell carbonated beverages of any type, even if those beverages were just mineral waters.
But his company didn’t make carbonated ginger ale until after Vernors, so from that point of view, Vernors was the first true soda. Ginger ale, at least, has a distinct flavor to set it apart from other beverages.
If you hold the latter case to be accurate, then Vernors is the first true soda in the world.
Vernors beat Hires Root Beer, which came out ten years after Vernors’ successful Zevia Ginger Root Beer development: in 1876.
Vernors eventually acquired Hires Root Beer, so the two sodas were sold alongside one another, starting the soda popularity boom, which continues until today.
There’s also the fact that advances in refrigeration (and why does a cold soda taste better ?) and bottling technology allowed Vernors to reach a much wider market than the original carbonated waters ever could.
While full-blown refrigerators like we use today wouldn’t be seen for another several hundred years at least, Vernors certainly benefited from the improved technology of the time.
It may not have been possible for Schweppe to experiment with carbonated and more flavorful beverages due to the limitations of his time’s technology.
Overall, it’s largely up to you to decide which of these two beverages counts as the world’s oldest soda. But let’s dig deeper into the semantics of the argument to see if one holds more water than the other.
What Counts as Soda?
A soda pop or “soft drink” starts with one guaranteed aspect: a soda has carbonated water as its base ingredient.
While there are some rare exceptions to this rule, like lemonades that are advertised as sodas without any carbonation, the vast majority of soft drinks or sugary drinks have a distinct bubbly and fizzy texture that makes them a joy to drink.
Most sodas are also quite sweet and may have several different flavored ingredients to give them a particular identity or kick.
Soft drinks may have had some stimulants such as caffeine or, in the case of the original Coca-Cola, actual Coca.
But not all sodas have flavored ingredients. Take club soda as a well-known example.
Club soda is merely carbonated water and is often used as a mixing element in alcoholic beverages. If club soda counts as a soft, then Schweppe’s carbonated mineral waters would surely be the oldest.
But others might consider club soda a soft drink since no one guzzles it.
Why is club soda not good for you?
Though club soda shouldn’t be included in your diet to get nutrients, you’ll get negligible amounts of minerals, calcium, iron, and zinc with each 12-ounce serving.
If you’re watching your sodium intake, you’ll want to know that a 12-ounce serving of club soda contains 75 milligrams of sodium.
No evidence suggests that carbonated or sparkling water is bad for you.
It’s not harmful to dental health and does not lead to chronic diseases. It seems not to affect bone health.
A carbonated drink may enhance digestion by improving swallowing and reducing constipation.
Some might believe that real sodas must have a distinguishing ingredient or taste to separate them from other beverages.
This is supported by the vast majority of modern-day soda pop drinks are heavily flavored and packed with sugar.
Carbonated water is the only common element in all technical definitions of what makes up soda, and a soda cannot be a soda without some aspect of carbonation.
What About Classic Sodas?
While the world’s oldest soda isn’t something you can find at the local fast-food restaurant, many classic favorites are much older than you might think.
For instance, Dr. Pepper is the oldest of the classic sodas that many people identify with in their youth and with the booming restaurant industry.
Dr. Pepper was made available as early as 1885. It was developed in Texas by a pharmacist named Charles Alderton, and it contained the unique mixture of 23 different distinct flavors that people associate with soft drinks today.
Humorously, Dr. Pepper was initially called a Waco.
Dr. Pepper has its official name from the store owner’s friend where the drink was initially sold: Dr. Charles Pepper.
Coca-Cola famously came just one year later, in 1886. It was developed as a substitute for morphine, originally.
Coca-Cola started as a mixture of wine and Coca but was then transformed into a carbonated drink with its distinct flavor.
The final soda pop of the “Big Three” was Pepsi. It was developed in 1893 by Caleb Bradham, who utilized an interesting mixture of nutmeg, caramel, kola nuts, lemon oil, and sugar to give the soft drink its much sweeter taste compared to its main rival Coca-Cola.
Eventually called Pepsi-Cola in 1898, the soft drink’s creator lost the company, although Pepsi lived on to become the soda juggernaut it is today.
Interestingly, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi were successful enough to purchase other soda companies beneath their separate corporate umbrellas eventually.
Dr. Pepper is somewhat shared by both companies and is bottled by Coca-Cola or Pepsi, depending on the region in which it is created.
Beyond the Big Sodas
What about sodas that aren’t the top three of Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, or Pepsi?
The first root beer, Hires, was developed in 1876, just after the first ginger ale. Curiously, the drink was initially just sold as a powder that could be mixed at home, although this naturally did not have the carbonation associated with soft drinks unless you could make your own.
Eventually, Hires began selling its root beer in carbonated bottles to great success.
Barq’s Root Beer is much more well-known to the general population and came out in 1898.
It wasn’t initially called root beer since Hires had attempted to trademark the term entirely.
Eventually, however, Barq’s became the well-known root beer brand it is today and is currently owned by Coca-Cola.
Other notable early soda mentions include Moxie, developed in 1885. Moxie, like Coca-Cola, was initially created as a curing element designed to help people in pain and give energy levels that did not have ingredients like Cocaor alcohol.
Although Moxie was very popular in the early decades of the 20th century, it slowly declined in popularity and is now much more obscure. You can typically find Moxie in the northeastern United States.
You can still pick up Moxie here on amazon as well as some rare and classic Soda’s here also on amazon.
There’s also Fioravanti, one of the oldest soda brands in the world, and an Italian immigrant who developed it in Ecuador named Juan Fioravanti.
It’s notable because it was developed in 1878, very early compared to many other soda brands, and because it was created in a country outside the United States.
Today, Fioravanti aluminum cans of soda can be purchased primarily in Spain and South America, well known for its wide variety of fruity flavors.
Flickr Image Credits & thanks
Five Starr Photos
I’m the owner and blogger here at SodaPopCraft.Com. I’m a soft drinks enthusiast and I’m bringing you all I know and research from the world of Soda Pop & Kombucha soft drinks.
I hope it inspires you to make your own healthier fizzy drinks at home.
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