Drugs, Nazis and lies: a history of fizzy drinks

By Jamie Hill - 10 October 2018

Food & Drink

The next time you crack open your favourite carbonated can of pop – take a moment to think about the hidden and surprisingly dark history of fizzy sugar water.

The first carbonated drinks were an attempt to produce imitation mineral water, popular at the time because of their supposed curative powers.

In 1767, the first drinkable man-made glass of carbonated water was created by Englishman Doctor Joseph Priestley and three years later, Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman invented a way of mass producing fizzy water with apparatus that used sulphuric acid to liberate carbonated water from chalk.

The consumption of flavoured ‘soft drinks’ took off in America where they were seen as a healthy alternative to alcohol and early US pharmacies with soda fountains grew in popularity and by the 1920s soft drinks enjoyed a boom in popularity both in Europe and the US.

The most famous fizzy drink of them all was Coca Cola, invented by confederate Colonel John Pemberton who was wounded in the American Civil War and then became addicted to morphine.

In an effort to wean himself off the painkiller, he was inspired to create Coca Wine nerve tonic, later called Coca-Cola which he boldly claimed cured morphine addiction, indigestion, nerve disorders, headaches, and even impotence – who knows, this might be true, given that up until 1929 the drink contained varying amounts of cocaine or perhaps it was just marketing fizz.

Fanta, the fizzy orange drink, is almost as well known as Coke, but shares an equally troubling past. Coke had been hugely popular in Germany in the years leading up to the Second World War – with the brand becoming one of the official sponsors of  the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

With the outbreak of war, it became increasingly difficult to transport the key ingredients to Germany because of various embargoes on imports to the Nazi regime.

In response the Coke company created Fanta, from the German Fantastisch, using fruit ingredients. Fanta proved popular in Germany but didn’t really make it to the world stage until the 1970s.

And we’re not going to let 7-Up off the hook either – up until the 1950s, the drink contained lithium citrate, a mood-enhancer. But now of course all fizzy drinks are perfectly healthy for you… apart from all that sugar… or sweeteners or the bottling plants built on disputed land on the West Bank.

Fizzy drinks are no longer a gamble but you can always head to a casino if you still fancy a flutter at ComeOn voucher code (which is a very useful casino finder).

Bring back the cocaine I say!


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