Woman’s Favorite Tipple: 1888

1901 girl with ice cream soda.JPG


How the Delicious Ice Cream Soda Has Superseded Pink Lemonade.

“Strawberry and vanilla mixed, please, and don’t make it too sweet.”

There is the succulent sound of a syrupy pour, a gentle fizz and a gurgling gush, a delicate splash, as a lump of ice cream finds its way from a big metal scoop in the depths of the crystal glass, another agitato, appassionato, furioso, top off fizz, and the fair “guzzler” of Gotham is served with her ice cream soda.

Other people drink ice cream soda elsewhere, but not as they drink it her in New York—which is by the hour, by the minute, by the gallon, by the liquid ton. From early morn till dewy eve the stream of femininity and the stream of soda pass, ceaselessly, behind the window shades of the confectioner’s, where the delicacy is supposed to be served in its fizziest and most fascinating form. At a big desk, ear the door, and beneath a dangling placard, which bears the following instructive legend: “Buy your soda water checks here,” sits a placid and cold young woman, warbling a monotonous refrain, “One or two!” “Plain or cream?” and dealing forth small solferino [magenta-colour] waterproof tickets, which are eagerly pounced upon by the thirsting swarm and hurried away to the marble bar presided over by the rapid, elusive soda water clerk.

These clerks are usually girls, and they manipulate the ice-cream soda with a pleasing dexterity born of long and assiduous cultivation. They flit noiselessly among the array of bottles, deftly distinguishing Vichy from Apollinaris by the sense of “feel,” extract the juice from the slippery and deceptive lemon in the twinkling of an eye, never confuse chocolate with cranberry, nor insult the palate which craveth pineapple by the offer of sarsaparilla.

They mix and scoop and stir and serve the pushing, scrambling, insistent mass before them silently, swiftly, neatly and with an air of toleration which gives a qualified pleasure to the recipient. The writer followed one of these nymphs of the soda water fount to a quiet corner, whither she had repaired to quench her thirst with a glass of clear cold water, and when asked why she did not take an ice-cream soda she responded briefly with an amiable “Ugh!” expressive of nausea, which supplied all conversational deficiencies. Later, moved to further confidence, she placed one round jersey-clad elbow on the counter, mussed up her bang with one plum hand and proceeded to discourse, glad of a brief respite from the eternal mixing process.

“I don’t see how they can drink it! But then they don’t live in it as I do.”

“Been living in it long?” she was asked.

“’Bout four years now,” with a giggle which ended in a groan.

“Oh, yes, but you don’t serve ice-cream soda all the year around, you know.”

“Don’t we/ Well, I should remark that we did. Why, the rush begins here before the first of May and it keeps up harder ‘n harder all through June, July and August. In August the people tear in here and drink two or three sodas right down, one after ‘n other. They thin off through the fall till winter, and then, though we do an irregular business on the ice-cream, we sell the soda hot with bouillon, coffee and chocolate. Seem’s if people have got to drink something in New York all the time.”

“What is the favorite extract?” asked the writer. Not that it matters a flip whether Gotham soda water fiends prefer ginger beer to the nectar of the gods, but because of the hope of some amusing commentary from behind the bar.

“Oh, my! I couldn’t tell you that, but,” with a confidential lowering of the voice, “you mightn’t believe it, but do you know I’ve got so I can tell ‘em all apart—just what extracts they’ll take, I mean, and I can set them up—excuse me, you know what I mean—almost before they open their mouths. You see, it’s this way. The school girls all want strawberry and vanilla mixed, and the dark ones want coffee or chocolate, and the blondes, they take pineapple or lemon, and the old ladies call for sars’p’rilla, ‘cause its cooling to the blood, and the girls who come in with fellows want ‘just vanilla, plain’ –kind of innocent and simple—and the young widows always ask for Vichy, with ‘a touch of lemon.’ That’s where they’re smart. They can drink Vichy standing up straight and looking over the top of the glass. They don’t have to hang over it and snap for the ice cream, when it comes up, with one of these long spoons. Then Vichy don’t get up your nose and make it red, and make your eyes water. You’ll have to excuse me now—I’ll get bounced for loitering. See this girl coming in? She’s a raspberry.” And with a cheerful grin this small, slangy, soda water philosopher skipped back to her position at the other end of the counter.

New York World.

The Dayton [OH] Herald 8 February 1888: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is “National Ice Cream Day” in the United States and Mrs Daffodil now has a longing for what is called a “Brown Cow,” a concoction she has enjoyed when visiting in the States.  The ambrosial beverage contains chocolate syrup, vanilla ice-cream, and either Coca Cola or Root Beer, depending on what is in the ice-box. The passing of the old soda fountain is a matter of much regret to Mrs Daffodil, who also misses lime phosphates.

The soda fountain was known to be popular with courting couples–many gentlemen felt that indulging a sweetheart’s sweet tooth was a sound investment. And just as drug-stores often sold medicinal brandy, the soda fountain quietly catered to gentlemen who preferred a less sweet beverage.

Spiritus Frumenti

“What will you take, madam?” said the soda water clerk.

“A little strawberry in mine,” said she.

“And you, sir?” to the husband.

“Let me see,” (scanning the row of bottles which contained syrups) “Oh, yes; a little spiritus frumenti, if you please.”
And as they went off after drinking their soda water, she said softly: “Oh, George, how much better that is than drinking nasty horrid brandy, as you used to do before you joined the Murphy men, isn’t it?” and he said “he rather guessed it was.”

The Sunbury [PA] Gazette 28 June 1878: p. 1

The Murphy men, or Blue Ribbon Movement, were a temperance movement begun by Francis Murphy.


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s