Early on, bubbles in wines were a headache for winemakers, as the natural carbonation would cause some bottles to burst, and would blow the corks out of others. In the 17th century, a thirsty and wise French Monk, Dom Perignon, realized that the wine in the “defective” bottles was actually very good. His approach was to simply use heftier bottles with sturdier corks to contain the sparkling liquid, while he studied the situation.
He went on to devise a rather complicated process of adding sugar and yeast to the bottled wine to produce carbonation. The mixture, called Liqueur de Tirage (French for “bottling liquor”), caused the tiny bubbles to form. Eventually, the yeast die off and accumulate in the neck of the bottles, thanks to the manual turning of the bottles (called riddling). After the wine has aged, the bottle necks are dipped into very cold water to freeze the yeast and force it out of the bottle. The result of this lengthy process is an effervescent wine, smooth and refreshing. Brewers followed in Perignon’s footsteps, and by the turn of the 18th century, fizzy beers and sparkling wines were available – but only the more adventuresome drinkers actually liked the new sensation. It took a while to catch on.
In 1772, English chemist Joseph Priestly was able to capture carbon dioxide in water, and 11 years later, Jacob Schweppe (the father of ginger ale and tonic water) began selling fizzy water in the United Kingdom. Priestly’s process allowed brewmasters and sparkling winemakers to control the carbon dioxide levels in their batches, thus producing consistency in their goods, which led to consumer loyalty.
In 1819, American Sam Fahnestock established the first soda fountain, mixing carbonated water and flavored syrup. Soon soda fountains spread across America.
But in 1886, American pharmacist John Stith Pemberton changed the face of the beverage world with his syrup of sugar, vanilla, kola nuts, coca leaves and other flavorings, mixed with carbonated water. Welcome Coca Cola – the darling of the soft drink world.
Your favorite Beer of the Month Club salutes all of the Forefathers of Carbonation!