Who Invented Cream Soda And Where Did The Idea Come From?

There are few greater tastes of summer than cream soda with an infusion of CBD, but the origins of the drink come from a dessert and a strange new movement.

Nellie Charle

It is difficult to think of a drink that is a more refreshing representation of summer than a cream soda.

The super-sweet vanilla, the chilly fizz of a soft drink and the infusion of CBD make for a drink that is perfect for a relaxing summer’s day, combining everything you can think of wanting when you want to relax in the sun.

However, cream soda is older than you might think, its original recipe is nothing like the drink we have today and it was made as part of a growing movement that would strongly shape over a century of social history.

A Sweet Remedy

The very first recipe for cream soda was found in an 1852 edition of the Michigan Farmer and is very different to the golden vanilla flavour that we have today. In fact, it predates the ice cream float that helped inspire modern cream sodas by several years.

The drink in question is made from water, Epsom salts, egg, milk and sugar. The ingredients were mixed together, heated and then mixed again once cooled with bicarbonate of soda to make it a fizzy drink in an era before carbonation.

By 1856, the earliest forms of ice cream floats or sodas were being sold that literally combined syrup, sparkling water and a scoop of ice cream to create what would become an American diner favourite.

The cream soda we know today came about thanks to Dr Brown’s, a soft drink company formed in 1869 as a door-to-door sales company specialising in celery-flavoured drinks before expanding to incorporate cream soda not long afterwards.

Dr Brown’s cream soda was far more like the common soda we have today than an ice cream float, being golden-brown in colour and more clearly flavoured with vanilla, and there are other patented recipes from 1865 and 1885 for similar drinks made in slightly different ways.

What is rather unusual is that cream soda was originally designed not as a drink for socials or to evoke the flavour of an ice cream float, but to be a drink that people could make to comply with the Maine law and the temperance movement of the mid-19th century.

The Fizz Of Temperance

The original 1852 recipe for cream soda described it as a drink that people would prefer to those made by “Uncle Bacchus”, a reference to Dionysus, the Greek/Roman god of wine.

This makes it impossible to talk about cream soda without talking about its temperance influence, as at the time there was a turning point for people looking to ban alcohol from society.

The Maine Liquor Law was enacted in 1851 and became a turning point for a movement that up to this point was largely a small group of radicals focused on promoting education about the effects of alcohol and promoting teetotalism to advocating for the prohibition of its sale.

It was one of the first-ever prohibition laws that was passed, banning the sale of all alcoholic beverages except those used for mechanical, manufacturing or medicinal purposes. 

Incidentally, the Maine Law is the reason why Maine Road, the former home of Manchester City Football Club, is named as such. It was the homeplace of the United Kingdom Alliance, a temperance movement inspired by the success in the state of Maine.

More directly, the Maine Law inspired 12 of the 50 United States to also pass so-called “dry laws” banning the sale of alcohol, and whilst it only lasted until 1856, when the Portland Rum Riot spread by a rumour that he was keeping alcohol in Portland City Hall and forced a repeal, the shadow it cast loomed large.

The temperance movement would only increase from there, which inspired the more widespread creation of soft drinks and the popularity of ice cream floats, cream sodas and cola drinks in the latter part of the 19th century and during Prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s.

Whilst a light-hearted drink now with dozens of regional variations to account for the tastes of different countries, cream soda’s history is tied to the temperance movement, and whilst the repeal of Prohibition has led to rather ironic cocktails mixing it with alcohol, it only serves to prove how fascinating a history cream soda has.

Incidentally, the very reason why vanilla flavouring was chosen for cream soda is because it makes any drink, regardless of ingredients, texture or flavour, taste milky and creamy.

Infusing CBD, if anything, adds another unique aspect to the flavour and offsets the sweetness you often get with conventional cream sodas.