So what happened to the soda fountain? For decades, it thrived as a "soft" alternative to bars, merging with ice cream parlors to create the ultimate dessert destinations. "Soda jerks" were bartenders in these places, whipping up every kind of incredible confection, from chocolate phosphates and egg creams to rootbeer floats and crazy sundaes. In the video here, you can see 1950s movie star Rock Hudson playing the role of a soda jerk, showing off his ice cream skills. But by the mid-1960s, the soda fountain was slowly going out of style. It was too easy to get bottled sodas in the supermarket, and besides everybody was starting to think it was kind of lame that sodas didn't actually get you very intoxicated anymore.


Eventually medical knowledge came full circle. Now one of the biggest health care crises in America is obesity, partly caused by sugary drinks like Coca Cola. And school districts fight to keep sodas out of the lunchroom, to prevent kids from getting a little too "invigorated" on the mix of caffeine and sugar syrup that are still key ingredients in many popular soft drinks. Yesterday's health elixir is today's health menace.

Meanwhile, old-fashioned soda fountains and ice cream parlors are making a comeback. Partly inspired by the craze for antique cocktail recipes, entrepreneurs are opening spots like San Francisco's Ice Cream Bar, where soda jerks will whip up a special soda for you with homemade tinctures, real acid phosphate, and even some tobacco flavor just for that 1889 feeling. Just thinking about having a ginger beer float makes me feel peppy and invigorated.