The art of being a soda jerk was almost lost to history, at least until Darcy O’Neil’s “Fix the Pumps” was published. An entertaining read, “Pumps” documents the colorful history of the soda fountain from its earliest days through to its golden era of mixology and its dependence on patent medicines. If you’ve ever gotten nostalgic for the days of the soda fountain or wanted to investigate the history of this essential piece of Americana, this is the book to own.
Better than just a history of the soda fountain, “Pumps” features O’Neil’s exhaustive research and recreation of soda fountain classics like phosphates, cream sodas, and lactarts. Never heard of a lactart? Well, these drinks were popular in the early part of the 20th century at soda fountains, and they featured lactic acid as the agent to make the drinks, giving the drink a pleasant acid bite similar to a phosphate.
After the soda fountain history and the soda basics, O’Neil moves on to the art of making sodas. Home enthusiasts can learn how to properly pour soda, what the difference between a drink made “still” or “solid,” and what the proper tools and techniques are of this now-forgotten trade. For instance, who knew that soda foam can affect the perception of taste for soda drinkers? Well, O’Neil does, and he has plenty to say on the subject.
Are you thinking that this book falls into the too-wonky-to-enjoy category? “Pumps” is just the opposite. Subjects like albumen foam, soda’s influence on the cocktail, and tonka beans are all explored in easy-to-understand and approachable ways, leaving the reader both educated and amused.
In the final part of “Pumps,” O’Neil reconstructs syrups, extracts, and drink recipes so that readers can either recreate their own soda fountain favorites or experiment and apply them to things like cocktails and nonalcoholic beverages. Overall, this may be the most enjoyable section of the book. Drinks like the Piff Paff Puff and the Scorcher’s Delight are bound to amuse, and the combination of syrups is intriguing and well-researched.
Overall, “Fix the Pumps” is a great addition to anyone’s bookshelf. It provides great recipes and a unique insight into a forgotten piece of Americana, and it gives readers the tools needed to recreate the craft of the soda fountain at home.