The Oldest Soda Brand In The World

Soda is enjoyed worldwide, but nobody goes for it quite like North America. Mexico and the United States rank as the world's first and second largest consumers of soda, respectively, each putting down around 5,000 ounces of soft drinks per capita each year, more than twice as much as third place Brazil (via Statista). Even with Canada failing to make the top 10 (come on, guys, catch up), you'd imagine that soft drinks were born on this soda-crazed continent, but you'd actually be wrong. The origin of seltzer lies an ocean away.

People first fell for fizz at European mineral baths, some of which had naturally sparkling water. One particularly popular example could be found in the German town of Selters, from which "seltzer" gets its name, per Atlas Obscura. These springs were so popular that, in the 1700s, people began experimenting with ways to manually carbonate water and increase its availability. There were some early successes by a pair of Englishmen, Joseph Priestley — who forced carbon dioxide-rich air into water by squeezing a pig's bladder, reportedly leaving a faint taste of urine in the drink (via The Atlantic) — and John Nooth, who developed a machine that resembled a primitive SodaStream (via ScienceDirect). Still, nobody had managed to make sparkling water affordable and easy to distribute. The world needed a hero, and as it so happened, he was waiting right where the seltzer craze began.

Schweppes started in 1783

Johann Jacob Schweppe was born in the town of Witzenhausen in the German state of Hesse, where Selters is located (via History of Beverage). A professional watchmaker with clear mechanical inclinations, he developed a method of bottling carbonated water, keeping it under pressure to preserve the fizz. In 1783, he founded his eponymous company, Schweppes, in Geneva. According to Coca-Cola, which owns the distributing rights to Schweppes in much of Europe and Asia, he later moved its headquarters to England. At 239 years of age and counting, Schweppes is not only the oldest soda brand in existence but the first bottled soft drink, period (via RFDTV).

Schweppes did not introduce a flavored beverage until 1835, nearly four decades after Johann Jacob Schweppe's retirement (via Schweppes). The first flavor was lemonade, followed in the 1870s by Schweppe's still-iconic ginger ale and tonic water. Some might argue that Schweppes did not really become a "soda" brand until it started selling these flavored (and sugared) options, but even if you go by that metric, it still ranks as the world's oldest soft drink. By comparison, Vernor's ginger ale, the oldest soda in the United States (per RFDTV), didn't come around until 1866, more than 30 years after people started sipping Schweppe's lemonade.