Brandy has an extended history, and is made by the process of distilling wine. It became popular as an export from Europe in the 16th century, while the invention of soda water occurred much later, in the late 18th century. Surprisingly, both were considered healthful drinks. In fact, combining brandy and soda was thought to take advantage of two medicinal favorites, brandy with its calming effects, and soda water, which was considered to be inherently good for people.
You can find references to brandy and soda in journals dating back to the early 19th century. Soda could help cut the taste of inferior brandy, and it was drunk as both a medicinal, and simply for its flavor. Civil war participants write about the amount of brandy and soda consumed, and the drink occurs in numerous examples of Victorian autobiography and fiction. It is often particularly associated with England, where brandy remained more popular than whisky and soda.
Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Drinking and Drugs - Brandy - Brandy and Soda
Whisky at this period was literally an unknown beverage in London - possibly because the supply could never have equalled the demand, or more probably because science had not yet evolved the diabolical concoctions that now do duty for the wine of Bonnie Scotland. And so it came to pass that the staple drink at Lane's was brandy and soda. Come in when one chose, there stood battalions of soda with brandy in reserve, and rarely did a wayfarer return at the small hours without calling for a libation from old Peter. Occasionally, after an unusual run, the supply might become exhausted, but no temptation could induce the old janitor to retail what had been reserved on "special order."
'One of the Old Brigade' (Donald Shaw), London in the Sixties, 1908
I am a life-long fan of this drink. I was nearly ejected from a Boston restaurant for sending back the "Brandy and Soda" three times. It seems that someone had reversed the Sprite hose with the Club Soda hose on the beverage gun, and I was getting brandy and Sprite… a sickening mixture. On the third time, I insisted that they were doing it wrong, and suggested that the waiter AND barman try it themselves. The barman did and confirmed that the soda hoses had been switched. Vindicating my claim, he offered me another, but the waiter suggested a different drink instead: "Can I bring you something fresh? How about a bourbon and ginger [ale]?"
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