I saw this 1907 ad and all I could think was YUCK. Hot Coca Cola? There is nothing worse than that can of soda you forgot about, that sat on the counter all afternoon, and now its warm and flat and when you take a sip you sort of gag and pour the rest down the sink. And what else could “hot Coca Cola” taste like?
Well, dear reader, I am not afraid to take serious gustatory risks for your edification, so I tried it. But before I give you the hot Coke low down, maybe you’re wondering what I was wondering: why on earth would anyone even think of HOT Coke, for pete’s sake?
Soda fountains were hugely popular back at the turn of the century. Maybe you’ve seen an “old fashioned ice cream parlour” in a beach town or tourist destination. When I was a kid we had Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor: black and white tile floors, ceiling fans, Victorian stained glass, cane back chairs, and about 200 kinds of ice cream and syrup concoctions. The soda fountains of 1900 were similar: cold soda drinks and ice cream novelties, served in a sit-down parlor. Ice cream and candy usually went together. In fact, the word “confectionery” was used to refer both to ice cream and candy! Basically, sweet stuff. Besides the sugar link, ice cream and candy would be combined for another practical reason: ice cream and soda were cold, and popular in the warm seasons. And candy, especially anything with chocolate, was strictly for the cooler months. No air conditioning, remember? So if you sold soda and candy, you could keep your business afloat year round.
And then someone came up with a solution to the seasonal limits on the soda fountain: hot soda. Why not offer hot drinks for the cold season, and keep the soda customers coming all year long? The idea was to use what was on hand, but make it hot. Hot chocolate was the obvious choice to anchor the menu. Then you had a lot of possibilities for hot liquid offerings (well, not all of these would be such a hit today: beef tea (boullion), beef and celery (beef tea with celery salt), beef and tomato (with ketchup), lactated beef or cream boviline (add sweet cream to beef tea, yikes!), hot lemon, hot ginger (ginger ale), hot ginger puff (add cream and whip cream), clam bullion, tomato bullion, chicken broth, oyster broth
Hot Coca Cola doesn’t seem so odd in the company of hot lemon and hot ginger and cream boviline. So was it any good?
The report from the Candy Professor test kitchen: Actually, hot Coca Cola is a nice hot drink! The candy kid nailed it: “It tastes the same, except it is hot.” The trick to enjoying it is that you have to stop anticipating the experience of cold soda. The bubbles boil out quickly as soon as you heat it, so it is not fizzy like cold soda. Imagine Celestial Seasons “Mandarin Orage Spice” with more cherry and plum, and then add about a cup of sugar, and that’s about how it tastes. Too sweet for me, but I don’t add sugar to my coffee or tea either.
Sources: “The Hot Soda Season,” Confectioners Journal Jan. 1908, p 102; “Making and Dispensing Hot Soda” Confectioners Journal Jan. 1909, p. 80.