In today’s world of craft brew and curated cocktails, it’s hard to imagine the days of Prohibition. How did people get through the toils of life without cocktails? And, with what drinks did they pair their food?
It just so happens that soda fountains and lunch counters were just becoming hip and popular in 1919, at the start of Prohibition, and they offered a variety of non alcoholic drinks to enjoy. We blame Prohibition on the growth of the mob and organized crime. But could one good thing to come out of Prohibition be our love for ice cream drinks? If alcohol were not taken away from us for two decades, would we not be a nation of malt, selzer, and icey lovers?
To stay in business, many pre-Prohibition breweries turned to soft drinks or ice cream production. The Bruckmann Brewery, in Northside, was one of the few Cincinnati breweries that made it through prohibition. They changed production to Root Beer, and a ‘medicinal malt tonic.’ They were so successful, they bought a second brewery facility in Camp Washington to keep up with demand. A 1925 menu from a local lunch counter, Schroder’s Little White Bungalow Barbeque on Colerain Avenue in Northside gives us a peak into the variety of nonalcoholic drinks offered.
Shroder’s was pure Cincinnati lunch stand. They offered Turtle Soup and Chili for 15 cents each. In addition to barbecue beef and pork sandwiches, they also offered one of my favorites –a Pimento Cheese Sandwich.
For liquid refreshment, Schroder’s offered Brucks Root Beer and their Malt Tonic Beverage, which had alcohol, but was more like a Near Beer. They also offered a variety of soft drinks like Vernor’s Gingerale, Sunshine Grape Drink, and Orange Crush.
One of the other sodas on their menu was something called Green River. It was made by the Shoenhofen brewery in Chicago, Illinois, to help them get through Prohibition, just like Brucks and their sodas and malt tonics. The Schoenhofen brewery was in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, at Canalport and, oddly enough, 18th street (the number of the amendment stating Prohibition). It was a vivid green color, lime based soda, with a hint of lemon. It became a popular syrup at soda fountains, trailing only in popularity to the ubiquitous Coca-Cola.
Mix any of the above sodas or syrups with seltzer and ice cream and you had an ice cream float, cow, or egg cream. Brucks Root beer with local French Bauer vanilla ice cream became a Brown Cow. Orange Crush and French Bauer vanilla became an Orange Cow. I’m sure there was even a Green River Cow as well. I guess it’s no coincidence we don’t see Budweiser Cows or Miller High Life Cows.
Also on the Schroder’s menu was a chocolate egg cream, which contained no egg or cream. The three main ingredients were milk, flavored syrup and seltzer.
These seltzer, cows and egg creams made it through Prohibition and became even more popular as drive-ins, car hops and movie theatres became popular in the 1950s and 1960s. So the next time you’re slurping down a United Dairy Farmer’s chocolate malt, you can thank Prohibition for one good thing – popularizing the ice cream drink.