They don’t have drugstore soda fountains anymore. At least, not around here. There’s all kinds of snazzy designer ice-cream stores around, though, with flavors God never heard of. I like the old, original type.
In downtown Atlanta there was a large drugstore right across from the W.W. Orr building. The Orr building was also called the Doctor’s building. It was built in the 1930s in an art deco style. There were panels around the base with relief castings (they weren’t really carved) showing the various aspects of the medical profession. I don’t remember the name of the drugstore, but it was also art deco. It had a huge soda fountain and the soda jerks could work magic right in front of your eyes. They could make floats that would give you a cholesterol attack just by looking at them. When they made a milkshake, they really shook it. Shaken, not stirred (or whipped). But, as far as I was concerned, the soda was the king of all.
Later, when my first wife and I lived in the North Atlanta section known as Brookhaven, the last real drugstore fountain in the Atlanta area was down the street. Unfortunately, a huge road project went through about 3 months later, so I didn’t get to enjoy it long. Ah yes, progress. Anyway, the only one there who knew what to do with the big old fountain was a little, dried up old woman about 75 or so, who had been working at that fountain since the forties. She wasn’t fancy in her movements like the soda jerks I remembered. Maybe she had been when she was younger. But she had an economy of movement that was nice to watch, and the end result was just as good as I had remembered.
You need a few things to really make an old fashioned soda, but you can compromise if you want.
First you need a gasogene. What! You didn’t read your Sherlock Holmes? Well, I never. Americans call a gasogene a soda siphon. There were two ways of making soda water. The old traditional calls for dissolving yeast in some 100° water, with a bit of sugar to let it eat and bloom. It is put into a pressurized container with a valve to release the water under pressure. The yeast makes CO2 as it grows, you see. The next way is to look up a soda siphon on the internet and get one (and extra chargers). This is usually a metal pressure bottle that will be filled to a predetermined level with good water. If you don’t have good water then filter it. If there’s any chlorine smell, let it stand awhile. Then you put the cap/valve assembly on. Then you pressurize it with a CO2 charger. These are the little metal bottles that were popular in the late 50s/early 60s for propelling rockets and other things. They were also used in CO2 pellet guns, I think. Shake it well. Now you have a metal container that has water with CO2 mixed in under pressure. This will benefit from being kept in the refrigerator between uses. (Makes great Scotch and Soda!). You can also use bottle soda water from the grocery, but I have noticed that it does not keep fizz and flavor for more than a minute or two.
Next you are going to have to decide whether to go whole hog or cheat on the whipped cream. There are a couple of ways to make it. If you have a whisk attachment for your mixer that will do. Chill your mixing bowl. Take chilled heavy cream and whip the daylights out of it while adding powdered sugar to taste. Start about ¼ cup sugar to ½ pint cream. Adjust later batches to taste. You can do this with a hand whisk if you are a masochist or need good arm exercise. Whip until it makes nice peaks. You can put the whipped cream into a plastic bag with a small corner clipped off and make a simple pattern. You can screw different nozzles on and squeeze out snazzy patterns. The nozzles can be gotten at any confectioner’s of baker’s supplier. Seal it off inside another bag and store in the refrigerator until the next use. You can also buy cream whippers on the internet. These are kind of like the gasogene, but with cream and sugar instead of water. They use N2O chargers, not CO2. Same size, so don’t get them confused. The main advantage is that these come with snazzy nozzles and make it easy to squirt nice patterns. Last method: cheat. Buy Reddi-Whip or something similar. Just be aware that this is not whipped and not cream. I listed these in order of ease. From pain-in-butt to easy. I also listed them in order of flavor. Sooper-Dooper-Fantastic to pretty good. Notice the inverse relationship so common in life and cooking.
Also it helps to have soda glasses. You can get them at the grocery. A long-handled iced-tea spoon is also handy.
Put a tablespoon or two of chocolate syrup in the bottom of the glass.
Add an equal amount of soda water.
Stir the daylights out of it to thoroughly liquefy the syrup
Add enough French Vanilla ice cream to get about an inch from the top, use fully rounded scoops and don’t pack it down. We want plenty of room for liquid.
Add some more chocolate syrup over the top.
Fill it up to about ½” below the rim with soda.
Add whipped cream in a nice sloping or rounded shape to fill it up.
Fit a cherry on top.
Now everything is optional here. Try a scoop of chocolate ice cream for the bottom. Use caramel syrup and Dolce la Leche ice cream. Add a small amount of good liquid vanilla – easy there, straight vanilla tastes terrible. Smells good though. Add some chopped nuts. Add some chopped fudge. Let you imagination run wild.