Soft drinks are carbonated, non-alcoholic drinks, sweetened with sugar or corn syrup, and often colored and flavored. In various parts of the United States, soft drinks are called sodas, pop, cokes and soda pop.
They are called “soft” to distinguish them from “hard,” or drinks with high alcohol content, such as hard cider. Americans consumed large amounts of alcohol during colonial times and during the early Republic. Abuse of alcohol was common, and alcohol was readily available with no limits on age or consumption.
Drunkenness was common. The Prohibition movement emerged as a result, especially in the 1840s, with the goal of banning the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol. The movement was closely connected with women’s rights, abolitionism and the rise of charismatic Christianity. Soft drinks were widely seen as healthful and safe alternatives to drinking alcohol. The most famous soft drink manufacturer, the Coca-Cola company, emphasized the healthiness of soft drinks over the dangers of hard drinks made from alcohol.
Prohibition eventually won, and for a time early in the 20th century the U.S. had a Constitutional amendment forbidding the manufacture, possession, or consumption of alcoholic drinks. The Amendment was repealed, but the national taste for soft drinks has remained strong.
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