Each week, we rummage through the dark corners of our kitchen drawers to bring you an enigmatic item. We ask you to guess what it is in our weekly From the From the Back of the Drawer puzzle. To enter this week’s puzzle, visit this page. To read more descriptions of past items, visit this page. And, don’t forget to donate your odd items to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
This week, we found a gazogene!
Seeing the spout, it may be obvious that this antique apparatus was used for serving drinks, but why the two separate glass globes? As you may have guessed, this device was created during the Victorian Era as a soda water siphon. Of course this was before the current practice of passing pressurized CO2 through a liquid, making it carbonated. So how did the Victorians add a little fizz to their water? By using chemicals.
Tartaric acid and bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda) were combined in the lower globe of the gazogene while the upper globe was filled with water or liquid that was to be carbonated. Once assembled, a small amount of water would flow from the upper globe to the lower globe and activate the chemicals. The carbon dioxide produced would filter through a metal gasket with very small holes back into the upper globe, thereby creating a carbonated beverage.
These dispensers are almost always covered with a wicker or wire protective mesh because they had a tendency to explode due to the buildup of pressure by the carbon dioxide. Even so, gazogenes were popular until the invention of commercial bottling of carbonated water. At that time, these bottles went out of use and people bought their fizzy water in stores, already bottled, or at bars served out of soda siphons.
Our Rating: Save it! One of these vintage gazogenes can retail for almost $300 today!
Design: Excellent! Finding a way to artificially carbonate water does not sound like a simple task, but this gazogene makes producing soda water look easy!
Originality: Great! This French design differs from the English one in that the dispenser is located in the middle of the two globes instead of at the top of the gazogene; an interesting modification that lets gravity do most of the work.
Practicality: Good. Carbonated beverages are everywhere today, but in the Victorian Era this was a simple way to enjoy a refreshing drink at home!