Raise your glass: The best loved-beverages of the past

Raise your glass: The best loved-beverages of the past

This is an exclusive feature from the now sold-out Issue 7 of Yours Retro. For more nostalgia, check out the latest Retro at www.greatmagazines.co.uk

Next time you see a familiar bottle on the supermarket shelves or behind the bar, think about the history of your drink. These best-loved beverages have quenched our thirst for a long, long time…


Launched nationally in 1953, Babycham was aimed at women, as well as being the first alcoholic drink advertised on British TV. The name is a combination of the ‘baby’-sized bottles used, ‘Champagne’ perry (cider made from pears) and the baby deer logo, derived from the ‘chamois’, a goatlike antelope (not as cute as the one on the label!).

This sparkling drink, served in Champagne saucers, originally had an alcohol content of 12 per cent, which was reduced to 6 per cent in the Seventies. Despite its fun, bubbly image, sales waned until 1986 when a cool dude with a deep voice uttered: ‘Hey, I’d love a Babycham’. In the Nineties, the brand was revamped, with bigger bottles. Glasses featuring the logo are sought after by collectors.

Camp Coffee

The world’s first instant coffee, produced in 1885, Camp actually contains five times more chicory than coffee. The Gordon Highlanders asked Paterson & Sons in Glasgow for a coffee drink that could be brewed easily by military field kitchens in India, as grinding beans to brew coffee was too laborious. Using the liquid Camp Coffee, ready sweetened, was far quicker and easier.


The label originally featured a kilted Gordon Highlander, with a Sikh servant serving Camp coffee from a tray. The design has changed over the years so the two are now sharing a coffee. In the background, however, the flag on the field tent still has the slogan ‘Ready, Aye Ready’ emphasising the product’s convenience. Nowadays it’s popular for making cakes and cocktails, rather than as a hot drink.


Perplexed by that fruity flavour? It’s made with grape, raspberry and blackcurrant juices plus a secret blend of 23 fruit essences, herbs and spices. Launched in 1909 as Vimtonic, to promote ‘vim & vigour’, it soon became simply Vimto, registered as a medicine in 1912, and a beverage in 1913.


Originally developed as a result of the temperance movement, it found favour with non-drinking Muslims, particularly during Ramadan. In 1989 Vimto gained a Guinness World Record by building the tallest pyramid of drink cans.

Over the years, it has been advertised by children’s entertainer Derek Griffiths, cartoon character Purple Ronnie, TV presenter Angus Deayton, DJ John Peel and comedian Matt Lucas – and now the Vimtoad.

Rose’s Lime Juice

In 1867, carrying lime juice on British ships became compulsory as a source of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy, leading to British sailors being called ‘limeys’. Lauchlan Rose (citrus importer and founder of the company that made Rose’s Lime Marmalade) devised a way of preserving the juice by adding sulphur dioxide, creating the world’s first non-alcoholic, concentrated fruit drink.


This went down so well, the company developed new plantations to meet demand. Post-war, sales were healthy thanks to a belief that lime juice helped hangovers, and the popularity of the gimlet, described in Raymond Chandler’s 1953 novel, The Long Goodbye, as ‘half gin and half Rose's lime juice and nothing else’. 150 years on, the Royal-Warrant-holding cordial bottle is still embossed with lime leaves, although it’s now plastic, not glass.