Cantrell and Cochrane's

In Brief

"Cantrell and Cochrane’s Ginger Ale (Aromatic)," a soft drink of Irish manufacture, was a fixture in turn-of-the-century Dublin pubs. The fact that Bloom thinks of it in Lotus Eaters as a "temperance beverage" suggests that it was commonly consumed by itself, rather than used as a mixer. The name "ginger ale," coined in the mid-19th century, likewise points to its origins as an alternative to alcoholic drinks.

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Thomas Joseph Cantrell (1827-1909) was born in Dublin and worked at a Belfast firm of chemists and soda water manufacturers called Grattan & Co. that marketed the first carbonated ginger ale. Cantrell formed the first of his own businesses, Dyas & Cantrell, in Belfast in 1852. In 1868 he merged his business with the soft drinks business of Henry Cochrane (1836-1904) to form Cantrell & Cochrane. By dint of acquiring a water company, using a chemical preservative to retard spoilage, and aggressively advertising with posters, the company became the largest manufacturer of soft drinks in the world by the 1880s, with large plants in Dublin and Belfast. In 1901 it received a royal warrant from the new king, Edward VII.

In Lotus Eaters Bloom stands on the corner of Westland Row and Great Brunswick Street and sees a Cantrell & Cochrane's poster among "the multicoloured hoardings" adorning a wall at that busy intersection. Later in the chapter he thinks about the use of wine in the Communion service: "The priest was rinsing out the chalice: then he tossed off the dregs smartly. Wine. Makes it more aristocratic than for example if he drank what they are used to Guinness’s porter or some temperance beverage Wheatley’s Dublin hop bitters or Cantrell and Cochrane’s ginger ale (aromatic). Doesn’t give them any of it: shew wine: only the other. Cold comfort. Pious fraud but quite right: otherwise they’d have one old booser worse than another coming along, cadging for a drink."

Sirens spotlights an advertising gambit still popular in bars today, when Miss Douce, tending bar, turns toward the bottles grouped around a showy mirror: "With grace of alacrity towards the mirror gilt Cantrell and Cochrane’s she turned herself. With grace she tapped a measure of gold whisky from her crystal keg." With a typical fidelity to Joyce's text, Richard Hamilton has captured part of such a mirror in his well-known image of Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy grasping beer-pulls behind the bar.

JH 2019
Post-1901 advertising poster for Cantrell & Cochrane's ginger ale. Source: www.whytes.ie.