Many who lived in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s and ’60s longingly recall this delicious coffee-flavored soda/milkshake. It was sold at Crick’s Rexall Pharmacy, which was touted in ads as the “Home of the Famous Coffee Stir.” The drug store had not only the usual health-related offerings stored in tall wooden cupboards with glass-paneled doors, but a popular soda fountain, complete with several wrought iron cafe-style tables and chairs (including one miniature set for little children).
As a group of two or three rambunctious teenagers, we would often meet there to annoy the soda jerk and order coffee stirs or cherry phosphates and one 25-cent bag of Wise’s salty, oily, crunchy potato chips which we split among us.
Mary Claire Mahaney, author and artist, is the granddaughter of former longtime burgess of Sharpsville and haberdashery owner, George D. Mahaney. In the early 2000s, she wrote several essays about her memories of the Sharpsville area for The Herald newspaper, which can be read on her website. One of Mary Claire’s articles, “Stirring Memories,” dated November 26, 2004, records the origin of the coffee stir, its ingredients, its popularity through the years, and how pleasurable it was.
Drinking a coffee stir is a Sharpsville tradition going back further than most of us can recall, but the stirs I remember best were made at Cricks Pharmacy in the 1960s. (Eckerd Pharmacy now operates a store in the building on North Mercer Avenue.)
…The taste and smell and coldness of that drink were heavenly; it was sweet and bitter and heavy and light, and the wonder of it was that it could be all those things at once.
More about the early years of the coffee stir and variations of the following recipe can be found at the Sharpsville Area Historical Society site. (Also see the Society’s July 2017 Newsletter). According to Ralph C. Mehler (SHS Class of 1980, board member of the Society and owner of Mehler Insurance on East Shenango Street), Crick’s Pharmacy was across Mercer Avenue from Reichard’s Pharmacy.
…[M]y great-grandmother Emma Knapp Mehler was the sister of Gert Knapp Reichard, so we consider the coffee stir to be somewhat of a family recipe. The recipe card [displayed on the Historical Society website] is in the hands of my grandmother, Regina Erb Mehler, and my father confirms that was how it was made, with the egg and all.
The following Coffee Stir recipe, although not the original, comes somewhat close to the real thing, more so if one uses high-fat ice cream!
– Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, May 2014.
2/3 cup water
5 heaping teaspoons of instant coffee
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon Karo syrup (or Coca-Cola syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup soda water
About 6 scoops of vanilla ice cream
1. Bring water to boiling.
2. Add coffee and stir until dissolved.
3. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Add syrup & vanilla.
6. Add 4 Tablespoons of this mixture to a blender.
7. Add soda water and ice cream. Blend and enjoy!
–Source: This recipe was shared with Mike Angel (SHS 1960)
by a former Sharpsville High School classmate and friend.