September 14, 2006


One of the fun things we did on Day 1 of the AFJ conference was taste a bunch of regional sodas that can be found in North Carolina and the other southern and mid-Atlantic states.

Included in that was discussion of regional names for non-alcoholic carbonated beverages. In the south, much of the population calls it "Coke" or "soda," mostly because Coca Cola originated in Atlanta. Northerners tend to call it "pop" more often. At one time in the early 1900s, it was called "dope," possibly because some bottlers included tiny amounts of cocaine in their drinks.

(Be sure to check out this great map that breaks it down by county.) Hillsborough and Polk, apparently, are mostly "Coke" counties, while Pinellas and Pasco are mostly "soda."

Conference organizers brought in crates of soda bottles and chilled them in metal wash tubs to give it that authentic temperature.




This is a "burgundy-red soda" that tastes like cherry cola. I had heard of it before but never tasted it, since it isn't distributed in Florida.

Wikipedia describes it thusly:

Cheerwine is a soft drink produced by the Carolina Beverage Corporation of Salisbury, North Carolina. It has been produced since 1917.

Cheerwine is fairly unusual amongst sodas for what the company calls its "cherry taste and rich burgundy color." Cheerwine has a very sweet cherry flavor and an unusually high degree of carbonation compared with many other soft drinks.

Cheerwine typically comes in a 12 fluid oz aluminum can, 12 fluid oz glass bottle, a 16 fluid oz plastic bottle, or a 20 fluid oz plastic bottle. Cheerwine distributed in the glass bottle contains cane sugar, instead of the typical corn syrup. There are also ancillary Cheerwine products, including a line of ice cream products flavored with Cheerwine, co-branded by Cheerwine and Food Lion grocery stores.

As for the name, the company site explains "In the early 1900s, soft drinks were often named for their appearance, hence the names root beer and ginger ale. Therefore, it made sense to name a burgundy-red, bubbly, cherry concoctionóCheerwine."

I liked this bottle a lot, mostly because I drank Cherry Coke as a kid after it was reintroduced.


Sue Havala Hobbs of On The Table in Chapel Hill, N.C., tries a sample.



Blenheim Ginger Ale

This soda came in two varieties, hot and extra hot.

Where does the heat come from? The ginger.

You'll notice that the hotter version is darker. That's because it has more ginger in it.

A Web site I found reprinted text from a company brochure:

Blenheim Bottlers

We make Ginger Ale
the Old fashioned Way...
Since 1903

Welcome to the oldest, smallest and some say best, independent bottling company in America. Located next to the Blenheim Artesian Mineral Springs, the bottling plant is today much as it was when it began production in 1903.

The mineral springs were discovered in 1781 by James Spears, a Whig, who was trying to escape Tory troops. According to legend, Mr. Spears lost a shoe in a water hole. When he returned to retrieve his shoe, he tasted the water and noticed its strong mineral content. Word of the spring spread and soon people were coming to taste the cool refreshing water. Several wealthy plantation owners built summer homes in the vicinity of the springs.

In the late 1800's Dr. C. R. May advised his patients with stomach problems to drink the mineral water. When these patients complained about the strong taste of the mineral water, Dr. May added Jamaican Ginger to it.

In 1903, Dr. May and A. J. Matheson opened the Blenheim Bottling Company. The building which houses the bottling works today was constructed in 1920. While the Original Extra Pale was hot enough for some, our 1903 has surpassed it in popularity.

We learned that in Chapel Hill, students like to mix bourbon with the Blenheim to make "Kentucky Yuppies."



Senorial Sangria

This sangria-flavored soda is favoried by the ever-growing population migrating to the Carolinas from Cental America and the Caribbean. It actually tasted like mild, fizzy sangria. Which, you know, is never a bad thing.



Dragon Fruit Drink

This was a much more viscous beverage experience. The dragon fruit mentioned in the name is grown in Central and South America and in southeast Asia. And it had chunks of clear junk in it. Which should violate some international treaty of some sort.

Will. Not. Try. That. Again.

Posted by Jeff at September 14, 2006 02:51 PM | TrackBack

I really enjoy your blog. Have to comment on your regional sodas:
-- When I returned to North Carolina five years ago, one of the burger joints here had self-serve sodas, including Diet Cheerwine. Cheerwine does the Tar Heel state proud, but Diet Cheerwine is an abomination on the land. It ranks as the third-worst beverage ever, behind the twin shames of Yankeeland:
1. Moxie.
2. Diet Moxie.
-- You missed sampling another Southern beverage, Sun Drop. It's sweet enough to pour on pancakes.
-- The worst thing to happen in the world of sodas here was the closing of all the Winn-Dixie supermarkets. The Winn-Dixes had their own house brand of sodas, called Chek, available in such esoteric flavors as Diet Cream Soda and an outstanding Diet Root Beer. Best of all was the price -- the stuff was cheaper than walking to the water fountain. I have now been reduced to drinking other off-brand Untasty Beverages, including the woeful Super Chill Diet Classic Cola, origin unknown but distributed out of Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

Posted by: Lee Barnes at September 21, 2006 03:57 PM
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