Wednesday, August 21, 2013
For many American entrepreneurs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the bubbling sludge of their money-making dreams was soda syrup, not Texas crude. Since sodas started out as a way of administering tonics and medicines, pharmacists were responsible for many of the field's early successes (including Hires root beer in 1876 and Coca-Cola in 1886), but fizzy drinks soon transitioned away from their medicinal origins.
While the early sodas featured roots and herbs with some claim to therapeutic properties (ginger, coca, birch, etc.), their younger cousins leaned towards fun, fruity flavors. In 1917, a North Carolina general store owner named L.D. Peeler tinkered with a commercial recipe for soda syrup until he arrived at an extra-bubbly formula for dark cherry soda that he called Cheerwine.
Licensed Cheerwine syrups were a hit at regional soda fountains, but Peeler expanded his market even further by taking advantage of the 1899 invention that allowed for the bottling of pre-mixed servings of carbonated beverages. Today the Cheerwine Bottling Co., headed by Peeler's great-grandson, relies on yet another generation of technology to spread the word. Thanks to social media, sponsorship deals, a appealingly retro logo, slick radio spots, zeigeist-y slogans ("Born in the South. Raised in a Glass," "Keep Calm, Drink Cheerwine"), and a tour van that visits college campuses across the country, Cheerwine seems set to bubble on for another hundred years.