10 Things To Know About Cheerwine, the Beloved Southern Soft Drink
Back In 1917, general store owner L. D. Peeler had a dream of making a new soft drink. There was only one problem: there was a sugar shortage across the South, and the rest of the U.S., too. That meant Peeler had to devise a drink that tasted good, but had less sugar. The answer came to him in the form of a salesman visiting from St. Louis who was peddling a wild cherry flavor that packed a punch and made for a memorable soft drink even without all the sugar. Soon enough, Peeler was selling Cheerwine, a unique cherry-flavored cola from his Salisbury, North Carolina store. The so-called “Nectar of North Carolina” was such a hit that he started to sell it to other stores and then expanded from there, founding the Carolina Beverage Corporation & Cheerwine Bottling Company to keep up with demand for the popular drink.
These days the “uniquely Southern” drink has a cult following with legions of devotees, including Southern chefs using Cheerwine as an ingredient in everything from donuts to barbecue sauce.
Here are a few things you may not know about Cheerwine:
1. Cheerwine was the first bottled cherry soda
While Cheerwine may not have been as popular as Cherry Coke or Wild Cherry Pepsi, it beat them on to grocery store shelves by decades
2. It never contained wine or any kind of alcohol
While Cheerwine’s name certainly makes it sound like it has a little hooch in it, according to the company, the name came from the soda’s burgundy-red color that looks a bit like wine, and the cheery nature of the effervescent drink.
3. It's made by the oldest, continuously operated, family-owned soda company in the U.S.
L.D. Peeler founded the Carolina Beverage Corp. and Cheerwine Bottling Co. in 1917, and when he passed away in 1931, his son Clifford took over the company. It’s been in family hands ever since.
4. Cheerwine helped in World War II
According to the company’s website, when war came, Clifford Peeler donated scrap metal to the war effort including the company’s first Dixie Filler machine, old signs, and other pieces of memorabilia. Per the website, “Rumor has it, some soldiers claimed to have been able to vaguely make out a Cheerwine logo in metal on the hull of the USS Intrepid.”
5. Presidents love Cheerwine
Cheerwine has a few fans in the White House. Back in 1953, when President Eisenhower was given a taste of the cherry soda, he enjoyed the flavor so much it rendered him nearly mute, blurting out, “Ike likes!” In 1992, President George H.W. Bush, Sr. attended a 4th of July celebration in Salisbury, N.C. and enjoyed a Cheerwine too.
6. It’s included in the collection of theNorth Carolina Museum of History
Cheerwine has made such an impact on the State of North Carolina and its residents, that it has earned recognition in the North Carolina Museum of History.
7. It’s an official part of a Southern Handshake
Barbecue restaurants have been serving icy cold bottles of Cheerwine for over 100 years. It’s such a natural pairing that it became known as a “Southern handshake”—barbecue in one hand and a Cheerwine in the other. In 2015, they made it official when the National Barbecue Association named Cheerwine as its official soft drink.
8. It was a North Carolina specialty until recently
It wasn’t until 2017, a hundred years after the company was founded, that people in all 50 states were able to enjoy a cold bottle of Cheerwine. Now, the company works with the Pepsi Bottling Company, to spread its “Born in the South, Raised in a Glass” taste across the country.
9. It has its own fan club
Cheerwine has a lot of diehard fans, so it was only a matter of time before they formed an official fan club. The Cheerwine Authentic Soda Society was formed in 2015. Want to join? Sign up here and check out the Cheerwine Tastemakers group on Facebook.