10 Facts About Cheerwine, the Beloved Southern Soft Drink

Made in North Carolina, and over 100 years old.

The South might be known for its sweet tea, but a multitude of Southerners know a sweet sip of Cheerwine goes best with a barbecue dinner. This cherry-flavored soda is Southern at its roots, created in 1917 and still operated by a family-owned company. 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, a history and 10 facts about Cheerwine.

Cheerwine Bottles
Ralph Anderson

A Sweet History

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 United States 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.

Here are a few things you may not know about Cheerwine:

The First Bottled Cherry Soda

While Cheerwine may not have been as popular as Cherry Coke or Pepsi Wild Cherry, it beat them onto grocery store shelves by decades.

No Wine in Cheerwine

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.

Always Family Owned

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.

Support for the War Effort

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."

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 and enjoyed a Cheerwine too.

Museum Worthy

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.

The 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.

Now Available Nationwide

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.

Yes, There's a 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 Facebook group.

A Cherry-Flavored Festival

The cherry-flavored soda is flowing when the annual Cheerwine Festival takes over the company's hometown of Salisbury every May. There is live music, local crafts, kid-friendly activities, Cheerwine tacos, Cheerwine floats, and money donated to a local charity.

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