Ralph Anderson
Melissa Locker
May 24, 2017

Since 1917, Cheerwine has been quenching the thirst of Southerners. Now, the iconic “Nectar from North Carolina” with its hint of cherry and memorable packaging is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The Southern staple was invented in the heart of World War I when sugar rationing lead to creative thinking. L.D. Peeler had purchased Kentucky's Maysville Syrup Company when it went bankrupt, moving the company to North Carolina and renaming it the Carolina Beverage Company. When a traveling salesman came by selling a wild cherry flavor, Peeler jumped at the chance to add a cherry soda to his line-up of soft drinks. After tinkering with the flavors and cranking up the carbonation, The Legend as it’s now known, was born. Soon, Peeler was delivering Cheerwine via horse and buggy to thirsty customers across North Carolina.

100 years later, cherry-soda-loving Southerners are drinking Peeler’s same delicious concoction, and it’s still made by the Peeler company. Cheerwine not only holds the title as the country’s first cherry soda, but it is also the oldest, continuously operate family-owned soft drink company, still headquartered in North Carolina. That’s why cracking into a Cheerwine was always a sign that you were in the South—or had a kind family member bring you a bottle or two— because it wasn’t available outside the state until the '90s and from there it was only delivered to South Carolina.

Now, as Cheerwine marks its 100th year, it has partnered with Pepsi, to distribute its classic flavor across the nation. It’s also available at CostPlus World Market and on Amazon, so people as far away as Washington and California will finally know what they’ve been missing. Plus it makes it easier for displaced Southerners to spread the gospel of Cheerwine if they can dole out samples.

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That’s not the only way that the company is celebrating its centennial. To mark the occasion, the Rowan Museum in Cheerwine’s hometown of Salisbury, NC is hosting an exhibit dedicated to the iconic soft drink. The exhibit will be up all year and promises to be filled with Cheerwine memorabilia familiar to Southerners of all ages and plenty of pictures of the presidents who have tried the soda that was "Born in the South. Raised in a Glass."

Cheerwine is also rolling out a series of commemorative cans that will take viewers on a trip through soft drink memory lane by showing the brand’s look from seven different eras.

No word on whether North Carolina’s other favorite product, Krispy Kreme, will release another limited edition of Cheerwine filled doughnuts to celebrate the big birthday. If not, bake your own Cheerwine Bundt cake or pound cake and have your own party.