Wednesday, February 24

It's what we drink around here

CBS This Morning
For those poor souls who have never heard of Vernors Ginger Ale, let alone tried it, I shall endeavor to give you a brief history.

Vernors is a ginger-flavored soft drink and the oldest surviving ginger ale brand in the United States - although there were a lot of commercial ginger drinks prior to 1866.

Vernors is a highly carbonated, sweet "golden" ginger ale that gets its color from caramel and has a robust flavor similar to ginger beer. The golden style was common before Prohibition, when "dry" pale ginger ale became popular. 

According to company legend,
Detroit pharmacist James Vernor experimented with flavors in an attempt to duplicate a popular ginger ale imported from Ireland prior to the start of the Civil War. When Vernor went off to serve in the Civil War, he stored the ginger syrup base of 19 ingredients in an oak cask.

Vernor joined the 4th Michigan Cavalry on Aug. 14, 1862 as a hospital steward, was promoted to second lieutenant on Sept. 20, 1864, and was discharged on July 1, 1865. After returning in 1866, he opened the keg and found the drink inside had been changed by the aging process in the wood. It was like nothing else he had ever tasted, and he allegedly said it was "Deliciously different," which remains the drink's motto to this day. 

Some stories say it was created in 1866. However,  James Vernor, Jr., admitted in a 1936 interview that the formula was not developed by his father until after the Civil War was over. This was confirmed in a 1962 interview with former company president, James Vernor Davis. According to the 1911 trademark application, Vernor's ginger ale first entered commerce in 1880, not 1866. (As a reference, Coca-Cola was first sold on May 8, 1886, and in 1893, "Brad's Drink," became an overnight sensation. On Aug. 28, 1898, it was renamed "Pepsi-Cola.")

For most of its history, Vernors was a regional product only sold at soda fountain franchises. Later Vernors was bottled for home consumption. Vernors was not mass distributed nationally until the 1960s. Even after expansion, Michigan accounts for 80 percent of Vernors sales. Michigan, Ohio and Illinois are the highest-selling states, but it is also popular in Florida and Arizona, which has many retired mid-western residents.

A number of slogans have been associated with Vernors over the years. Advertising in the early 1900s used the slogan "Detroit's Drink." It began using the slogan "Deliciously Different" in 1921, and for a time in the mid-1980s Vernors used the slogan, "It's what we drink around here."

It is what we drink around here.


  1. Thanks for the history! Now please send me a case. :) Vernors is woefully absent in Arkansas. I grew up on it in Toledo.

  2. A great bit of beverage history! Thank you for sharing. We don't have Vernors in southeastern PA (Seagrams and Canada Dry are popular here). Sounds yummy though.