Cheerwine: North Carolina’s Answer to New England’s Moxie

11 Jan

Diet Cheerwine

I first glimpsed it when I was in the baking aisle searching for unsweetened chocolate and pastry flour. I am not a regular soda drinker, so I am generally oblivious to what I see on the soda shelves–the strident colors immediately making me turn my head. But this was different. Something I’d never encountered. A liter bottle of a soft drink called Cheerwine. I made a mental note to myself to remember this name…

And then I forgot. I don’t know how you forget a name like Cheerwine, but I did, until I found myself face to face with the soda again. Right next to Sun Drop, another unfamiliar carbonated beverage. Cheerwine beckoned me first because of its label design. Burgundy, or indeed, wine-colored, it resembled a cross between Dr. Pepper and Dr. Brown’s, two of my favorite sodas growing up. Only Cheerwine’s label was covered in effervescence: tiny little silver bubbles that did, in fact, bespeak “cheer.” Underneath the Cheerwine logo, the bottle reads “Unique Sparkling Soda,” with a tiny cherry sandwiched between the last two words.

This time around, I scribbled down the name furtively, hoping someone didn’t think I was some sort of corporate spy. Cheerwine was a candidate for a Wikipedia search at the very least, my curiosity in particular piqued by my discovery of the peculiar Maine beverage Moxie about a year ago. I am new to North Carolina, and was therefore eager to find out whether Cheerwine was North Carolina’s answer to the main ingredient in a New Englander cocktail.

So what is Cheerwine? As the beverage’s website is clear to point out, “it’s a soft drink,” not to be confused with the cherry wine (which I’ve had once at Horton Vineyards) of Jermaine Stewart fame. This drink with the infectious name is indigenous to Salisbury, North Carolina and was created in 1917 by L.D. Peeler. The Peeler family still manages the Carolina Beverage Corporation that distributes the drink. The soda’s enticing label is a fairly recent reincarnation of a much more staid emblem.

Clearly, this a company with some sense of humor, as evidenced by”the Dude” on the website–someone whose favorite movie is probably the Big Lebowski. This drink is also somewhat of a phenomena in its home state–a soda that has “made good.” This is evidenced by the variety of Cheerwine-inspired creations, including Cheerwine sherbert and ice cream, Cheerwine Cake (red velvet’s devilish twin) and Cheerwine Krispy Kreme (heralded as a union of two great North Carolina brands and perhaps the most intriguing of the three). The Winston-Salem-based Krispy Kreme joined forces with the local soda company last year to produce this limited edition donut featuring Cheerwine cream and chocolate frosting with coordinated red and white sprinkles. I have also heard rumors of Cheerwine cocktails…

Cheerwine

So how does Cheerwine taste on its own? First, I must preface my comments by saying that I could not find the non-diet variety of Cheerwine in my supermarket, so I reserve my ultimate judgment until I can sample the beverage in a purer form. The diet soda bubbled intensely as I poured it into my glass. What initially looked like an ordinary dark cola in the liter bottle revealed itself to be a substance truly resembling a carbonated red wine. Given its appearance, I couldn’t help but swirl it around and give it a sniff. Much to my delight, it even smelled a bit like a 1 to 1 mixture of Dr. Pepper to Dr. Brown’s. The diet Cheerwine definitely has that distinctive “diet” flavor that Dr. Pepper somehow disguises better than other brands, but it was pleasing–kind of like a mild cherry root beer. I found myself heartened by the fizzy beverage as I continued to sip. I look forward to tasting the original version. And maybe some day, one of those Krispy Kremes!

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5 Responses to “Cheerwine: North Carolina’s Answer to New England’s Moxie”

  1. Aamina Aliyy January 11, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    You are too funny…and you have sold me. I’m going to try one of those as soon as we get the regular in!

    • levjoh January 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

      ha ha! didn’t know i had some much “power.” you gotta admit, the name draws you in…

      • Aamina Aliyy January 12, 2011 at 2:05 am #

        It defintiely does! LOL.

  2. Erin January 21, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    Now you’ve got me homesick for Faygo (Michigan pop). Several flavors, with Rock ‘N Rye being the best. 🙂

    • levjoh January 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

      oh man, now you have me curious as i have never had that…

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