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Drink Up! The Stories Behind 11 Regional Soft Drinks

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Soft drinks, which originated as flavored and carbonated elixirs in the late 1800s and became especially popular during the Prohibition era, have long been associated with the region in which they were first developed. While some brands have branched out from their humble beginnings—Coca-Cola is sold in more than 200 countries and territories throughout the world—others have maintained a more localized appeal. Here are 11 lesser-known soft drinks and the stories behind their regional ties.

1. Cheerwine

When a sugar shortage at the start of World War I made it difficult for L.D. Peeler to sweeten his Salisbury, N.C.-based bottling company's popular Mint Cola, Peeler began looking for a less sweet, but equally tasty, alternative. The local businessman purchased a wild cherry flavor from a St. Louis salesman and developed the formula for Cheerwine in the basement of his grocery store in 1917. Cheerwine was an instant success and was outselling Mint Cola by the early 1920s. Shortly thereafter, Peeler changed the name of his business to the Cheerwine Bottling Co. The red-colored Carolina staple was distributed locally until 1981, when it expanded into Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia. While Cheerwine's reach continues to grow, it remains most popular in the Carolinas and parts of Virginia. In 2010, Cheerwine partnered with a fellow Tar Heel State company, Krispy Kreme, to offer Cheerwine-infused doughnuts in stores throughout the Carolinas.

2. Moxie

It's no wonder Moxie tastes medicinal. The soft drink, which remains popular in New England, was invented by Dr. Augustin Thompson in 1884. Thompson, a Maine native and Civil War veteran who worked in Lowell, Mass., patented a nostrum called Moxie Nerve Food in 1876. Hoping to capitalize on the carbonated beverage craze at the time, Thompson reformulated his nostrum into Beverage Moxie Nerve Food, which was eventually shortened to Moxie, in 1884.

An aggressive marketing campaign helped the brand grow into one of the first mass-produced soft drinks in the United States. One early advertisement for the drink, which has an acquired, bitter taste, read: "It nourishes the nervous system, cools the blood, tones up the stomach, and causes healthful, restful sleep. The family who orders a case from their grocer feels better and happier; the man who buys it in town at the druggists by the glass can accomplish more work."

Maine declared Moxie its state soft drink in 2005 and the beverage is celebrated with a festival in Lisbon Falls, Maine, every year. The word moxie, meaning the ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage, was derived from the soft drink.

3. Dr. Brown's


Celery was a popular ingredient in herbal remedies in the 19th century and eventually found its way into a handful of competing soft drinks. Dr. Brown's Celery Tonic, one of the only such beverages still around today, was first produced in Brooklyn in 1868. The name was changed to Cel-Ray soda in the early 1900s and, at the height of its popularity in New York around 1930, was often referred to as "Jewish Champagne."

Today, Dr. Brown's is owned by Pepsi and available at various delis throughout the country. The brand's most loyal customers, many of whom find Cel-Ray the perfect foil to a pastrami sandwich, are in New York and South Florida.

4. Big Red

In 1937, Grover Thomsen and R.H. Roark developed Sun Tang Red Cream Soda while working as chemists at a barber and beauty supply company in Waco, Texas. According to Big Red, Inc., the Big Red nickname was coined by a couple of San Antonio golf caddies and officially adopted as the name of the drink in 1969. Big Red's line of beverages, which also include Big Blue, Big Peach, and Big Pineapple, has established itself as a big brand throughout the country, it remains especially popular in the southwest.

5. Green River

Chicago's Schoenhofen Edelweiss Brewing Co. introduced Green River soda in 1919, just before the start of Prohibition. The lime-flavored and electric green-colored soft drink was initially bottled in the brewery's beer bottles and was an instant success. Al Jolson recorded a song about Green River in the 1920s, and by the end of Prohibition it trailed only Coke in fountain sales throughout the Midwest. The brewery made Green River a second priority when alcohol became legal again and sales of the soft drink dropped. While the brewery closed in 1950, Green River lived on. Today, Green River is bottled by Chicago's Clover Bottling Co., and while it remains most popular in the Windy City, it is now sold nationwide. Green River was part of the inspiration for Creedence Clearwater Revival's album and song by the same name and enjoys a major increase in sales in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick's Day.

6. Belfast Sparkling Cider

Belfast Sparkling Cider, which can be found in many Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area, dates back to the Gold Rush of 1849. According to soda expert John Nese, who owns and operates Galco's Old World Grocery in Los Angeles, gold prospectors, many of whom were sailors, would frequent San Francisco's bar scene in search of a good time. The sailors treated the bar girls to what they thought was imported French champagne, but which was actually Belfast Sparkling Cider, a lightly sweetened drink introduced to the region by Irish refugees who immigrated to the United States during the potato famine. It was a ploy by the ship captains, who apparently paid the bar girls to play along and watched their sailors become intoxicated to the point that it wasn't a struggle to get them back to sea.

According to a 2006 article in the San Jose Mercury News, Belfast is distributed to almost every large Chinese restaurant in San Francisco and to retailers throughout the city's Chinatown. Belfast is especially popular in the month of the Chinese New Year.

7. Ale-8-One


Kentucky-based soft drink bottler G.L. Wainscott developed the formula for his ginger-flavored Ale-8-One in the early 1920s after experimenting with different recipes while traveling in Northern Europe. The beverage's interesting logo is a pun on the winning entry in Wainscott's name-the-product contest, "A Late One." The drink has been bottled in Winchester, Ky., since 1926 and distribution remains limited outside of the Bluegrass State. The Ale-8-One Bottling Co. introduced Diet Ale 8 in 2003. Since then, the company, which remains family-owned and operated, has introduced Ale-8-One salsa, BBQ sauce, and apple butter.

8. Blenheim

Blenheim Ginger Ale traces its roots to the Blenheim Artesian Mineral Springs in South Carolina. It was there, in 1903, that Dr. C.R. May, a co-founder of the Blenheim Bottling Co., happened upon his recipe after adding Jamaican ginger to the foul-tasting mineral water he had advised his patients to drink. Today, Blenheim Ginger Ale, which is spicier than most soft drinks, comes in three flavors: Hot, Not as Hot, and Diet. The drink, which was sold for a time at Restoration Hardware stores throughout the country, boasts a bit of a cult following. The brand earned some rare publicity in 1994 when Penn Jillette wore a Blenheim T-shirt on a cover of Wired.

9. Vernors


In 1862, Detroit pharmacist James Vernor developed a mixture of 19 ingredients that included ginger, vanilla, and natural flavors. Before leaving to fight in the Civil War, Vernor stored his experimental mixture in an oak cask. When he returned four years later, he opened the cask to find it had transformed his blend of flavors into a delicious ginger ale. Vernor sold his concoction at his drugstore's soda fountain for the next 30 years. In 1896, with the help of his son, he began distributing his specially aged ginger ale in bottles. The Vernor family maintained ownership of the business until 1966. Vernors is distributed today as part of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, with Michigan accounting for most of its sales.

10. Hires

Like several of the soft drinks on this list, Hires Root Beer was developed by a pharmacist. According to one of the many stories behind the origin of America's oldest root beer, Philadelphia's Charles E. Hires discovered an herbal tea made of roots, berries, and herbs while on his honeymoon. Hires introduced a root beer mix that consumers could use to make their own root beer at the 1876 U.S. Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia—the same exposition where Alexander Graham Bell showcased his telephone. Hires developed a soda fountain syrup version of his root beer in 1884 and began bottling the drink in 1893. His decision to market the beverage as a beer rather than a tea, as he had originally considered doing, appealed to the Pennsylvania miners and added to Hires' popularity during Prohibition.

11. Sun Drop

Before there was Sprite, there was Sun Drop. Charles Lazier developed the citrus-flavored drink in St. Louis in 1928. The beverage was later marketed under several different names, including Sun Drop Golden Cola, Golden Girl Cola, and Golden Sun Drop Cola. The beverage became popular in the South, with bottling plants in Tennessee and North Carolina, and carried the slogan, "Refreshing as a cup of coffee." Today, Sun Drop is owned by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

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This is by no means an exhaustive list. Share some of your favorite regional sodas in the comments. This post originally appeared in 2010.

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Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.

STOP 1: BANNERMAN CASTLE // BEACON, NEW YORK

59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.

STOP 2. GILLETTE CASTLE STATE PARK // EAST HADDAM, CONNECTICUT

116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.

STOP 3. BELCOURT CASTLE // NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.

STOP 4. HAMMOND CASTLE MUSEUM // GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.

STOP 5. BOLDT CASTLE // ALEXANDRIA BAY, THOUSAND ISLANDS, NEW YORK

430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.

STOP 6. FONTHILL CASTLE // DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.

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