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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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5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Netflix

Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Food
The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

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