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11 Energizing Facts About Mountain Dew

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No matter how many cases of the bright green soda you’ve gulped, you would probably still be surprised to learn about its mountain heritage, early career as a bourbon mixer, and audacious marketing plans. 

1. THE GREAT DEPRESSION MADE IT POSSIBLE.

If everything had gone according to plan, Ally and Barney Hartman would never have become linked to everyone’s favorite fluorescent soda. They originally wanted to be orange soda moguls. In 1926, the brothers were part of a group that began bottling Orange Crush in Augusta, Ga. While Orange Crush was a hugely successful soda in those days, the Great Depression hit the Augusta plant particularly hard, leading the business into bankruptcy in 1932. The Hartman brothers then moved to Knoxville, Tenn. to join an Orange Crush franchise there. 

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY A MIXER FOR BOURBON. 

While market conditions were rosier in eastern Tennessee, the Hartman brothers had a serious problem with their new home. During their stay in Georgia, they had become fond of a lemon-lime soda called Natural Set-Up, which was the perfect companion for their other favorite beverage, Old Taylor bourbon. 

Luckily for the Hartmans, they had a bottling plant at their disposal. According to Dick Bridgforth’s Mountain Dew: The History, the brothers began bottling small runs of a lemon-lime soda for their own use. At first they called it “Personal SetUp,” but it was later dubbed “Mountain Dew,” a joking reference to moonshine. Rather than a commercial drink, the Mountain Dew was a novelty that the Hartmans used to mix drinks for themselves and guests. 

3. THE INITIAL LAUNCH OF MOUNTAIN DEW WAS A JOKE. 

In Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World, Tristan Donovan recounts the first launch of Mountain Dew at a 1946 soda convention. As a joke, the Hartman brothers decided to have their friend John Brichetto draw a cartoon label featuring a rifle-toting hillbilly. They then “announced” the launch of the new soda that they had been brewing in stills back home in Tennessee. To their surprise, a bottler from Johnson City, Tenn. asked about the bottling rights for the private soda, and by 1951, the commercial Mountain Dew was ready for store shelves.

4. THE ORIGINAL MOUNTAIN DEW DIDN'T TASTE LIKE TODAY'S VERSION.

If mixing today’s green Mountain Dew into a glass of bourbon sounds gross, you’ll be happy to learn that the Hartmans’ original recipe was much closer to today’s 7UP or Sprite. This version of the soda never truly found a niche in the marketplace, and in 1957, the Marion, Va.-based Tip Corporation bought the Mountain Dew brand from the Hartmans. In 2001, Ally Hartman’s son revealed to the Associated Press that he had turned down the opportunity to buy the brand for $1500 when he was just 19 years old, so his father and uncle sold out to the Tip Corporation instead.

5. THE FLAVOR WE NOW KNOW IS MORE A "CITRUS LEMONADE."

By the early 1960s, Mountain Dew was still struggling to take off. Around the same time, the Johnson City bottling plant that had helped commercialize Mountain Dew was busy formulating an alternative to the popular “citrus fruit beverage” Sun Drop.  Once manager Bill Bridgforth had settled on a flavor he liked, he hit on the marketing coup of packaging his “Tri-City Lemonade” in Mountain Dew bottles, a move that would forever change the flavor of Mountain Dew.

6. THE NEW FLAVOR PUT THE BRAND ON PEPSI'S RADAR. 

This flavor tweak finally gave Mountain Dew a real shot at competing with larger brands. Thanks to its memorable hillbilly marketing gimmick and its tastier new formulation, Mountain Dew started to grab enough of the regional soft drink market that in 1964 Pepsico acquired the Tip Corporation and Mountain Dew brand with plans to roll the regional favorite out nationally. As Donovan notes in Fizz, hillbillies were having a pop culture moment in the mid-'60s with the success of The Beverly Hillbillies, so Pepsi could even afford to keep the backwoods branding as it expanded Mountain Dew’s territory. 

7. PHILADELPHIA'S INTRODUCTION TO MOUNTAIN DEW WAS BRILLIANT.

As Bridgforth writes in Mountain Dew: The History, Philadelphia’s Pepsi bottler sprang Mountain Dew on the city with an incredibly involved hoax and publicity stunt. Just as Mountain Dew was entering the market, the Philadelphia License Commissioner received an odd request from “Herbert Eugene Walton,” who described himself as a hillbilly from Turkeyscratch, Tenn. Bridgforth writes that Herbert wanted “permission to build a series of wooden outhouses on all of the downtown parking lots.” 

With the letter setting the stage, an actor playing “Herbert the Hillbilly” rolled into Philly in a red 1929 Model A loaded with jugs and distilling equipment. Herbert slowly drove down Philly’s main drags, causing traffic jams until he eventually reached City Hall. Once at City Hall, he revealed the “reason” for his visit: Overturning a 1911 ordinance that banned outhouses, which could have been useful for distilling delicious Mountain Dew. The actor went on to cause a local sensation by picketing the IRS to ask for a tax license to brew Mountain Dew and setting up a “still” that enabled him to offer pedestrians samples of the Mountain Dew.    

8. PEPSI EVENTUALLY RETIRED THE HILLBILLIES. 

Backwoods society may have been a winning pop culture formula in the 1960s, but it didn’t do much to move soda. Mountain Dew struggled to find a foothold in the national soda market, where drinkers were apparently skeptical of slogans like “It’ll tickle yore innards!” In 1969, Pepsi sent the entire marketing plan back to Turkeyscratch.   

The move turned out to be brilliant. As Donovan notes in Fizz, although Pepsi all but gave up on marketing Mountain Dew, the drink gained steam on its own, with sales increasing by 300 percent leading into 1976. When the brand eventually settled on a marketing strategy in the 1980s and 1990s built on sports and an irreverent personality, it developed into a juggernaut. 

9. IT COULD HAVE BEEN EVEN MORE CAFFEINATED. 

Mountain Dew’s caffeine content is legendary, and with 55 mg of the compound in every 12-ounce can, it’s over 50 percent more caffeinated than Coca-Cola Classic. At one point during the early formulations of today’s popular version, it was amped up to an even greater degree. Tip Corporation executive Hugh Slagle reminisced to author Bridgforth that one prototype recipe “had so much caffeine in it that when bottled, the caffeine crystallized forming what looked like ‘slivers of ice or glass.’”

10. NOBODY HAS BEEN ABLE TO KNOCK IT OFF OF ITS PERCH.

Dosionair, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Since Pepsi began marketing Mountain Dew at active young drinkers, Mountain Dew has soared to a lofty place in the soft drink space to claim the fourth position on the U.S. sales chart behind Coca Cola, Diet Coke, and Pepsi. Coke has made several attempts at dethroning Pepsi’s citrus workhorse, but to no avail. Mello Yello, introduced in 1979 with a $10 million ad campaign that dubbed it “the fastest soft drink in the world” has been reduced to a regional offering. In 1996 Coca-Cola introduced Surge with a Super Bowl ad and a $50 million push, but it washed out of the market by 2003. However, Coke’s not ready to wave the white flag just yet—after a limited 2014 revival on Amazon sold well, Coca-Cola has just reintroduced Surge to store shelves. 

11. THE HILLBILLY MARKETING CAN STILL MAKE THE OCCASIONAL APPEARANCE.

Mountain Dew’s flagship soda may no longer be a rural delicacy, but the company made a nod at its mountain heritage earlier this year when it introduced Dewshine, a “throwback” craft soda made with real sugar and packaged in clear glass bottles. If high-end Mountain Dew sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, just know that Pepsi has never been shy about extending the product line—in 2012 it introduced Mountain Dew Kickstart, a variant that you could drink with breakfast

Additional Sources:

Mountain Dew: The History by Dick Bridgforth

Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World by Tristan Donovan

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
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Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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