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Deliciously different!
Type Ginger Ale
Manufacturer Dr Pepper Snapple Group
Country of origin United States
Introduced 1866
Color Golden
Variants Diet Vernors
Classic Vernor's logo with "Woody", the gnome mascot

Vernors is a ginger flavored soft drink and the oldest surviving ginger ale brand in the United States.[1] It was created in 1866 by James Vernor, a Detroit pharmacist.[2]


Although Vernors is the oldest surviving ginger ale sold in the United States, there were a number of brands of ginger ale, ginger soda, and ginger beer sold in commerce prior to 1866.[3]

Formula legend and reality

According to company legend, prior to the start of the American Civil War, while a clerk at the Higby & Sterns drugstore in Detroit, James Vernor experimented with flavors in an attempt to duplicate a popular ginger ale imported from Dublin, Ireland. When Vernor was called off to serve in the war, he stored the syrup base of 19 ingredients, including ginger, vanilla and other natural flavorings, in an oaken cask. Vernor joined the 4th Michigan Cavalry on August 14, 1862 as a hospital steward, was promoted to second lieutenant on September 20, 1864, and was discharged on July 1, 1865. After returning from battle four years later, 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 purportedly declared it "Deliciously different," which remains the drink's motto to this day.

In a 1936 interview, however, James Vernor Jr., admitted that the formula was not developed by his father until after the war was over. This was confirmed in a 1962 interview with former company president, James Vernor Davis.[4] According to the 1911 trademark application on "Vernor's" as a name for ginger ale and extract, Vernor's ginger ale first entered commerce in 1880, not 1866.[5]

Company history

Vernor opened a drugstore of his own on Woodward Avenue, at the corner of Clifford Street[6] and sold his ginger ale at its soda fountain. City by city, Vernor sold bottling franchises, with operators of those franchises required to adhere strictly to the recipe. In 1896, Vernor closed his drugstore and opened a soda fountain closer to the city center, on Woodward Avenue south of Jefferson Avenue, near the ferry docks on the Detroit River to concentrate on the ginger ale business alone.[6] Initially, Vernors was only sold via soda fountain franchises.[7] The early Vernors soda fountains featured ornate plaster, lighting and ironwork featuring a "V" design, examples of which still exist, such as at the Halo Burger restaurant in Flint, Michigan.[6][8][9][10][11] Later Vernors was bottled for home consumption.[7]

James Vernor died October 29, 1927 and was succeeded by his son, James Vernor Jr. Expansion continued throughout Prohibition. Just prior to the onset of World War II, Vernors built a 230,000 sq ft (21,000 m2) bottling plant and headquarters, encompassing an entire city block on Woodward Avenue, one block from the Detroit River. In the late 1950s, when the City of Detroit proposed construction of Cobo Hall and other riverfront projects, a land-swap was negotiated, and Vernors moved its bottling plant and headquarters to the location of the old civic exhibition hall at 4501 Woodward Avenue, incorporating many of the popular features of the old plant. Tours of the Vernors plant old and new were major tourist attractions. In 1962, Vernors introduced Vernors 1-Calorie, now called Diet Vernors.

In 1966, the Vernor family sold out to the first of a succession of owners.[12] The company was next acquired by American Consumer Products and then by United Brands. The flagship Detroit bottling plant was shut down by United Brands in 1985, with the local rights to bottle Vernors granted to Pepsi-Cola.[7] The Woodward Avenue plant was later demolished and replaced by a parking structure for Wayne State University.[13] Vernors was purchased by A&W Beverages in 1987, which was in turn purchased by Cadbury Schweppes. Today, the Vernors brand is property of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group of Plano, TX[14]

Distribution and availability

For most of its history, Vernors was a regional product. Initially Vernor sold franchises throughout Michigan and in major regional cities such as Toledo, Cleveland and Buffalo. Vernors is also popular in Canada, having been sold at Ontario soda fountains from the 1920s onward, and with bottling facilities, soda fountains and outlets located in Southwestern Ontario.[6]

Vernors was not mass distributed nationally until the 1960s, when United Brands, A&W and Cadbury expanded it to a 33-state area. Even after expansion, Michigan accounts for 80% of Vernors sales. Michigan, Ohio and Illinois are the highest-selling states, and primary cities are Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Toledo and Cincinnati. It is also very popular in Florida, which has large numbers of retired or relocated former Michigan residents.[7]

Slogans and mascot

A number of slogans have been associated with Vernors over the years. Advertising in the early 1900s used the slogan "Detroit's Drink".[6] According to its trademark application, it began using the slogan "Deliciously Different" in 1921.[15] The labels formerly read "Aged 4 years in wood", which was changed some years ago to "Flavor aged in oak barrels", again in 1996 to "Barrel Aged, Bold Taste" and currently notes "Barrel Aged 3 Years • Bold Taste".[16] The apostrophe in the name "Vernor's" was dropped in the late 1950s.[6] For a time in the mid-1980s Vernors used the slogan "It's what we drink around here" in its advertising campaigns.[17][18][19] The gnome mascot, named "Woody", was used from the start of the 20th century until 1987, when it was dropped by A&W Brands in favor of new packaging,[7] but had returned to the packaging by the 2000s.[20] As recently as October 2013, Vernors features a picture of Woody with the slogan "A Michigan Original Since 1866", plus a picture of a barrel with the slogan "Barrel Aged - Bold Taste".

Flavor and characteristics

Vernors is a sweet “golden” ginger ale that derives its color from caramel and has a robust flavor (similar to that of ginger beer). The Vernors style was common before Prohibition, when “dry” pale ginger ale (typified by Canada Dry Ginger Ale) became popular as a drink mixer.[21]

Vernors is highly carbonated. Some people drink it hot as a remedy for stomach ache.[22] Ginger is thought to be the active ingredient.

LA Metropolitan News Editor Roger Grace describes the original flavor as "mellow yet perky with the mellowness attributed to the aging in oak barrels, and the perkiness to the use of more ginger and sugar than "dry" ginger ales. Many people believe that the taste of Vernors has changed significantly in recent years. Grace describes the current flavor as an "emaciated version of a product that once was" and "sweetened carbonated water with ginger flavoring". Theories as to the reason for the claimed change in flavor include that the secret formula has been changed to use new products not originally available to Vernor, such as high fructose corn syrup; that it seems to have less carbonation than formerly; and that Vernors is no longer aged four years, but three in oak barrels.[7][16]

Vernors as an ingredient

Vernors can be used as an ingredient in cooking, and it is used by some Detroiters to add a sweet, spicy flavor to dishes. Soul singer Aretha Franklin is famous in the city for demonstrating a recipe, traditional at her church, for Christmas ham with a glaze made with the soft drink;[23] Vernors has also been used in a glaze for salmon[24] and in a batter for onion rings.[25]

Boston Cooler

A Boston Cooler is an ice cream soda variant typically composed of Vernors Ginger Ale and vanilla ice cream blended together similar to a milkshake, although in other parts of the country, different combinations of ingredients are also known as a Boston Cooler. Some native Detroiters simply put a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream in a glass, add Vernors and a soda straw, and call it a Boston Cooler. Some claim it is named Boston Cooler as it was invented on Boston Boulevard in Detroit. However, Boston Boulevard had not been developed yet when the drink was named.[26][27]

See also


  1. Orchant, Rebecca (October 31, 2012). "Vernors Ginger Ale Is America's Oldest And Michigan's Favorite". Huffington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Vernor's Ginger Ale – Keith Wunderlich. Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Roger M. Grace (October 27, 2005). "Grace, Roger M., "Vernors is not, despite claim, 'The Original Ginger Soda'", Metropolitan News-Enterprise (Los Angeles) (October 27, 2005) p.11". Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Rouch, Lawrence L., The Vernors Story: From Gnomes to Now (University of Michigan Press) 2003 pp 6–8 ISBN 0-472-06697-8, ISBN 978-0-472-06697-1. Google Books. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Trademark No 0083107, Registered August 15, 1911
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Wunderlich, Keith, '"Vernors Ginger Ale, Arcadia Publishing, 2008 ISBN 0-7385-5185-6, ISBN 978-0-7385-5185-2. Google Books. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Wunderlich" defined multiple times with different content
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Johnson, Eric A., "The original Motown gold", Toledo Blade (March 23, 1997), Sec F, pp 6,2[dead link]
  8. Raymer, Marjory (August 13, 2008). "Vernors fans bringing pop culture to Flint". The Flint Journal. Retrieved May 7, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "V is for Vernors! Halo Burger Interior – Flint, Michigan | Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2012-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Wirt, Thomas. "V for Vernors | Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2012-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Vernor's Ginger Ale – Keith Wunderlich. Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Roger M. Grace. "Grace, Roger M., "Wood-aged Vernors ginger ale was "Deliciously Different", Metropolitan News-Enterprise (Los Angeles) (October 13, 2005) p. 11". Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Vernor's Ginger Ale – Keith Wunderlich. Google Books. Retrieved 2012-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Vernors". Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Retrieved 2012-09-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Trademark No. 0945838, TESS, ''United States Patent & Trademark Office''". Retrieved 2012-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 16.0 16.1 Roger M. Grace (October 20, 2005). "Grace, Roger M., "Is Vernors still aged four years in wood? No answer", Metropolitan News-Enterprise (Los Angeles) (October 20, 2005) p. 15". Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "1980's Vernor's Ad w. Ted Nugent". April 25, 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 15 maart 2009. "1987 Vernors Ad w. Petr Klima". Youtube. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. 27 maart 2009. "1987 Vernors Ad w. Pat Paulsen". Youtube. Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Vernors". Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Retrieved 2012-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Roger M. Grace (October 6, 2005). "Grace, Roger M., "Prohibition creates market for Canada Dry Ginger Ale" Metropolitan News-Enterprise (Los Angeles) (October 6, 2005) p.11". Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Schrader, Jessica, "Club celebrates the 'deliciously different' drink", C&G Newspapers (February 21, 2007)". Retrieved 2010-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Aretha Franklin Shares Christmas ham recipe with Vernors glaze on LIVE with Kelly and Michael". ABC. WXYZ-TV. 24 December 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Usitalo, Kath. "Vernors Goes Swimmingly With Salmon". Great Lakes Gazette. Retrieved 17 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Usitalo, Kath. "Versatile Vernors Makes Great Onion Rings". Great Lakes Gazette. Retrieved 17 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. ""Detroit brainteasers", ''Detroit Free Press'' (December 31, 2001) pE1". December 31, 2001. Retrieved 2012-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Cruden, Alex, "Five things about Detroit Drinks", ''Detroit Free Press'' (October 9, 2006), p.A2". October 9, 2006. Retrieved 2012-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links