Everything you want to know about Cheerwine, NC’s signature soda

Manalapan, NJ / USA - April 9 2019: Glass bottles of North Carolina Cheerwine. A cherry-flavored soft drink by Carolina Beverage Corporation. (Photo via Shutterstock)

By Sam Cohen

December 18, 2023

If you’re a North Carolinian, or even just a soda enthusiast, chances are you’ve heard of Cheerwine. (If you haven’t, well, we’ll be taking your North Carolina card.) This carbonated beverage has become an iconic symbol of the state, but it’s more than just the best drink to pair with barbecue.

Let’s dive into the fascinating world of Cheerwine.

Related: Click here to watch Cardinal & Pine’s Leah Sherrell try Cheerwine Ale

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The origin and history of Cheerwine

Let’s start with the story behind Cheerwine’s creation. Believe it or not, this cherry-flavored soda was born in Salisbury back in 1917. L.D. Peeler, a local entrepreneur, wanted to create a unique beverage that captured the essence of the region. Due to the sugar shortage during the First World War, Peeler had to get creative when it came to sweetening his new soft drink. Thanks to the help of a visiting salesman from St. Louis, who approached Peeler with wild cherry flavor syrup, the NC businessman perfected the recipe and named it Cheerwine. Little did Peeler know that his creation would go on to become a beloved soda that has stood the test of time.

Cheerwine was initially available only in the South, contributing to its association with the South. Although it finally expanded its distribution in 2017, 100 years after it was first invented, its regional origins remain an essential part of its identity.

Deliveries looked a lot different in the 1920s 

When Cheerwine was initially created, the company primarily made deliveries by train … and by horse and wagon. (Remember, this was back in 1917!). As the demand for the delicious cherry product continued to grow, though, Cheerwine had to take a step into the modern era. 

The company acquired its first delivery truck in the 1920s and has been delivering to stores, restaurants, and homes across North Carolina—and now, across the country—ever since.

Read More: NC has one of the top ‘Christmas towns’ in America. 

Cheerwine was way ahead of the competition

You may think products like Cherry Coke and Pepsi Wild Cherry have been around for over 100 years too, but that’s actually not the case. Cheerwine was the first bottled cherry soda in the US by quite a wide margin. 

Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi introduced their cherry flavored beverages in the 1980s. Cherry Coke was first launched in 1985, and Wild Cherry Pepsi was introduced to consumers in 1988.

Even notable cherry soda brands like Fitz’s and Steward’s were behind the curve in relation to Cheerwine. Fitz’s began in 1947, and Steward’s began producing soda in 1925

Love Cheerwine? Get in line!

Are you a North Carolinian who wants to shout about your love of Cheerwine from the rooftops? Join the club—literally! Cheerwine has an official Fan Club, which you can join by filling out a quick form on the company’s website

When you become an official Cheerwine “Tastemaker,” you’ll be sent company news before everyone else, and you’ll have the chance to discuss your love of this wild cherry flavored soda with like-minded Cheerwine enthusiasts.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, you can also join the Cheerwine Tastemakers group on Facebook for even more news and community bonding.  

A symbol of tradition and community

It’s not just the taste that makes Cheerwine special; it’s the sense of nostalgia that comes with each sip. As the soda gained popularity in its early years, it became a symbol of North Carolina’s rich history and traditions. To this day, people continue to gather at local fairs and festivals, savoring the fizzy sweetness of Cheerwine while creating memories that would last a lifetime. (There’s even a hugely popular Cheerwine Festival that happens annually in downtown Salisbury now.)

Other factors that contribute to Cheerwine’s standing as a symbol of tradition? It’s produced by a family-owned business, the Carolina Beverage Corporation, and is currently led by Cliff Ritchie, L.D. Peeler’s great-grandson

Today, Cheerwine continues to thrive, remaining a beloved beverage that brings people together.

This story was produced with the assistance of AI.

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