Cheerwine, The Sweet Soft Drink That's Older Than You Might Expect

No matter where you shop, many grocery store products remain the same from state to state. But, a special few products proudly retain their decidedly regional presence and charm. Cheerwine is one such drink. The brand has a storied history and deep ties to the South, where it was founded by the same family who owns the cherry soft drink company to this day. Though Cheerwine has outgrown its original place of origin and is now found on grocery store shelves around the country, the odds are good that those raised in the South are much more familiar with the beverage.

To be clear, Cheerwine is a soft drink. There's no actual wine here, just a sweet, wild-cherry soft drink with a burgundy-wine hue that's earned something of a cult following — especially in and around its home state of North Carolina. Unique not only for its extra-carbonated effervescence and dark wine color, Cheerwine is also the oldest continuously running soda brand owned by the same family that founded it way back in 1917.

A sugar shortage first inspired the creation of the cherry drink

The name at the forefront of the Cheerwine brand is Lewis D. Peeler, a native North Carolinian and businessman who founded the drink brand in 1917. But, the story technically started a few years earlier when Peeler first bought into a bottling company in 1913. It was the iconic cherry drink that he became known for, which he was inspired to create while searching for a soda recipe that required less added sugar since it was in short supply due to WW1. After crossing paths with a salesman from St. Louis who sold him the cherry flavor formula, Peeler knew he'd found his ideal soft drink flavor. After perfecting his recipe, Cheerwine (named for its cheer-inducing taste and wine color) was officially born and offered for sale to North Carolinians the following year. The drink's first slogan was: "For Health & Pleasure!" 

100 years later, the Southern soda retains its popularity

Food and beverage trends fade in and out of fashion with the decades — who remembers iconic 90s trends like Ecto Cooler or Dunkaroos? While the Peeler family's creation may not have reached the echelons of soda giants like Coca-Cola or Pepsi, Cheerwine continues to hold its own even 100 years later. Cheerwine still has loyal devotees, with an official fan club, an annual Cheerwine festival, and a newfound presence in grocery stores in all 50 states. 

Cheerwine has long been celebrated by foodies and chefs for its complimentary nature when paired with saucy BBQ. The National Barbeque Association even named it their official soft drink in 2015. Travel anywhere near the brand's birthplace in Salisbury, NC, and you'll see the drink on bar and restaurant menus as not just a drink but also in glazes, cakes, and cocktails. With a larger nationwide presence than ever before and with the recent clamor for nostalgic foods and drinks that remind of us our childhoods, this iconic Southern beverage may just be poised for its big moment.