I remember the first time I ever had Cheerwine. Being a North Carolina specialty, I had never heard of it before moving here. With my family in transition from the move to NC, we had to make do with the groceries we had for a few days. Getting ready for my first day at my new school, I sat down at the kitchen table to enjoy a bowl of cereal…and a glass of Cheerwine. Only being in the third grade and hearing “wine” at the end of the word, I remember looking at my dad and asking “Am I allowed to have this?” My dad reassured me that I was allowed, that it was not wine, but a soft drink. As soon as the flavor hit my tongue, I knew that Cheerwine was going to be a favorite drink.
The refreshing carbonated drink with a hint of wild cherry was a huge hit long before I got a taste of it, thanks to general store owner L.D. Peeler, who in Salisbury, North Carolina, in 1917, created the “Nectar of North Carolina.” Peeler wanted to create a new soft drink on his own, and bought some cherry flavor off a traveling salesman. He experimented many times before stumbling across the winning flavor sensation, and before long the new concoction was a popular drink, and the Legend began to spread. In 1967, with the great success of Cheerwine still booming, the company moved to its present location in Salisbury—a brand new, debt-free, state-of-the-art building that used Crown bottling equipment.
The North Carolina beverage introduced a diet version in the 1960s, and then again in the 1980s. Caffeine free came in 1984. It has even made it into the hands of two U.S. presidents: Dwight D. Eisenhower, and George Bush Sr., both of which were very satisfied with the delicious cherry taste. Fans of Cheerwine find themselves in the birthplace of the soda, stopping in at Innes Street Drug, the only store in Salisbury that sells licensed Cheerwine products. It even sells a variety of Cheerwine treats, from the actual soda to milkshakes and more. That’s the best part about Salisbury’s fizzy beverage; it can be used as a special ingredient for some tasty treats! Here are just a few.
Baked beans are always a great side dish, especially for the nights when you grill out with hotdogs and hamburgers. Hot or cold, baked beans are never unsatisfying. Every now and then, people like to spruce them up, adding their own touch to them. Sometimes I have what I call “orange juice beans.” But what would you say to adding a little bit of Cheerwine to the mix, giving the beans a nice zing of cherry flavor? Sounds delicious.
Cheerwine is also responsible for some delicious dessert recipes (though with the soda mixed in with baked beans, they could be considered one too.) Making homemade ice cream is a fun activity, and Cheerwine ice cream could be the perfect flavor to make. You could even pair the ice cream with a slice of Cheerwine cake, the tangy cherry flavor hidden in the cake batter and glaze. Move over, Coca-Cola cake! For Cherry Cobbler, it only makes sense that you would use Cheerwine as a key ingredient.
Since its beginning, the drink has slowly been made available outside the boundaries of NC, where more people have discovered the unique taste of Cheerwine. As already mentioned, it is a featured ingredient for some great desserts. But sometimes the best way to enjoy the taste of North Carolina is in its original form. Best served chilled in a glass bottle.