Cheerwine is a North Carolina soft drink with a distinctly different name and flavor.
If you travel through North Carolina, you will likely see an unusual soda pop sold in red cans or in old fashioned soda bottles with the oval Cheerwine logo. Cheerwine is also available at many restaurants in the Carolinas.
Just recently the company has been expanding with Cheerwine offered in more states and through more outlets. The cherry-flavored based soda has long been a hit in the Atlanta area, along the coast in the South as well as in Virginia. Most recently, Cheerwine has been added to the menu of Brother Jimmy’s Barbecue in New York City (a restaurant featuring North Carolina style barbecue).
Is Cheerwine a Soda or a Wine?
The name of the “cherry different soft drink” can be confusing to those from outside the South. The most common question for those unfamiliar with the product is, “Well, is it a wine?”
Even though the name of the soda includes the word wine, Cheerwine is not an alcoholic beverage.
In the early days of soft drink development, drinks were often named in terms of appearance. A good example would be root beer. It’s fairly common knowledge that root beer is not a beer. It simply looks a bit like beer.
Cheerwine has the bright red color of grape wines and lots of bubbles, so the creator named it Cheerwine for the “happy” bubbles and then the wine part for the color.
Is Cheerwine a New Soft Drink Beverage?
Although Cheerwine is “new” in many areas, it’s an old soft drink. In fact, Cheerwine dates back to 1917 but wasn’t trademarked until 1926.
Lewis D. Peeler, a businessman from Salisbury, NC, had an interest in soda mixing and also a building that was convenient to the railroad line. When Peeler was offered a chance to buy out a Kentucky syrup company that marketed a mint soda, he decided to get into the soft drink business. He named his company Carolina Bottling Company.
Initially, Peeler sold the mint sodas, but he also played around with his own concoctions. After he purchased some cherry flavoring, he found that he could create a sweeter tasting soda without having to add more sugar (which was in short supply in the early 1900s).
Peeler’s Cheerwine quickly began outselling the original mint soda. Over time, a diet version and a caffeine version were added. Carolina Bottling Company sells other soft drinks as well as an energy drink called Savage.
What Does Cheerwine Taste Like?
It’s difficult to capture the flavor of Cheerwine with words. It is sometimes referred to as cherry cola, but that really doesn’t do the beverage justice. The almond-based cherry flavoring gives it a very unique flavor.
There are many Cheerwine fans. One local lunch counter worker said she sells Cheerwine two to one over other drinks. A postal worker reports getting boxes of Cheerwine to mail from Southerners who like to share the soda with family and friends in other parts of the country. Ironically, it costs more to mail the soda than it costs to buy the soda.
A teenager from Cleveland, NC says, “Cheerwine is the best soda ever.”
On the other hand, a senior citizen from the area says he’s not sure what all the “fuss” is about. “It tastes like cough medicine to me,” he says.
Cheerwine is More Than a Soft Drink – It’s a Lifestyle Statement
If you want a good conversation in the South (especially North Carolina – and very specifically historic Salisbury, NC), just bring up Cheerwine. Locals love to talk about the weather, politics, and Cheerwine.
You’ll hear about good times – barbecues, NASCAR trips, backyard parties, and other wonderful Cheerwine moments. Cheerwine spells “good times” for fans, and the company has always been small and supportive of local community projects. That leaves a good taste in everyone’s mouth.
Cheerwine Pound Cake Recipe
There are a number of different types of Cheerwine cakes made around the South. Some are layer cakes with frosting and some are sheet cakes. Then, there are Cheerwine pound cakes. This seemed inevitable since pound cakes are super popular in the South.
Cheerwine Soft Drink Cake Recipe
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks) – can use margarine but butter is better
- ½ cup shortening (Crisco etc)
- 3 cups of sugar
- 5 large eggs
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tsp lemon extract (or lemon flavoring)
- 3 cups plain flour
- 1 cup Cheerwine soft drink
- 8 drops red food coloring (optional) – but gives the cake a prettier color
- Put the butter out to soften. This makes it much easier to mix up this cake and gives it a better texture.
- Cream softened butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy in a large mixing bowl.
- Add eggs one at a time and beat well. This gives the Cheerwine cake height and a lighter texture.
- Add salt and lemon extract and beat.
- Alternate with flour and Cheerwine and beat well until the mixture is smooth.
- For a pinker color, add food coloring and mix.
- Grease a tube cake or bundt cake pan and pour the batter in pan. Wipe off any drips on the side for a better appearance.
- Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to one hour and a half at 350 degrees F. Check on the earlier time with a toothpick. If the cake is done, the toothpick should come out clean.
Note: This recipe makes a smaller pound cake. It is not one of the pound cakes that goes up and over the top of smaller bundt cake pans for example.