Editor’s Note: I originally posted this as. Facebook “note” in 2009. It has been mildly edited…
Recently I set out to do a little research about a favorite Michigan soft drink – Vernors. Inspiring me was a guy affectionately known among our friends as “Big Tom,” who emphatically stated several years ago that only people from Michigan like Vernors – everyone else thinks it tastes “like horse piss.” I may be paraphrasing his actual quote, but the meaning is clear – it has a taste that only Michigan natives can love.
So I set out just a couple of days ago to find out if Big Tom’s theory holds fizz by inserting a Vernors question into one of those silly surveys that continually float around Facebook and other social media platforms.
The result? Michigan people love Vernors and tend to talk about it sentimentally. Boston coolers. Gnomes. Sneezing if you accidentally sniff it too closely. Hitting it up if you have a cold. Using it to settle a touchy stomach.
If you grew up in Flint or the surrounding areas (as I did), you probably remember the Vernors mural at the Halo Burger building on Saginaw Street, which has little Vernors gnomes engaged in different states of Vernors production (mainly, rolling around the barrels). As of 2006, there was an active rescue effort to save the mural (see above).
Though online accounts vary, most of them report that Detroit pharmacist James Vernor created Vernors in the 1860s. It is still known as one of the nation’s oldest soft drinks. Vernors was even made in Detroit until the 1960s, when it was sold to A&W and years later, to Cadbury-Schweppes, which continues to own Vernors.
All corporate shuffing aside, Michiganders will always lay claim to this effervescent, spicy pop. There, I said it. Pop. Could my Michigan roots show any more? “Soda” is what you serve with scotch.
As for me, I remember Vernors’ glass bottles from the 70s, and being able to order it at Halo Burger, a Flint-area burger chain. It was no accident that I stopped drinking it regularly in the early 1990s when bottlers started using plastic bottles and cans for soft drinks instead of glass. It just didn’t taste the same anymore. Then I went to the lighter side of ginger ales and started to prefer the taste of Canada Dry (which works well for a variety of mixed drinks).
But the lure of Vernors was not totally forgotten. Vernors is very similar to ginger beer, made by a variety of companies, including Reeds. I bought a four-pack of their natural ginger brew and found it tasted remarkably similar to Vernors, but without the high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors. I even used it medicinally when a 7-year-old niece had a touchy stomach after throwing up. Within about 15 minutes, she was off and playing again.The point of this blog? There is no point. For the love of Vernors has no rhyme or reason. GO DRINK VERNORS NOW!!! Mix it with light rum and a splash of cranberry juice!