Vernors Ginger Ale: Michigan’s Favorite Since 1866
What makes a good wintertime drink? A cup of warmed-up Vernors Ginger Ale…
I used to guzzle Vernors all the time when I was a kid. It was SO effervescent, the tiny bubbles would make you cough and was almost peppery.
It was a unique, adult taste that unfortunately has changed somewhat these days but it remains extremely delicious.
The slogans were “aged in wood four years” and “deliciously different” but they aren’t used much anymore; the new slogan is “the original ginger soda.” And boy…when it was aged in wood for 4 years it was AWESOME.
How did James Vernor come up with the idea to have his soda aged four years in wood?
Vernor was a doctor who also ran a soda fountain adjacent to his pharmacy. He was attempting to create a tonic with the ingredients vanilla, ginger and other spices when he went off to fight in the Civil War in 1862 — his tonic concoction was stored away in an oaken cask until he returned four years later. Upon his return, he received a pleasant surprise when he re-opened the cask and discovered his ‘tonic’ had aged into a beverage with a unique taste, thanks to it’s aging in wood.
Vernor started out working for the Higby & Sterns drug store when he was only 15. He joined the army at 19, went to serve during the Civil War and upon returning, opened his own drug store at the southwest corner of Woodward and Clifford, where his pride & joy - Vernors Ginger Ale - was sold.
In 1896, he closed up and opened a soda fountain on Woodward and Jefferson on the Detroit River.
When he passed in 1927, his son, James, Jr., built a bottling plant on Woodward, taking up a whole city block. In the 1950's, Jr. traded it off when the city started planning Cobo Hall and was able to talk him out of his property.
The "aged in wood" slogan has changed over the years, because it's believed by the majority that it's no longer aged in wood anymore, and hasn't been for many, many years. Why? It's believed the new owners (the Dr. Pepper Company) figured out how to duplicate the taste without waiting four years; basically, in order to make a lot more a lot easier.....something James & James Jr. would NOT have wanted to see happen.
Even so, Vernors is still a favorite of the majority of Michiganians and it still tastes 'deliciously different.'
Take a look at the gallery below for some cool photos that include the original Vernor Pharmacy and more vintage Vernor's stuff!