|Manufacturer||Keurig Dr Pepper|
|Country of origin||United States|
Vernor opened a drugstore of his own in Detroit, Michigan, on Woodward Avenue, on the southwest corner of Clifford Street and sold his ginger soda at its soda fountain. City by city, Vernor sold bottling franchises, with operators of those franchises required to adhere strictly to the recipe. In 1896, Vernor closed his drugstore and opened a soda fountain closer to the city center, on Woodward Avenue south of Jefferson Avenue, near the ferry docks on the Detroit River to concentrate on the ginger ale business alone. Initially, Vernors was only sold via soda fountain franchises. The early Vernors soda fountains featured ornate plaster, lighting and ironwork featuring a "V" design, examples of which still exist, such as at the Halo Burger restaurant in Flint, Michigan. Later, Vernors was bottled for home consumption.
James Vernor died October 29, 1927, and was succeeded by his son, James Vernor Jr. Expansion continued throughout Prohibition. Just prior to the onset of World War II, Vernors built a 230,000 sq ft (21,000 m2) bottling plant and headquarters, encompassing an entire city block on Woodward Avenue, one block from the Detroit River. In the late 1950s, when the City of Detroit proposed construction of Cobo Hall and other riverfront projects, a land-swap was negotiated, and Vernors moved its bottling plant and headquarters to the location of the old civic exhibition hall at 4501 Woodward Avenue, incorporating many of the popular features of the old plant. Tours of the Vernors plant old and new were major tourist attractions. In 1962, Vernors introduced Vernors 1-Calorie, now called Diet Vernors.
In 1966, the Vernor family sold out to the first of a succession of owners. The company was next acquired by American Consumer Products and then by United Brands. The flagship Detroit bottling plant was shut down by United Brands in 1985, with the local rights to bottle Vernors granted to Pepsi-Cola. The Woodward Avenue plant was later demolished. Vernors was purchased by A&W Beverages in 1987, which was in turn purchased by Cadbury Schweppes. Today, the Vernors brand is property of Keurig Dr Pepper of Burlington, VT, and Plano, TX, and the flagship bottling plant serving Michigan is the Keurig Dr Pepper bottling plant in Holland, Michigan.
Flavor and characteristics
Vernors is a sweet “golden” ginger ale that derives its color from caramel and has a robust flavor (similar to that of ginger beer). The Vernors style was common before Prohibition, after which "dry" pale ginger ale (typified by Canada Dry Ginger Ale) became popular as a drink mixer.
Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise Editor Roger Grace describes the original flavor as "mellow yet perky" with the mellowness attributed to the aging in oak barrels, and the perkiness to the use of more ginger and sugar than "dry" ginger ales. Many people believe that the taste of Vernors has changed significantly in recent years. Grace describes the current flavor as an "emaciated version of a product that once was" and "sweetened carbonated water with ginger flavoring". Theories as to the reason for the claimed change in flavor include that the secret formula has been changed to use new products not originally available to Vernor, such as high fructose corn syrup; that it seems to have less carbonation than formerly; and that Vernors is no longer aged four years, but three in oak barrels.
According to company legend, prior to the start of the American Civil War, while a clerk at the Higby & Sterns drugstore in Detroit, James Vernor experimented with flavors in an attempt to duplicate a popular ginger ale imported from Dublin, Ireland. When Vernor was called off to serve in the war, he stored the syrup base of 19 ingredients, including ginger, vanilla and other natural flavorings, in an oaken cask. Vernor joined the 4th Michigan Cavalry on August 14, 1862, as a hospital steward, and was promoted to second lieutenant on September 20, 1864. He was discharged on July 1, 1865. After returning from battle four years later, he opened the keg and found the drink inside had been changed by the aging process in the wood. It was like nothing else he had ever tasted, and he purportedly declared it "Deliciously different," which remains the drink's motto to this day.
In a 1936 interview, however, James Vernor Jr., admitted that the formula was not developed by his father until after the war was over. This was confirmed in a 1962 interview with former company president, James Vernor Davis. According to the 1911 trademark application on "Vernor's" as a name for ginger ale and extract, Vernor's ginger ale first entered commerce in 1880, not 1866.
Distribution and availability
Vernors was not mass distributed nationally for many years; by 1997, the brand's distribution had expanded to a 33-state area. In 1997, even after expansion, Michigan accounted for 80% of Vernors sales. Ohio and Illinois were the next-highest-selling states; the drink was also very popular in Florida, which has large numbers of retired or relocated former Michigan residents. In 2015, Dr Pepper Snapple said that it sold more than 7 million cases of Vernors, about 1% of the company's total sales volume. At that time, a "large percentage — although not a majority — of the sales" were in Michigan.
Slogans and mascot
A number of slogans have been associated with Vernors over the years. Advertising in the early 1900s used the slogan "Detroit's Drink". According to its trademark application, it began using the slogan "Deliciously Different" in 1921. The labels formerly read "Aged 4 years in wood", which was changed some years ago to "Flavor aged in oak barrels", again in 1996 to "Barrel Aged, Bold Taste" and currently notes "Barrel Aged 3 Years • Bold Taste". The apostrophe in the name "Vernor's" was dropped in the late 1950s. For a time in the mid-1980s, Vernors used the slogan "It's what we drink around here" in its advertising campaigns. The gnome mascot, named "Woody", was used from the start of the 20th century until 1987, when it was dropped by A&W Brands in favor of new packaging, but had returned to the packaging by the 2000s. As recently as October 2013, Vernors features a picture of Woody with the slogan "A Michigan Original Since 1866", plus a picture of a barrel with the slogan "Barrel Aged - Bold Taste". As of January 2016, the wording surrounding the picture was changed to "Authentic • Bold Taste".
The identity of the Vernors gnome mascot has been contested and as a result, there is significant local folklore surrounding the gnome. While the Dr. Pepper company insists the name of the gnome has always been Woody, Lawrence L. Rouch, Vernors historian, argues this was not the case. He agrees that the gnome mascot surfaced sometime in the early 1900s and lasted through to the 1980s, but found no historical evidence of the name “Woody” being associated with the gnome.
There is general consensus, however, of Ronald Bialecki's live-action appearances as the gnome in the 1970s. According to both Vernors historians and Bialecki's family members, he was employed with the Doner Company at the time, which was the advertising firm in charge of the Vernors account. His arrival at work one morning was followed by widespread agreement amongst both Vernors representatives and Doner ad executives that he should be cast as the gnome. Bialecki was so dedicated to the role that he and his wife created a gnome costume for public appearances. During his time as the Vernors mascot, Bialecki made personal appearances in the "gnome mobile" which he also designed for the enjoyment of the local public.
The Detroit Historical Society and Museum teamed up with the Vernor's Collectors' Club and the Detroit Experience Factory to celebrate the brand. Starting June 7, 2016, a Vernors memorabilia exhibition showed artifacts and vintage signage from the brand. The feature ran through June 12, 2016, at the Detroit Historical Museum.
The main event was June 11, with Vernors-related programming all day at the museum, starting with a screening of “Detroit Remember When: Made in the Motor City,” a two-hour documentary about Buddy's Pizza, American Coney Island and other local favorites.
As an ingredient
Vernors can be used as an ingredient in cooking, and it is used by some Detroiters to add a sweet, spicy flavor to dishes. Soul singer Aretha Franklin became famous in the city for demonstrating a recipe, traditional at her church, for Christmas ham with a glaze made with the soft drink; Vernors has also been used in a glaze for salmon and in a batter for onion rings.
A Boston Cooler, also known as a Vernor's float, is an ice cream soda variant typically composed of Vernors Ginger Ale and vanilla ice cream blended together similar to a milkshake, although in other parts of the country, different combinations of ingredients are also known as a Boston Cooler. Some native Detroiters simply put a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream in a glass, add Vernors and a soda straw, and call it a Boston Cooler. Some claim it is named Boston Cooler as it was invented on Boston Boulevard in Detroit. However, Boston Boulevard had not been developed yet when the drink was named.
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-  Archived January 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
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