Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale - Gastro Obscura
It’s finally here! Download our iOS app and discover the world’s hidden wonders on the go!
It’s finally here! Download our iOS app and discover the world’s hidden wonders on the go! LAUNCH PARTNER


Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale

Birmingham's sinus-clearing soda was a popular way to enhance bootlegged hooch during Prohibition.

Buffalo Rock is a ginger ale that is defined by superlatives: darker, bubblier, stronger. Compared to today’s intensely sweet sodas, this Alabama favorite packs a sinus-clearing spiciness.

Sidney Lee, a grocer at the Alabama Grocery Company in Birmingham, created Buffalo Rock in 1901. His approach was consistent with the technique of the time: Add bubbles and sugar to a medicinal tonic (originally invented by a local pharmacist), then sell it as soda. The beverage received a boost after the United States enacted Prohibition in 1920. Buffalo Rock was not only a refreshing drink, it also packed a punch reminiscent of alcohol. Those who lived above the law found that using the soda as a mixer made bootlegged hooch much more drinkable. 

By 1922, the company’s headquarters had a four-story neon sign that read, “Drink Buffalo Rock.” Lee’s company shifted into ginger ale production exclusively in 1927, and the product survived the Great Depression in the form of five-cent bottles. When sugar rationing struck during World War II, James Lee Sr. (Sidney’s son) went to Mexico City to replenish sugar supplies. In 1966, Buffalo Rock moved to a new, larger bottling plant. Movie star Joan Crawford attended the grand opening celebration.

Though the aggressively spicy brew has since been eclipsed by less intense soda brands, it remains a niche, regional fan favorite. Today, the soda lives on in low supply and high demand. It first debuted outside the Southeast on Amazon in 2015 and sold out in under two days.

Need to Know

Buffalo Rock has a store locator on its website. You can also order it online. (Don't worry: Stock issues have improved since 2015.)

Where to Try It
  • No Locations Yet
Community Discussion
Contributed by
CormacRedfield CormacRedfield
Community Photos of Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale
See All »