Debuting in 1866, Vernors ginger soda is one of the oldest soft drinks in the United States. Though it never earned nationwide popularity, Vernors has garnered generations of loyal fans in its native Detroit. In addition to simply sipping the soda, Detroiters still turn to the fizzy brew as a cure-all for everything from nausea to headaches. There’s even a Vernors Collectors Club, with some members possessing more than 1,000 of pieces of memorabilia bearing variations of the classic green and yellow logo.
Invented by pharmacist James Vernor, the ginger soda is a relic of the drugstore-cum-soda-fountain era. For years after its debut, customers could sip Vernor’s signature drink—known for its effervescence and vanilla, lightly spiced flavors—only at the soda fountain adjacent to his pharmacy. Eventually, as the beverage’s popularity increased, Vernor started supplying his syrup to other fountains and opened a bottling plant. Even after his death in 1927, Vernor’s company continued to grow. Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, a sprawling new bottling plant and soda fountain attracted throngs of locals and visitors, who wanted to sip ginger soda and the buzzed-about beverage known as the Boston Cooler, which blended Vernors with vanilla ice cream.
Despite the local love, Vernors never achieved the level of popularity of some of the era’s other sodas. After the Vernor family sold the company in the 1960s, the brand has been owned by several corporations, finally landing with Keurig Dr Pepper. Although the old bottling plants and soda fountains may be gone, Detroit natives can take solace in one modern update: Thanks to the internet, they can now order Vernors even when far from home.
Where to Try It
Eleven City Diner1112 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, Illinois, 60605, United States
Vernors is on the menu at this Chicago eatery.
Sever's Market434 Bowman Ave, East Alton, Illinois, 62024, United States
This is a Mom and Pop grocery store that still cuts its own meat. Vernors has been carried there for decades.