How the South Cornered the Soda Market

20160625-southern-soda-advertisement-coke.jpg[Photograph: Library of Congress]

If you’ve ever looked into the history of soft drinks in America, you may have noticed that a surprisingly large number of them originated in the South. Coca-Cola, for instance, was created by Dr. John S. Pemberton in Atlanta in 1886. Its archrival, Pepsi, was invented by Caleb Bradham in the late 1890s, in New Bern, North Carolina. Dr Pepper started off in Waco, Texas, in 1885, while latecomer Mountain Dew was created in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1948. Those four beverages—along with other products later released by their parent companies, such as Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, and Sprite—remain among the top-selling soft drinks in America today. A second tier of smaller Southern soda brands are still going strong, too, including Ale-8-One (Winchester, Kentucky, 1902); Barq’s Root Beer (Biloxi, Mississippi, 1898); Big Red (Waco, Texas, 1937); Cheerwine (Salisbury, North Carolina, 1917); Double Cola (Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1933); Dr. Enuf (Johnson City, Tennessee, 1949)—and that just gets us through the D’s.

So why is it that the sweet, fizzy beverages so many of us guzzle today have a Southern twang to their history? The more I’ve looked into it, the more I’ve come to believe that it stems from the region’s reinvention of itself following the Civil War, during the New South era—a tumultuous period filled with industrious entrepreneurs, clever pharmacists with cure-all tonics, Bible-banging temperance reformers, craven hucksters, and, of course, a hot southern climate that demanded a constant source of refreshment.


In the two decades immediately following the Civil War, forward-looking businesspeople, politicians, and newspaper editors advocated replacing the agriculture-centric economy of the antebellum South with a more modern system based on industry and commerce. No city better represented this New South spirit than Atlanta, birthplace of the granddaddy of all soft drinks, Coca-Cola.

Excerpt, read more at: Serious Eats