Sunday, April 7, 2024

Cheerwine: A Soft Drink from Appalachia

By Michelle Shocklee

I have a confession. 

I love soft drinks. It's true. I have one just about every day. I didn't grow up drinking them often though. My parents didn't keep soft drinks in the house. The only choices to wet your whistle were water, milk, or Kool-Aid made from an envelope of flavored powder and a full cup of sugar. BUT on special occasions, like birthdays, Mom would buy a six-pack of Coke and let each of us kids have one to ourselves! Thankfully, with five kids and two adults, we enjoyed this rare treat seven times a year. Ha! Today, since I don't need the sugar or artificial stuff most soft drinks include, my favorite soda is Zevia Cherry Cola, sweetened with stevia and minus additives for coloring, etc. I only enjoy one a day typically, so I think Mom would approve.

While doing research for my novel Appalachian Song, I discovered a soft drink I'd never heard of! Let me tell you a yummy story from Appalachia.

LD Peeler;

In 1866, a man named Lewis D. Peeler was born in North Carolina. He studied at a local Lutheran college and in Virginia, and eventually tried his hand at a number of different enterprises, including farming and wholesaling. When he was 47 years old, he bought into a Kentucky-based bottling company named Mint-Cola Bottling. He and another investor opened a local franchise of the company in the basement of Peeler's general store near the railroad line in Salisbury, North Carolina. In 1917, he formed the Carolina Beverage Corporation.

But times were tough and there was a sugar ration in place due to World War I. Peeler wanted to produce a beverage that used less sugar but still tasted great. His drive to develop his own soft drink led him to a salesman from St. Louis who sold him a wild cherry flavor derived from oil of almonds that blended well with other flavors already being produced. Convinced he'd found the "secret sauce" for his new drink, Peeler named the beverage “cheer” for pleasure and “wine” for its deep red color.
The taste sensation known as Cheerwine was born. The company's first slogan: For Health & Pleasure.

The delicious sparkling soda quickly satisfied thirsts in Appalachia. The company was renamed Piedmont Cheerwine Bottling Company in 1924 to increase brand recognition throughout North Carolina, and Peeler first registered the Cheerwine trademark in 1926. In 1927, he started another bottling company in Charlotte. That business was later sold to Sun-Drop Bottling in 1976.

LD Peeler;
Lewis passed away in 1931. His son, Clifford, took over the business. He not only kept the company afloat during the depression, but managed to keep it profitable. The public continued to purchase the drink and felt it was good to have a product with the word “Cheer” in the name during such difficult times.

Today, Lewis D. Peeler's great-grandson, Charles Clifford "Cliff" Ritchie, runs the company that the family says is "the oldest continuously operated soft drink company still run by the same family." Cheerwine can be found in markets in all 50 states, Europe, and China. 

To me, that's a sure testament to a great product. I couldn't wait to try it!!! YUMMM! 

Your turn: Have you tried Cheerwine? What'd'ya think? What is your favorite drink to wet your whistle?

Springhouse at the Walker Sisters Cabin, the setting for
Appalachian Song

Michelle Shocklee 
is the author of several historical novels, including Count the Nights by Stars, winner of the Christianity Today Book Award, and Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy Awards and Selah Awards finalist. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online  at


Forever within the memories of my heart.
Always remember, you are perfectly loved.

Bertie Jenkins has spent forty years serving as a midwife for her community in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Out of all the mothers she’s tended, none affects her more than the young teenager who shows up on her doorstep, injured, afraid, and expecting, one warm June day in 1943. As Bertie and her four sisters tenderly nurture Songbird back to health, the bond between the childless midwife and the motherless teen grows strong. But soon Songbird is forced to make a heartbreaking decision that will tear this little family apart.

Thirty years later, the day after his father’s funeral, Walker Wylie is stunned to learn he was adopted as an infant. The famous country singer enlists the help of adoption advocate Reese Chandler in the hopes of learning why he was abandoned by his birth parents. With the only clue he has in hand, Walker and Reese head deep into the Appalachian Mountains to track down Bertie Jenkins, the midwife who holds the secrets to Walker’s past.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting today! I will have to find out where in my state this is sold. I like Diet Coke but usually a cold drink is water.