I am a Kentucky Colonel. Back when he was Governor, Paul Patton awarded me the Commonwealth’s highest honor for service to it. I have solidarity with its people, culture, cuisine and of course, beverages. Eastern Kentucky — in the foothills of the Appalachians — is the birthplace of a delightful line of pop: Ale-8-One. They’ve just come out with cherry flavor! I was happy to be hosted to experience it.
I first tried their original flavor by doing something I love to do while traveling: visit the local grocery store to find unique products. Like original Kentucky pioneer Daniel Boone, I first crossed into the Bluegrass state through Southwest Virginia. Being young(er) and on a painfully tight budget, I went camping. I was instantly enchanted with the beautiful place! At one point, I even got married in Kentucky, but . . . that didn’t “take”. I have also had lots of business in the state over the years. Kentucky boasts unique cultural aspects, having been settled by folks coming through or staying in, the Appalachian mountains. Ale-8-One was designated the official “original soft drink” of Kentucky in 2013.
There are a lot of theories as to why the Appalachians gave rise to niche sodas. Ginger ale is said to have first been created in Ireland and our mountains have been home to Irish and Scot-Irish communities for nearly 300 year. The mountains are primary sources of natural, clean drinking water — the main component of soda. Epicurious.com cites the popularity of “tonics and elixirs” (predating easy access to medical care in remote mountain areas, perhaps?), as well as a desire to have a mixer for locally invented spirits like moonshine and bourbon, as probable reasons for the wild popularity of soda.
Do you like supporting family-owned businesses? I do and it’s important that you do, too. George Lee Wainscott established his soda company in 1902 and introduced Ale-8-One in 1926. He had checked out the ginger beers of Northern Europe; they were robust. He conceived of toning the hot spice with what was then a luxurious flavor in rural Kentucky: citrus. You ever hear of those old timers who wax rhapsodic about getting an orange in their Christmas stocking? There you have it. The drink’s name comes from a popular saying in the 1920’s, a way to declare it to be cutting edge.
So, apparently George’s favorite fruit was cherry, so they — after all these years! — added natural cherry flavor on top of the classic recipe. It’s mellow, not too sweet and really does taste like fresh sweet cherries!
I know that classic Ale-8-One has been used in bourbon slushies at Churchill Downs . . . I’m sure the new flavor would work great! I’m thinking of trying it in a slow cooker with pork, as a slightly sweet sauce. Try it as a float with either vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Of course, it’s terrific in mixed drinks! With bourbon, it’s like an easy Old Fashioned. I made a cocktail with bourbon and a splash of Amaretto: good! Try it with vodka and ice or with a fruit-forward gin and garnished with a slice of lime. With a very brown-sugar forward rum, I thought it made a fun, retro tiki bar style drink without all the fuss and blending.
You can order the new flavor online!