Kentucky born and bred, I had no idea about the history of Ale-8-One, a unique soft drink with a history that spans four generations. My curiosity was piqued trying to understand how this soda has stood the test of time. With so many drinks on the market, what it is about Ale-8-One that keeps customers coming back for more? Well, I set out to find the answer to that burning question and discovered a whole lot more.
Amidst the scenic backdrop of Winchester, KY, this drink has been bottled since 1926 and is the only Kentucky-invented soft drink still being created. Founder and creator G. L. Wainscott initially started his journey with a soda called Roxa-Kola that rivaled the colas being produced at the time, but he ran into a court battle over its production. Wainscott won in court, but the experience was a catalyst that prompted him to shift his direction.
He began experimenting with ginger-blended recipes that culminated in the creation of Ale-8-One. The product was launched on July 13, 1926, and its slogan, “the late one,” originated from a slogan contest that Wainscott sponsored, which was a pun adopted for its description of the latest thing in soft drinks.
In 1968, Roxa-Kola ceased production, and the other Wainscott soda flavors followed suit in 1974, the same year that the soda creator’s great-great-nephew, Frank A. Rogers, III, joined the management team. In October 2009, Frank’s oldest son, Fielding A. Rogers, became president and kept the thriving family tradition alive.
As time passed, it became imperative that they expand their product line. In 2003, they perfected a diet Ale-8-One — with no aspartame and zero calories — after years of extensive research and experimenting to find the perfect flavor. This was the first new product added since the creation of the signature drink in 1926, and it has experienced the same great success. In 2006, they celebrated their 80th anniversary by introducing two new products – their signature sucker and salsa. The sucker had taken an 18-year hiatus and is now manufactured by Ruth Hunt Candies located in Mt. Sterling, KY.
According to Chris Doyle, Director of Brand Management, it comes down to less carbonation. “We let the flavors come through, rather than be masked by excessive carbonation,” he says. Beyond that, they use real ginger with a pop of citrus, making the drink light and refreshing. Plus, it is one of the last soft drink companies left in the United States continuing to receive and refill the returnable, long neck, green glass bottles. The bottles, which are thicker and heavier than today’s bottles, are available in the Ale-8-One’s core distribution counties in Kentucky.
With the industry landscape constantly changing and soft drink companies trying new things to stay in the game, Chris shared the company’s philosophy. “Ale-8-One is a craft soda,” he says. “Our CEO still mixes the formula himself, guided by the handwritten notes of his great-great-uncle G. L. Wainscott.” That fresh, handmade taste can’t be matched and still basks in popularity even after 91 years! That, in itself, is something to brag about.
But where do they stand in the midst of a health-crazed society? Chris shared that Ale-8-One is a favorite of climbers at Red River Gorge, a canyon system on the Red River in east-central Kentucky. Climbers drink it in celebration of a successful climb — a healthier alternative to spirits and a safer one, especially when you’re on top of a mountain! And, if you are looking for even fewer calories and less sugar, their diet Ale-8-One is sure to please.
They sponsor a variety of endurance events like the Bourbon Chase, Bourbon Country Burn and the Kentucky Century Challenge. Being that Ale-8-One is a Bluegrass favorite, participants view the delicious family brand as part of the local, authentic Kentucky experience.
Military & Environmental Support
Several years ago, a military mom made a request to send her son, a Kentucky-born soldier, a taste of home. The task of sending such a package through military and postal regulations was challenging, but they managed to honor the mom’s request and only charged her postage. Since then, they have sent over 2,000 cases to our military serving overseas. And #P8TRIOT has become an ongoing hashtag that connects fans of Ale-8-One to those serving our country.
In addition to support of country, Ale-8-One is highly committed to supporting the environment. The eco-conscious brand has a partnership with One Percent for the Planet, where one percent of sales from their iconic returnable bottles supports local environmental nonprofits working in the Red River Gorge.
Chris shared that the handwritten formula for Ale-8-One, developed by the company’s founder, G. L. Wainscott, is kept in a locked room at the top of a winding staircase in their plant. And on my visit to the plant, I was able to see the symbolic staircase, but because of its secretive nature, I was unable to capture a picture.
Given that the drink was created during the height of Prohibition and in the heart of bourbon country, Ale-8-One is considered bourbon’s original mixer. So, we’ve brought you an easy and refreshing cocktail to show you just how perfect this spirit-and-soda combo can be! Cheers!
Coopers’ Craft + Ale-8-One Cocktail
- 2 parts Coopers’ Craft
- 4 parts Ale-8-One
- lime, to garnish
- Serve over ice in a highball glass with lime.
For more information on Ale-8-One, like where it is sold, scheduling a plant tour, and online ordering, call (859) 744-3484 or visit ale8one.com.
Thank you to Ale-8-One for today’s awesome images!
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