What is Cheerwine?

  • By: Max S.
  • Date: December 22, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Unlike what the name suggests, Cheerwine is not an alcoholic beverage. Instead, this crimson-colored drink is a soda that dates back more than 100 years. 

Found exclusively in the Southern states of the U.S., Cheerwine is a trademark cherry-flavored soda that easily rivals other soft drinks like Dr. Pepper and Cherry Coke. However, it has a unique flavor and an even more unique backstory.

There’s a good chance you might not know much about Cheerwine, especially if you haven’t been to the South. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Keep reading to learn more about this delicious cherry-like soda.

What year was Cheerwine introduced?

Cheerwine was introduced in 1917 in North Carolina by L.D. Peeler. However, its history dates back a few years before this date.

Four years before Cheerwine was introduced, Peeler bought a bottling company in Kentucky named Mint-Cola bottling. He and some investors opened up a franchise in Salisbury, North Carolina. However, the company had to file for bankruptcy eventually.

When this happened, Peeler bought the franchise and renamed it, thus, founding the Carolina Beverage Corporation. Around that time, there was a sugar shortage, so beverage industries were in crisis, trying to come up with drinks that contained less sugar. So Peeler, too, set out to create a soda with a unique taste and less sugar.

That is when a salesman from St. Louis sold Peeler a formula for a cherry-flavored beverage, which, after some adjustments, became what we now know as Cheerwine. Within the year, it started selling in North Carolina. 

Eventually, the company did try to expand to states beyond North Carolina. It was successful as it managed to bring Cherrywine to states like Illinois through distribution companies. However, in time, the company decided to remain in North Carolina, where it originated and, thus, had more control and popularity.

 Cheerwine bottle ad

What is Cheerwine supposed to taste like?

Cheerwine is famous for its strong, cherry-flavored taste. It’s not as sweet as many other sodas and contains a lot more fizz than them. 

Cheerwine is a burgundy-colored soft drink known for its strong cherry flavor. With its cola-like aftertaste, some would describe the drink as a cross between Dr. Pepper and Cherry Coke. 

Although a 12 oz glass bottle of Cheerwine contains 42g of sugar, the soda doesn’t taste as sweet as most sodas due to the rich cherry-flavored notes and the extra carbonation in the drink. It also contains caffeine. 

Some say Cheerwine tastes better in its trademark glass bottles than in its cans. This is because the soda in the glass bottles contains sugar from real sugar canes, whereas the soda in the cans contains high fructose corn syrup instead. 

Today, Cheerwine is no longer limited to soda form. Instead, you can find Cherrywine flavored ice creams, sherbets, and cream bars at an American grocery store chain named Food Lion. Krispy Kreme, an American donuts chain, also used to sell donuts with Cheerwine flavored filling as a limited-time offer.

Why do they call it Cheerwine?

Contrary to its name, Cheerwine does not contain any alcohol. In 1917, L.D. Peeler needed a name for the cherry-flavored soda he concocted. At the time, Cheerwine seemed the perfect name due to the soda’s color and “cheery disposition.”

Due to the soda’s burgundy color, which resembled red wine, Peeler thought it appropriate to name the drink Cheerwine. The color and taste remind you of happiness and “cheer,” thus adding to the name. 

Some say the name is particularly appropriate for that time. It was a time when there was a shortage of sugar, gasoline, and bottles. Soon after, World War II and the Great Depression also began, so a cherry drink was necessary to lift people’s spirits in any way possible.

Cheerwine classic ad

Is Cheerwine a Southern thing?

Many beverages like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper originated in the South. Similarly, Cheerwine was also created in the South, in Salisbury, North Carolina. As a result, it is one of the staple beverages of the South.

Although Cheerwine can be found in many Southeastern states, it is most commonly found and associated with the Carolinas. The drink is so closely tied to its hometown that, every May, the Cheerwine Festival takes place in Salisbury. This festival includes live music, fun activities, and many Cheerwine-inspired food and beverages.

Cheerwine and barbecue have proven to be an amazing combination, especially since 1917, particularly in the South. The pairing was so iconic that it was unofficially called “The Southern Handshake” – Cheerwine in one hand and BBQ in the other. That is, until 2015 when the National Barbecue Association (NBBQA) declared Cheerwine as its official soft drink.

If you can’t travel to the South for this soda, you’re in luck! The official Cheerwine website delivers soft drinks all over the U.S. You’re just one click away from trying the delicious cherry-cola beverage that everyone in the South loves. 

Cheerwine soda can variety

Who is Cheerwine owned by?

Carolina Beverage Corporation has owned Cheerwine since its inception in 1917. L.D. Peeler’s family has been running the company since the very beginning for more than 100 years now.

After Peeler died in 1931, his son Clifford took over the company. He kept the company running through very difficult times like The Great Depression and World War II when things like bottles, gasoline, and sugar were in severe shortage. 

He also planned on expanding the company to states outside North Carolina, but eventually, he decided against it. Clifford also sold scrap metal to the war efforts during this time. 

Over the years, he brought about many milestones in Cheerwine history, like introducing the first Cheerwine vending machine in the ’50s, when Dwight Eisenhower, a U.S. President, became the first to enjoy the cherry-flavored beverage as well. 

In the ’60s, the first Cheerwine can be also introduced, which became a big hit as it kept the fizz for longer than the bottles. The soda’s first TV commercial was also filmed and released in this decade, and it was a very exciting time for Cheerwine as its popularity grew even further.

In the 1970s, Clifford’s grandsons, Cliff and Mark Ritchie, also joined the company. The two celebrated many more milestones for the soda, like introducing Diet Cheerwine and the Cheerwine ice cream. 

Finally, Cliff Ritchie became the President of Carolina Beverage Company in the 2000s and has been the CEO since. Cheerwine has had over 100 years of production by the same family, and the tradition is bound to continue for even more years.


Cheerwine is iconic for several reasons. From its unique cherry-cola flavor to its history of being an entirely-family run company for more than a century, this soda has held its own for quite some time. 

Cheerwine is a uniquely Southern soda and is most easily available there. However, if you want to give the drink a chance, you can easily get it delivered to any part of the U.S. from the official Cheerwine website. It’ll be an experience you can’t forget!