Review: Cheerwine


I will admit, when a friend returned from a trip to the Carolinas with a bottle of Cheerwine for me to review, I was quite intimidated. Here's a beverage that has such a strong regional following, much of it being overwhelming praise. How can this reviewer from Chicago possibly live up to the reputation of a drink that's been made since 1917? Well, we'll give it a shot!

Cheerwine

Made by the Carolina Beverage Corporation based in North Carolina, Cheerwine is an undefinable, cherry-infused drink. However, it's not a cherry cola. It's also not a fruit-flavored soda, like Cherry Crush. It's somewhat in-between.

When you first open up a bottle, you are greeted by a cola-like scent with a hint of cherry. The color is dark red in nature, leaning to be more like a cola, but it's not as brown. In fact, you'll see quite a bit of red coloring. Again, it's a paradox.

A few years ago, Cheerwine experienced a rebranding with a new look and updated graphics package. This style hinted at a retro look that I think suits both the brand and the drink well. Being a Northerner, I did not grow up with Cheerwine, but those who did often bring up positive memories of the drink. The retro play was a smart one from a packaging perspective, and the use of white/red with bubbles in the label is subtle, clean, and effective. I also like the fact that there is somewhat of a "Cherrwine badge" that now anchors the drink vs. the store brand text-only look that the drink previously had.

So what exactly does this stuff taste like, and how do you describe it to someone who has never had it? Well, it may be sacrilege, but the first thing I thought of after drinking Cheerwine is that is shares a lot of characteristics with Dr Pepper Cherry, which is a BevReview favorite. Obviously, there are differences, but that's where I'd start. I actually did some experimentation by mixing Dr Pepper Cherry with Mountain Dew Code Red to see if I could emulate the flavors at all. Alas, this was sort of a disaster! Cheerwine is unique.

The initial flavor is very pleasing, not hiding the fact that cherry is present, but also noting that it's not a cola. As the drink continues down your throat, I felt it was a bit sweet, like candy. But at the same time, it has a heartiness that held its own. Good texture, just the right amount of carbonation, and not too syrupy in taste, despite being sweetened by high fructose corn syrup (the company does make a glass-bottled Original Cheerwine sweetened with sugar).

Cheerwine describes itself as a "unique sparkling soft drink" and this is 100% accurate. The mixture of cola and fruit-flavored soda elements create a very pleasant taste that hasn't been recreated elsewhere. We quite enjoyed our bottle… and are now saddened that it's unavailable locally. But for those who have it in the South… drink up!

Cheerwine
Carbonated Water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative), caffeine, citric acid, natural and artificial flavors, Red 40

A 20 oz bottle contains 250 calories, 43 mg of sodium, 70 g carbs, and 70 g sugars.

Comments

  1. This is a soda I've seen here in Nebraska in both a 20oz bottle and available as a fountain drink at a local restaurant, but I've never actually tried it. I may have to give it a go the next time I spot it, just to try it out. I didn't realize that this was primarily available in the south, seems kinda odd that I can get it here in Lincoln.

  2. Living in North Carolina, I've probably imbibed gallons of Cheerwine in my lifetime. You get sick of it after awhile, but that's true of any beverage. This review is spot-on. It's a difficult soda to describe. I was going to review it for my blog, but I didn't think that I could do it justice.

  3. On both of my trips to the South, I've managed to grab a bottle or two of Cheerwine and, as Dom stated, this review is spot on, however, I couldn't help but think of the great, yet ill-fated Dr. Pepper Red Fusion.
    Also, as Zach noted, Cheerwine has popped up in odd places for me, too.
    I've found it across various states between New Jersey and Georgia, though, sadly, I've still had to gather as much as possible on my way back up to Massachusetts if I want to enjoy it with my pals back home.

  4. Thanks to this review and the comments I just ordered a case of the stuff. They're glass bottles ones which means real sugar… I can't wait to get it!

    After shipping to Boston it cost me almost $50… I hope it's awesome for over $2.00 per bottle! LOL

  5. Cheerwine has begun to make its way up the Eastern Shoreboard. It can now be found in Southern to Central Virginia and working it's way North up though Maryland and Pennsylvania.

    I remember taking vacations as a kid to visit my paternal grandparents in Nashville, Tennessee. I remember only having this soda at their house and really enjoyed it. My parents always made a point to bring back a 2 Liter bottle or 12-pack of cans back to Maryland after our vacation was over so we could enjoy/share Cheerwine back at home.

    Great review of this fantastic soda!

    Thinking I'll make a point to order another case for myself…..

  6. I first had it on my way back from Nashville on vacation (I live in WV) and my wife and I loved it. Definitely different. Now we have some family that lives in Salisbury so we make sure to pick up a few cases (including some of the superior real sugar glass bottles). I would never try to describe it, it's just…Cheerwine.

  7. Whitney says:

    Great review. Whenever I describe Cheerwine to someone thats never had it, I tell them its like "liquid candy", the sweetness is perfect and its got a higher level of carbonation than most soda giving it a bit of a "crunch". Cheerwine is best when you keep it SUPER cold, and some crystals of ice form in the soda! Delicious!

  8. ok, i just took my first drink of my first "cheerwine" and frankly i don't understand why this "soda" is being treated like a huge mystery….i live in Florida and they just started selling it , so i thought id try it…WELL FOLKS…..If you've ever eaten a maraschino cherry… imagine drinking one that's been carbonated and..there ya have it…mystery solved

  9. I had Cheerwine for the first time last May when I went to Myrtle Beach, SC. Strong cherry taste yet smooth, yet also sweet. Your review nailed it.

    FWIW, you can find Cheerwine in just about any Cracker Barrel country store. It's not cheap, but it's local.

  10. I was born and raised in the home town of Cheerwine. After living in the Florida Keys for the past 32 years, we finally have my wonderful Cheerwine in the supermarkets and convince store.
    Now I no longer have to transport on my annual visits to Salisbury. Thanks Cheerwine.

  11. I grew up in NC, where I developed many fond memories which included Cheerwine. As a young adult I moved to VA, and missed being able to purchase this drink. No one here had heard of it. That's all changed; now it's available here, too. Also, for those concerned about the 250 calories, there is diet Cheerwine available, without any calories, and sweetened with Splenda. Long live Cheerwine!

  12. I am actually originally from Chicago too. I lived in NC for a couple years and this soda brings back great memories whenever I drink it up north. I would walk home from work everyday in NC and stop at a cornerstore for a can of Cheerwine and a pack of Lance crackers. Now I order a case once a month threw their online website. Costly but worth it as I cannot find it anywhere in the Chicago area that I know of.

  13. Steve,
    My wife introduced me to this drink while we were in the South. It's totally sweet! (pun intended)
    Steven K.

  14. It is available through out Miami, in fact, I'm drinking one now. The main flavor is cherry.

  15. I love cheerwine. I live in NC but hadn't really tried. The glassbottle cheerwine is the best with the canned soda following. The plastic bottles doesn't really do it for me. the flavor reminds me of dark cherry coolaid except with carbonation without a heavy cola kind of taste. We usually savor it like a fine wine and special occasions. Or we make up an occasion. Cat Nip Day time for a cheerwine.

  16. owner ordered some from Ned Fellers says:

    Well, after waiting on and off for three years, a source popped up, local imported food store, a mile from my house…owners ordered a limit supply from Virginia…to me, a huge dissapointment…was expecting much more a cherry taste…not close to a cherry cola..we have a Town Club bottled in 16 line bottles, Detroit.."Michigan Wild Cherry" that I'll continue to drink….Stewarts, Boylans flavors also superior in my book

  17. I live in Oregon and was recently shopping at a local store and saw twelve paks of Cheerwine on the shelf. I had never heard of it nor seen it anywhere. I put a twelve pak in my shopping cart out of curiosity as I am always looking for something new to try. When I was checking out I asked the cashier if she had ever tried it and she had not ever seen or heard of it before either. I asked that if it turns out I try a can and don't like it could I bring the rest back for a refund and she told me "no problem". Well let me tell you, I got home and put a can in the freezer to get ice cold and when I tried it I nearly flipped out ! It was one of the most interestingly delicious sodas I have ever tasted. Sweet and bubbly, yet not too sweet. I love the dark rich burgundy color as well. I became hooked instantly and went back the next day and bought two more twelve paks. I bought another two today as I want to make sure and have a lot of it on hand. I can't stop drinking it. It is my new favorite soda and I am so glad that it is available in Oregon.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] companies have to Salisbury, North Carolina, the home of Carolina Beverage Corporation, parent of Cheerwine. That year Food Lion started carrying Cheerwine Swirl ice cream, which was deemed successful. This [...]

  2. [...] the drive, I was also able to track down some regionally-based beverages for BevReview: Cheerwine and Cherry Lemon SunDrop.  Both are quite excellent soft drinks!  Here's hoping they get more [...]

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