I’m a big fan of the 1970s-80s TV show M*A*S*H. Thus, when presented with the opportunity to try Corporal “Radar” O’Reilly’s favorite beverage, Grape Nehi, well, you just can’t pass that up. During a recent vacation I found a few flavors of glass-bottled Nehi in North Carolina.
While it’s hard to find today, at one point Nehi was very popular. Launched in 1924, Nehi has been produced by a company that constantly was changing names, starting with Union Bottling Works, then Chero-Cola Company, and eventually the Nehi Corporation. Another successful brand from the same company, Royal Crown Cola (i.e. RC Cola) prompted another renaming of the owner, thus the Royal Crown Company was born. Thanks to corporate wheeling and dealing of trademarks and brands, today Nehi is owned in the United States by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, while internationally it’s controlled by Cott Beverages as part of Royal Crown Cola International. As such, outside the U.S., the drink’s flavors are known by the brand RCQ rather than Nehi. Confused yet?
So what exactly is Nehi? Well, basically it’s a fruit flavored soft drink. While traditionally available in a wide range of tastes, today you can typically find it in grape, orange, and peach. The most common version can be found in cans or plastic bottles and is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. However, if you are lucky enough to track it down in glass bottles from the right source, then sugar is the sweetener of choice.
Upon popping the cap off my bottle of Nehi Grape, I’m greeted by a distinctive grape scent, but not like you’d expect from the likes of Fanta Grape or Grape Crush. Instead of seeming very syrupy, the grape smell is actually more subdued and authentic. Coloring of the drink is standard dark purple, as expected with most grape sodas.
When it comes to taste, upon sipping you’ll find this flood of tingly grapeness on your tongue that’s quite different, then a rush of what you typically expect from a grape pop after that. Unlike most grape soft drinks, however, the flavor ends cleanly, rather than stick you with a massively artificial aftertaste packed with syrup residue. Sure, there’s artificial flavoring in Nehi as well, but it tastes less fake that most grapes out there. Because of that, it’s a refreshing alternative. Oh, and it’s very sweet!
If you can find Grape Nehi (Old 52 is always a great place to start), then you’ll want to pick it up just to see what makes other grape beverages so inferior. It’s a great grape!
C’mon, Radar wouldn’t lie to you, would he?
Carbonated water, sugar, artificial flavors, phosphoric acid, citric acid, potassium benzonate (preservative), Red 40, Blue 1
A 12 oz. bottle contains 180 calories, 50 mg sodium, and 49 g carbs (47 g sugars). Caffeine free.