First Things First:
1. Cheerwine doesn’t contain any wine. None. And it’s not an alcoholic beverage. This may be a disappointment for some, but if you think of it in the context of an ice cream soda, alcohol would probably be a really bad idea.
2. If you’ve never heard of it, that’s because it’s a regional specialty available mainly in the Southeast. This too may be a disappointment for some, but that’s why the Internet and UPS exist, to bring good stuff from far away to our doorsteps. It’s a beautiful thing!
Last week’s Moonpie shake was made from another regional specialty – albeit one that’s more readily available – and that idea led to this one. Vanilla ice cream, chocolate, and Cheerwine just sounded like the makings of a very promising ice cream soda, one with a true Southern accent.
One of the first things you notice when you open a bottle of Cheerwine is the sound it makes. Contrary to the fact that, just like other sodas, it’s mostly water, Cheerwine crackles like it’s on fire. Its level of carbonation is profound. Almost immediately, I got to thinking about what might happen if someone were to do the Mentos and soda experiment with Cheerwine.
(That ’someone’, incidentally, is not me. I’m just a broad strokes, big ideas kinda guy; my job is to think up crazy/dangerous things for other people to do. And, you know, try not to chortle too loudly when they actually do them.)
In the glass, though, Cheerwine settles down considerably and makes for an unexpectedly smooth drink. It tastes like a sophisticated cherry soda with hints of warm spice or like a cherry cola with the ‘cola’ volume turned way down.
Born in 1917 in North Carolina, it’s been called The Nectar of the Tarheels (which, thankfully, refers to the nickname of the state and not to some sort of less-than-appetizing extraction source) and came about as a result of a small cola bottler’s ingenuity during a sugar shortage. Sweet wild cherry, it seems, required less sugar, so old L.D. Peeler mixed it with nine other flavors (which are secret, of course) and made a new soda — and soda history.
Cheerwine is starting to get wider distribution these days, which is a good thing overall, but I can’t help but wonder if success will change them. Cheerwine is just one of those great regional Southern specialties that, with their proud autonomy and mindfulness of tradition, represent this area of the country so perfectly. I wouldn’t want to see them lose touch with that for the sake of corporate gigantitude. It’s not likely to happen, but you never know. After all, you may remember there used to be this little local bottler in Atlanta that sold cola…
BTW, if you want to see an interactive product site that’s actually fun and funny (instead of teeth-gnashingly moronic and pointless like most), visit Cheerwine’s new site www.itsasoftdrink.com. Be sure to check out the awesome Tales from the Refrigerator videos.
Note: This ice cream soda isn’t especially pretty. In fact, since I ran short of whipped cream, mine turned out (as they say here in the South), ‘looking like homemade sin’. Yours will probably look better, but if it doesn’t, so what? It’ll sure taste good!
Here’s how to make the Chocolate Cherry Cheerwine Ice Cream Soda:
1 very tall glass
16 (or more) ounces ice-cold Cheerwine
1 large scoop (at least 3/4 cup) vanilla ice cream
1 long straw
1 long spoon
Pour the Cheerwine into the glass. Make certain that you leave at least 2 1/2 inches of headroom (There Will Be Foam).
Carefully lower the ice cream into the soda. Working quickly, top it with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Get that straw in there and take a fair-sized sip. Now you’re safe!
Relax and enjoy the show for a minute as the ice cream slowly dissolves into the Cheerwine. Then, stir the whipped cream and syrup in. Draw in that first, long, fully-amalgamated sip of vanilla/chocolate/cherry nirvana. Sigh deeply.
Please join us tomorrow to read our newest food and cooking article, a recipe for a Peachy Key Lime Ginger Lassi.
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