This year Vernors, Michigan’s favorite drink and the oldest ginger ale brand in the United States, turns 150 years old.
Vernors was invented by Detroit pharmacist James Vernor in 1866, but the story actually began before the Civil War. Vernor concocted a new drink but was called off to the war in 1862. He stored the secret mixture in an oak cask in his pharmacy and upon returning four years later, he opened his secret keg and found the drink inside had been transformed.
In honor of Vernors’ 150th anniversary, the Detroit Metro Times recently profiled Keith Wunderlich of Troy, Mich., who is the proud owner of the largest-known collection of Vernors memorabilia.
“He has vintage bottles, original sales materials, gnome statues, coolers, coin-operated vending machines, even a complete soda fountain (salvaged from Waterford’s Richardson Farm Dairy) set up with stools and everything,” according to the Detroit Metro Times.
Wunderlich is also the editor of the Vernor’s Ginger Ale Collectors Club, or “The Vernor’s Club,” newsletter because of his extensive knowledge of Vernors. This year the club of about 70 people is marking this major Vernors milestone by planning a June celebration of the beloved drink. They hope to raise enough money to buy a historical maker for Vernors in Detroit to commemorate the fond memories the ginger ale conjures up for so many Detroiters.
“My dad would take my mom on a date at least every other week to Vernor’s,” said Wunderlich. “They had a car service outside, where you would just pull up in the parking lot and girls would serve you outside, right on the river. There are great stories I’ve heard of marriage proposals at Vernor’s, or going to Vernor’s before or after the taking the Boblo boat. It’s such a part of the history of Detroit and the history of Detroiters. It’s a good anniversary to celebrate.”
You can learn more about this iconic Detroit beverage at vernorsclub.weebly.com.