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Vernors Ginger Soda: Ultimate Guide to Michigan’s Favorite Soft Drink


All About Vernors Ginger Ale Soda

Vernors Ginger Ale is one of the biggest staples in Michigan, and chances are, it’s one of the first things you think of when it comes to our great state. 

Sure, everyone knows Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, and Canada Dry, but Detroit’s own ginger soda is special. Made from a special mix of ginger, sugar and other special ingredients, Vernor’s original Ginger Ale is a spicy soda pop that quickly became a favorite of Michigan residents. 

Aged in oak barrels for three years before being bottled and shipped out to stores, Vernor’s Ginger soda has been loved for over 125 years. 

Read on to discover everything you want to know about Vernors Ginger Ale Soda. 

boston cooler made with Vernors ginger Ale
Boston Cooler made with Vernors Ginder Ale

What is Vernors?

Vernors is the oldest surviving American brand of Ginger Ale.

It’s highly carbonated with heavy flavors of vanilla. The smooth and golden coloring is created the same way as other commercial ginger ales by using caramel. Vernors is also one of the main ingredients in a Boston Cooler, a classic Detroit Ice Cream treat.

The Boston Cooler recipe? Pour Vernors Ginger Ale Soda over a few scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream, insert a straw and spoon, and you’re good to go! 

Vernors Gnome
Vernors Gnome

History of Vernor’s

 Vernors was first served to the public in 1886, and Detroit Pharmacist James Vernor created the formula. According to the Detroit Historical Society,  he worked as an errand boy at a local Detroit drug store, where he experimented with a medicinal tonic of vanilla and spices, adding ginger to calm the stomach.

The Detroit Historical Society says that “…he left the mixture in an oak barrel when he went to serve in the Civil War in 1862. The popular story is that when he returned from the war, he opened the barrel and was surprised by its delicious contents. The beverage had a zesty, sweet, gingery flavor that was accentuated by the wood’s aging process.” 

James Vernor owned a drugstore on Woodward Ave in Detroit, MI, where he first sold his ginger ale out of a fountain machine. The drink was first sold only through soda fountains across the area.  He closed his drugstore in 1896 to focus on selling his ginger soda ale. 

He opened a soda fountain closer to the heart of the city, where his fountain would have more foot traffic.  After he died, his son, James Vernor Jr., expanded the company throughout the Prohibition period. 

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More Vernors History

Before World War II, Vernors opened its first bottling plant on Woodward Avenue, taking up an entire city block. Since the opening of the first plant, it has moved a few times, but they have always stayed on Woodward Ave, keeping it in the heart of Detroit

Vernor’s is intertwined with Detroit: The Vernors Gnome, a cheeky, bearded, winking elf was an easily recognized symbol of the spicy soda, and could be seen on billboards throughout Detroit, especially in the late 1950s. A giant sign on the Detroit River also sported the company name and logo. 

Cadbury Schweppes purchased the brand in 1993, and its now owned by the Keurig Dr. Pepper Group. A nice alternative to colas and root beer, you’ll find flavors like Cream Soda, too.  Vernors first new flavor in decades, Black Cherry, was recently introduced.   


Vernors is a Part of a Michigan Childhood

Every kid in Michigan has had a Vernors or two when they are sick or nauseous. Michigan parents use it as a homemade remedy and the cure for any symptoms their children may have. 

“Mom, my stomach hurts,” the answer to this statement is typically followed by “Have a drink. It will make you feel better.”

And it’s true: there’s nothing quite like crisp and fizzy drink in glass bottles to calm a stomach. 

Where to Learn More

Have we piqued your interest in this spicy soda? You’re not alone: there is even a Vernors collectors club.  The Detroit Historical Museum has a fabulous collection of Vernors memorabilia, too.

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About The Author ~

Emily Lance is a Content Creator for She grew up in the small town of Dexter, Michigan, just outside Ann Arbor, and is currently attending Michigan State University. She majors in Journalism with a focus in Sports journalism and Media Relations and a minor in Media Photography. Emily loves writing and taking photographs/videos of her surroundings and travels. Emily likes to explore new places, kayak, ski, and go boating in her free time.