This entry was posted on Jun 17 2010 by

I’m riddled with contradiction.

Blenheim Ginger Ale

This past weekend we took a trip with some friends to Kiawah Island, South Carolina, a vacation spot on the Atlantic Coast.  The name of the island probably already lead you to assume that it’s a coastal locale, but my wife used to live in Grand Island, Nebraska, so a little clarification never hurts. 

Anyway, while picking up supplies at the island’s only market, I overheard some locals talking about a regional ginger ale named Blenheim.  At the time, I was scouring the soda aisle for a couple of soft drinks that are hard to find where I live: Ale-8-One and Royal Crown (in glass bottles, not the more readily available—and substandard—plastic-bottled variety).  There was no Ale-8-One or RC to be found, but I did pick up a six pack of Blenheim and bring it back to our rented condo.

When I’m traveling and I find myself in a grocery store, I usually check the soda aisle to see if they stock anything that isn’t on the shelf at my local Publix (if you’re not from Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina, you’ve probably never heard of Publix, and for that you are most unfortunate).  I guess you could say that regional soft drinks are a recent hobby of mine, though I have no idea why.  The truth is, I don’t even like soda.  Maybe it’s the caffeine.  Or maybe it’s the sweetness, me not having much of a liking for candy or desserts, either.  Or maybe it’s because of:

Traumatic soft drink memory #1: On a hot summer day in 1978, I entrusted my stepfather with my cup of iced cola, asking him to watch it for me while I ran willy-nilly around the park.  A few hours later, parched and seeking relief, I asked him for the cup back, only to discover he’d already drank its contents. 

Traumatic soft drink memory #2: Growing up, I didn’t get a cash allowance for performing my weekly household chores.  As payment, I instead was allotted a single 16-ounce bottle of Pepsi, the only soft drink I was permitted to have for the entire week (Mom has always been a proponent of healthy living).  As a result, I instinctively associate Pepsi with indentured servitude.

I could go on, but suffice to say that for various reasons related to both palette and my subconscious, soft drinks and I don’t usually mix.  What is it about rare soft drinks, then?  Maybe it’s the collectible nature of them, the same quality that spurred me to hoard baseball cards when I was a kid and vinyl toys today.  Maybe I’m drawn to their regional aspect out of some inner desire to support the little guy in a world so dominated by multinational corporations.  Maybe I just want to experience local flavor.

Who knows?  I just finished my first bottle of Blenheim #5, though, and it was, without a doubt, the gingeriest ginger ale I’ve ever had.  The taste was overpowering at first, but I got used to it by bottle’s end.  On my way to Chicago Comic-Con this year, I believe I’ll be passing close by Winchester, Kentucky, hometown of Ale-8-One ginger ale.  I’m curious to see how it compares.

11 Responses to “I’m riddled with contradiction.”

  1. duane ballenger
    7:36 am on June 18th, 2010

    Rob, there is also a “hot” variety of this drink. It is a very odd sensation. Also if you’re looking for some rare sodas from the region, look for Red Rock a strawberry soda. It was always a treat at my old churches summer camp. One last thing, have you had Sun Drop? It seems to be fairly hard to find outside of NC? Later bro!

  2. J Chris Campbell
    8:28 am on June 18th, 2010

    I ran across some Red Rock at our local farmers market. I would suggest you checking out any in your area because I’ve found all sorts of drinks that aren’t available in stores.

  3. Robert Venditti
    12:28 pm on June 18th, 2010

    I’ve heard of neither Red Rock nor Sun Drop. I should’ve known you all would be plugged in with the Carolina soda subculture.

  4. duane ballenger
    4:57 pm on June 18th, 2010

    Sun Drop is a bit like Mountain Dew or Mello Yello. I like it better because it actually has a tiny bit of orange juice as an ingredient.

  5. J Chris Campbell
    5:22 pm on June 18th, 2010

    I’ve never even heard of Blenheim. Duane is the go to man for soda sub-culturing. Duane uncovered Frostie root beer a few years back which hadn’t been around in a while. It was recently purchased again by another company along with KIST sodas.

    My dad has a pretty decent bottle collection but I think his soda knowledge stops in the mid seventies.

  6. duane ballenger
    4:35 pm on June 19th, 2010

    It’s like, “I can’t drink it” so I’ll just have to study it! HAW.

  7. brett weldele
    2:27 pm on June 20th, 2010

    my personal favorite cola brand is Boylan. There’s a grocery store just down the street from me with a whole section of unusual soda’s. lots of old-timey style concoctions.

  8. duane ballenger
    8:03 am on June 21st, 2010

    Boylan? Is it like Coke, or Pepsi? As far a flavor? Man I would love to visit that store!

  9. brett weldele
    6:24 pm on June 22nd, 2010

    its like neither really. it tastes much more real.

    Portland is full of odd micro brands.

  10. Van
    5:19 am on June 23rd, 2010

    I’m on a big ginger beer kick right now, though having trouble finding anything great. I might have to make my own.

  11. duane ballenger
    4:43 pm on June 23rd, 2010

    DIY Van!

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