Detroit soda pop is serving up a list of bubbly beverages/fountain drinks to know about. It’s summer, so it’s common to hear the “popping” sound of drink cans and bottles. You may have your favorite go-to drinks, but are you familiar with the history of soda pop in Detroit? Do you know Michigan’s oldest pop?
The origins of these Michigan-made and Detroit soda pop drinks involve a lot of carbonation and creativity! Locals love handcrafted mixes because they’re unique to the city (and state), plus they’re brewed with sweet nostalgia for many of us.
Detroitisit rounded up a historical list highlighting Michigan-made & Detroit soda pop to know about this summer.
IS IT “SODA OR POP?”
Technically, what Midwesterners traditionally call carbonated beverages “pop” grew out of a Detroit bottling factory. The experimentation began specifically with two Russian Jewish immigrants, Ben and Perry Feigenson who settled in Detroit in the early 20th Century. What happens when two bakers that also bottle beer, mineral water, and soda water merge their jobs? They soon added soda water and cake frosting together for more “flavoring”, and the rest is history. Ginger Ale is known to be the nation’s first soda pop. The term “pop” for soda drinks in the Midwest is attributed to Faygo because the bottles made a “pop” sound when opened.
Faygo was first known as Feigenson Brothers Bottling Works until the brothers changed the name in 1921. The drink has had true Detroit roots since it was first delivered door to door in a Ford truck. Faygo is still bottled at the Gratiot Avenue facility (3579 Gratiot Avenue) in Detroit that Faygo Beverages purchased in 1935. However, there are much more flavor options now. Detroiters and Michiganders got the first taste of Faygo pop, but the rest of the nation wouldn’t get to experience it until the 1960s with an improved shelf life.
Soda pop in Detroit history has a common theme of working a job around drinks and then experimenting with surroundings. Call them happy accidents that made history! Take it from James Vernor, a clerk in a drug store in Detroit with a recipe of his own…Ginger Ale that is. This non-alcoholic version of Ginger Beer imported from Ireland was the inspiration for his tasty aged brew sample discovery. In 1866, he started selling it out of his own Woodward Avenue drug store. Vernors also released a new flavor in August 2022 for the first time in decades, though the black cherry flavor Vernors was only available for a limited time in Michigan and the Toledo, Ohio areas.
Speaking of “happy accidents,” this list of Michigan-made and Detroit soda pop wouldn’t be complete without the ‘Boston Cooler’. This classic Detroit drink got its name from the Boston-Edison neighborhood. A Detroit Free Press reader contributed a recipe in 1924 for “a nectar that the Olympians pined for but didn’t know how to make.” The divinely sweet summer drink consisted of sarsaparilla (a sassafras soft drink) poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and stirred until smooth. Booze added or none, this soft drink remains a popular go-to for hot summer days. Detroit Sip, cool off, and enjoy!
If you learn anything from this list, it’s that soda pop in Detroit and Michigan-made pop is the perfect summer chilling drink. A Towne Club Michigan Cherry (or any other flavor) soda pop made with pure cane sugar would certainly put more pep in your step. Known as “Detroit’s hometown soda”, the brand started up in the 1960s, back when you could buy directly from the company. The bottle cases were also wooden!
You can get all your syrupy bottled pop needs from Northwoods Soda from Traverse City, Michigan. Now, you can also find the organically sweet treat with wild flavors at sparse restaurants that are selling them instead of national brands. In case you missed the news, Ann Arbor’s Zingerman’s Delicatessen and Northwoods Soda & Syrup Co. of Traverse City teamed forces to bring more homegrown pop to the shelves in April of this year. Enjoy the high-quality extracts that give you flavors like black cherry cream, root beer, pomegranate lemonade, and more. Click HERE to view their website.
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