Celebrating 97 Years of Ale-8-One, Kentucky’s Favorite Soda
Kentucky may be most famous for the best bourbon in the world, but it is also home to another popular beverage that all ages can enjoy. Known as "the best of the Bluegrass in green glass," for most Kentuckians, one's first Ale-8 is a rite of passage. I remember the first I ever had at my friend Catherine Robert's house. Her mom, Claire, is from Winchester, Kentucky, the birthplace of the bubbly ginger and citrus soda, so she told me all about how it has been made right here in our state since 1926.
According to their website, founder Lee Wainscott opened his mineral water company in 1902. Developing fruit-flavored carbonated beverages, he traveled to Europe where he discovered ginger beer. He was inspired by the unique zest but found it way too spicy for the general palette. He decided to throw some refreshing citrus in the mix which was the perfect combination.
Introducing this new beverage at the 1926 Clark County Fair, Wainscott had a great idea to get folks excited about it. He had a contest for those in attendance to name the soda. "A Late One," submitted by a 14-year-old girl, was slang at the time for "the latest thing." Which, well, it was!
The ingredients for the soda remain a top-secret family recipe. Wainscott’s great-great-nephew Fielding Rogers is now the CEO of the company. He insists on being the sole key holder to the mixing room which is at the top of a mysterious winding spiral staircase. I think it's awesome that every bottle of this now hugely popular soft drink still originates from one pair of hands.
Kentucky Tourism did a feature on various Kentucky-made brands a few years ago. Here is the video they made of the Ale-8 manufacturing and bottling process.
You can find Ale-8-One in grocery and convenience stores all over Kentucky. Fans of the soda who live in other states, can order and have it shipped to them unless they stock up on a visit! I know you can find this green bottle goodness here in Owensboro while dining at Sassafras. Wyndall's Wonder Whip featured Ale-8 with their Burger Week burger a couple of years ago.
Other than the original ginger ale, they've created cherry and orange versions as well as seasonal peach and blackberry flavors. Their Facebook has some amazing recipes! Ale-8 floats anyone? Cheers!