Uniquely Detroit: Happy 150th birthday, Vernors

By Alex Atwell - Photojournalist

DETROIT - If you could bottle Detroit, it would likely taste like Vernors. 

The iconic pop (no, not soda. We're in Michigan, people) is celebrating its 150th birthday this year after first being created by Detroit pharmacist James Vernor. 

"it was made stronger, it was made sweeter. It was made different than other ginger ales, and it remains very unique today," said Keith Wunderlich, a Vernors super fan who has been collecting memorabilia of the ginger ale drink for more than 35 years. 

Vernors almost never happened 

According to Wunderlich, Vernor was working at a drug store, tinkering with the ginger ale formula, when he decided to enlist in the military when the Civil War broke out.  

Four years later, he returned to an unexpected discovery. 

"So, he took out that cask of ginger ale extract and all of a sudden it was perfect. That four years of aging had mellowed the taste and made it much more drinkable then it had been without that mellowing," Wunderlich said. 

Vernor eneded up opening his own drug store on Woodward Avenue at the corner of Clifford Street, where he sold “Vernor’s Ginger Ale. ” A few years later, he moved closer to the river to attract customers who were waiting for the Boblo Boat.

"It was a fixture right at the foot of Woodward. It was something that everybody went to. It was a really famous and big part of downtown Detroit," Wunderlich said. 
Vernors was bottled in Detroit for more than 100 years. It's currently made by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, and has a wide distribution.

Historical marker for Vernors

Wunderlich is among several people who are trying to raise money to get a historical marker in the city.
They’ve started an online fund to collect money. Click here to see it.
They’ll also be celebrating Vernors’ anniversary on June 11 at the Detroit Historical Museum.


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