What, Exactly, Is A Roy Rogers Drink?

Among the top drinks named after celebrities, like Shirley Temple and Arnold Palmer, there is a dark horse but equally delicious beverage in the Roy Rogers drink. Looking at a picture of the drink, you might mistake it for an off-the-shelf cherry soda, but this simple and refreshing soft drink popularized in the 1940s and named after America's Hollywood cowboy Roy Rogers consists of cola, a splash of grenadine (which is actually pomegranate flavored), and a maraschino cherry.

Born Leonard Franklin Slye on November 5, 1911, Roy Rogers was an American singer and actor nicknamed the "King of the Cowboys." He appeared in nearly 100 films and dozens of television episodes beginning in the 1930s, in which he assumed the role of the "white hat" cowboy or standard Western good guy, and even had his own program called "The Roy Rogers Show" for several years in the 1950s. He also had a singing career and released wholesome folksy tunes like "Happy Trails." Despite the popularity of both the cowboy and the drink that bears his name, there's no evidence that Rogers created the drink or ever even enjoyed the concoction.

The cowboy's image was perfect for marketing the drink

Roy Rogers was known for his wholesome and clean-cut image, and it's said that he didn't drink alcohol. To make the non-alcoholic mocktail seem more fashionable, it's possible the drink's inventor (whose origins are also unknown) wanted a sober celebrity tie-in following the success of the most famous mocktail of all time, the Shirley Temple, which is almost exactly like a Roy Rogers but uses ginger ale or lemon-lime soda instead of cola. Shirley Temple Black said she "had nothing to do" with the creation of the Shirley Temple drink in an interview with NPR in 1985, but the drink is now indelibly tied to the image of the young star with her curls and frilly dresses, just as Rogers' wholesome cowboy image is tied to his namesake drink. 

The Roy Rogers should be served in a tall glass over plenty of ice. Keep in mind that grenadine is super sweet, so you only need the tiniest splash. To turn this mocktail into a cocktail, there's no reason you can't add a bit of your favorite neutral spirit, but the clean-cut, sober cowboy image associated with the drink will no longer apply, which is why some people call the resulting cocktail a Dirty Roy Rogers.