The Untold Truth Of Cherry Coke

Who doesn't love Cherry Coke? Putting the great taste of cherries together with America's (actually, the world's, according to FoodBev Media) favorite soda, adds up to a sure-fire hit, and has been for the past 35 years. Cherry Coke, which now goes by the more grown-up name of Coca-Cola Cherry, was the Coca-Cola company's first attempt at marketing a flavored beverage. As Insider reveals, it was introduced in 1985, the same year that brought us the notorious "New Coke." Luckily, unlike that ill-fated beverage, Cherry Coke proved to be an instant success. So much so, in fact, that it's now available in 36 different countries around the world.

Cherry Coke has also even spawned its own line of spin-offs: Cherry Zero Sugar, Cherry Vanilla, and Cherry Vanilla Zero. Cherry Coke was also chosen as the one flavor (besides the original) to kick off the company's new line of sports drinks, Coca-Cola Energy, which is available in both Coca-Cola Energy Cherry and Coca-Cola Energy Cherry Zero Sugar varieties.

Cherry Coke was a soda fountain favorite

Although Cherry Coke in cans and bottles has only been around for 35 years, its origins are far older. No one knows which soda jerk (from back in the days when this was an actual job title and not an insult) was the first to think of adding cherry syrup to Coke, but The Soda Wiki relates that these drugstore soda fountain cherry Cokes had been around since the 1940s. Time even pegs them as an integral part of Greatest Generation dating practices; as much so as convertibles, sock hops, and holding hands.

While Cherry Coke is undoubtedly more convenient, available in every convenience store, gas station, and grocery, some people still wax nostalgic over the superior taste of the soda fountain variety. If you're wondering what you missed out on, you may still want to try this fabled concoction. Luckily, the Books and Broth blog says it's fairly easy to DIY. All you need is a bottle of the same type of cherry syrup that's often sold to flavor coffee and, of course, an original (or diet, if you must) Coke. Just fill a 16-ounce glass with ice, drizzle in 2 tablespoons of cherry syrup (or more, to taste), then fill the glass with Coke. Bonus points if you put on a poodle skirt and listen to a few old Chubby Checker or Bill Haley 45s.

Cherry Coke was introduced at a World's Fair

Undoubtedly some of the most legendary foods of all time owe their origin to a World's Fair. The 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis brought us ice cream cones, and it's possible that crab rangoon was also introduced at that fair as well. The Chicago World's Fair in 1933 unveiled the miracle that is Miracle Whip.

Cherry Coke is also a World's Fair baby, as it was first test-marketed to patrons of the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville. Time reported that the Coca-Cola Company was experimenting with the idea of adding flavors to its signature beverage for the first time, and used fair goers as guinea pigs to test the relative merits of lemon, lime, and vanilla as well as cherry. Cherry won the flavor popularity contest, and a few years later it was added to the Coca-Cola product starting lineup.

Cherry Coke was meant to compete with Dr Pepper

In addition to Cherry Coke's winning the World's Fair flavor popularity contest, there was another reason why Coca-Cola may have chosen to lead off with a cherry-flavored product. The New York Times noted in a 1985 article that Cherry Coke would be able to go head-to-head with Dr Pepper, another popular cherry-flavored beverage. Although the company did have a non-cola cherry offering called Mr. Pibb, Time revealed that this product never really sold too well. Coca-Cola, however, had every reason to believe that the addition of "Coke" to a product's name could spell instant bestseller, as this had been the case with Diet Coke when that product was introduced in 1982 to instant acclaim

As Coke Solutions relates, Coca-Cola's optimism regarding their new product was well-founded. In the words of one employee at a Colorado Springs bottling plant, "I've never seen such excitement for a new product." By the end of its first year, Cherry Coke had cracked the top 10 list of best-selling soft drinks, and it continues to be a best-seller over three decades later.

Jay-Z once had a hand in its design and marketing

Cherry Coke's cans and bottles have, like most product packaging, continued to evolve throughout the years to keep up with the times, or at least with whatever marketers perceive the zeitgeist to be. Logopedia shows some of the more striking changes Cherry Coke's label has undergone through the years, most notably a restrained black and white design adopted in 1992, and a "punk rock makeover" from 1995 (only a decade behind when punk was at its peak).

In 2007, though, Coca-Cola decided to enlist some help with marketing Cherry Coke from somebody whose main gig lies outside the field of advertising. Not only did they recruit Jay-Z to endorse the product, but they also hired him to help design the can and to create the TV commercials that would feature one of his songs as a soundtrack (via the St. Louis American). To date, Celebrity Endorsers indicates that Jay-Z has been Cherry Coke's one and only celebrity spokesperson, but then, with a product as tasty as Cherry Coke, you really don't need a prominent pitch person, since the product pretty much sells itself.