How Mountain Dew's Classic Flavor Has Changed Over The Years

These days, it seems like a new flavor of Mountain Dew comes out every week, each one more "extreme" (read: caffeinated) than the next. Often associated with gaming culture and adventure sports, the sugar-saturated, caffeine-packed soda offers a sweet way to stay wired for hours on end. However, the classic flavor of Mountain Dew has a fascinating backstory. For starters, its original formula was actually more of a depressant than a stimulant.

As Thrillist reports, in the 1930s, Georgia-born brothers Barney and Ally Hartman moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and the whiskey aficionados were missing their favorite Georgia drink mixer. Necessity being the mother of invention, the Hartmans decided to concoct their own version of the beverage, a lemon-lime carbonated drink blended with alcohol that they dubbed Mountain Dew (a fitting appellation considering that it used to be slang for moonshine). To illustrate just how much Mountain Dew has evolved since then, the brothers' beverage was free of caffeine and clear in color.

The Hartmans were confident in their product and tried promoting it to local stores, but there weren't many interested takers. They went full country kitsch in their advertising approach, devising an original mascot named Willy the Hillbilly and slogans like, "It'll tickle your innards," with logos depicting rifle-toting figures. It seems a far cry from today's promotional efforts, in which Mountain Dew primarily markets itself to a younger, hip crowd (via Marketing91). The aesthetic of Mountain Dew isn't the only thing that's changed — so has its flavor.

Mountain Dew's change of ownership led to a change of flavor

Throughout the 1940s and '50s, the Hartmans peddled their new Mountain Dew at various conventions, but they still weren't having much luck. When the 1960s arrived, the brothers finally threw in the towel and sold their floundering company to The Tip Corporation. The new owners added lemonade to the recipe but otherwise left it alone, according to Thrillist. Soon after, PepsiCo Inc. bought the rights to Mountain Dew in 1964, but it wasn't until 1974 that Pepsi added orange flavoring and the trademark neon-greenish color that people now associate with the classic brand — and that remains today.

By the early 2000s, a trickle of new flavors began to emerge, such as Code Red, a popular cherry-infused spin on Mountain Dew. Since then, a cascade of Mountain Dew flavors has followed. Most recently, in a throwback to Mountain Dew's initial days when its inventors formulated the drink as a whiskey mixer, Pepsi announced plans to develop Hard Mtn Dew, an alcoholic seltzer expected to hit the shelves in 2022, per Bloomberg Quint. Now that's extreme.