Vernors fans bubbling over return of beloved ginger ale

·3 min read
A large supply of Vernors ginger ale is shown at the Devonshire Mall Metro. (Peter Duck/CBC - image credit)
A large supply of Vernors ginger ale is shown at the Devonshire Mall Metro. (Peter Duck/CBC - image credit)

The Canadian supply of Vernors ginger ale fizzled out a year ago due to the pandemic, but fans of the century-and-a-half-old drink are now bubbling over its apparent return.

Michele Scott spotted the ginger ale at a Metro grocery store in Windsor, Ont., late last week and grabbed three cases.

"The guy was bringing out a big skid of Vernors, and I stopped him and I'm like, 'Are you real, and he's like, 'Yeah,'" said Scott about the drink, which has its roots in Detroit back in the 1860s.

She said her husband is the Vernors drinker in the family, and has been going through "such withdrawals" during the drink's Canadian production hiatus.

"I was so excited. I sent my husband a picture of it in the cart."

Scott posted a "Vernors alert" on the Facebook group South Windsor Watch, for the benefit of ginger ale devotees.

Rev. Andreas Thiel of St. Matthew's Anglican church in Windsor was also pleased to see the return of Vernors.

"I was so excited, I started talking to complete strangers within earshot," he said.

Having Vernors again was bittersweet as well, however. His wife introduced him to the ginger ale about 40 years ago. She died in November.

"She was the first person I would have shared this news with, and she would have shared my excitement," he said.

'Secret mixture'

Vernors, which has a strong flavour in addition to its strong following, has a long history in both Detroit and Windsor.

According to the company, pharmacist James Vernor put his "secret mixture" in an oak cask before he was called off to the Civil War in 1862.

Four years later, he came home to find the drink had been "transformed."

A special Vernors can from the soft drink's 150th anniversary in 2016. The drink, a southwestern Ontario favourite, is now available after fizzling out early into the pandemic.
A special Vernors can from the soft drink's 150th anniversary in 2016. The drink, a southwestern Ontario favourite, is now available after fizzling out early into the pandemic.(Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

In Canada, Vernors is made by Keurig Dr. Pepper and is bottled in Mississauga, Ont.

As has been the case with some other niche food products during the COVID-19 pandemic, the manufacturers opted to halt production last year to ensure its more popular products were still available.

Keurig Canada has yet to respond to CBC's requests for information about why its product has resurfaced.

But businesses have also embraced its return.

Two shops that sell ice cream — Busker's Subs and Ice Cream in Windsor as well as Waterfront Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt in Amherstburg — have advertised the return of Vernors floats, known as Boston Coolers, on their Facebook pages recently.

Mark Vukanovic, the owner of Buskers, said when Vernors first became unavailable, they had to explain its disappearance to people asking for it. Eventually, customers came to know it was related to the pandemic.

He recently spotted some of the drink and stocked up.

"The other day when I was grabbing some stuff for the store, I saw it. I grabbed six cases."

Jen DeLuca, one of the owners of Waterfront Ice Cream, said they tried to do a float with Canada Dry after Vernors vanished.

"It was OK. It did the trick, but it definitely wasn't a real Boston Cooler," she said.

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