Thursday, August 27, 2009
Ale 8 One
Ale 8 One, known colloquially as simply "Ale 8", was first created in Winchester, KY by G.L. Wainscott, circa 1926.
It was supposedly inspired by a recipe Wainscott had obtained in Europe many years prior. Exactly what Ale 8's secret formula is, no one knows - but it's clear that Ginger is a key ingredient. Some classify Ale 8 as a Ginger Ale, in fact, but I wouldn't go that far. Hardcore Ginger Ale fans, who are used to spicy solutions like Blenheim's, would probably be disappointed by Ale 8's divine subtlety if they went into it expecting a serious Ginger Ale burning sensation. Ale 8 is also far less carbonated than most soda pop, which also can be somewhat disconcerting for noobs.
Wainscott was a Clark County small-time soda bottler who had been creating and selling fruit-flavored sodas for the local market since 1902. Prior to Ale 8, his most popular product was Roxa-Kola, a cola introduced in 1906.
The odd details of a court case between Wainscott and a Campbellsville retailer of Roxa-Kola can be found here in Volume 153 of The Southwestern Reporter, 1913.
Ale-8-One was actually originally literally called "A Late One", rendered as a visual pun on the label. That visual pun stuck and now a century later, people think it's the other way around.
The Ale-8-One empire continues to be a small, family-owned Kentucky enterprise, currently presided over by Wainscott's descendant Frank A. Rogers III, and moves about 1.5 million cases per year.
According to Wikipedia, "The recipe for Ale-8 is a closely guarded family secret. Reportedly, only two executives — Rogers and Fielding Rogers, Executive Vice-President and heir-apparent to the company — know the exact composition". Then again, Wikipedia also claims that it's a popular Kentucky practice to mix Bourbon and Ale-8, and I've never heard of such a thing. Sounds revolting to me; a waste of good bourbon and good Ale-8. Supposedly the mixed drink in question is called a "Squirrel", which probably goes back to the days when Ale8 had a mascot called Sue the Squirrel and the slogan "Ale 8 One - Share it with a Squirrel".
A more promising Ale-8 combo than Bourbon is barbecue. In 2008, Ale-8-one Barbecue Sauce was launched, based on the private recipe of WLXX-FM morning radio DJs Bandy and Bailey.