Most Kentuckians can spot a bottle of Ale-8 from a mile away. We’re drawn to that emerald green glass like a moth to a flame. The crisp, ginger soda with citrus notes is like ginger ale, but so much better — thanks to a nearly 100-year-old secret family recipe. Take that, Canada Dry.
Considering drinking an Ale-8 is basically Kentucky’s rite of passage, we thought we’d pull back the silver cap on this Kentucky-invented soda that just turned 97 — and leave you with a few places in Derby City to get your fix.
Before Ale-8, there was Roxa-Kola
Ale-8 has been around since 1926, but Founder George Lee Wainscott actually started in the soda biz in 1902.
To make a long soda story short, here are a few fast facts about George:
- Originally bottled distilled water + fruit-flavored sodas
- Developed his first soda formula in 1906 called Roxa-Kola
- Coca-Cola subsequently sued him, but George prevailed
- Created the Ale-8-One recipe after the court case and launched it in 1926
- Discontinued Roxa-Kola in 1968
- Ale-8 is the only soft drink invented in Kentucky still in existence
A secret family recipe
The company has remained independent and family-owned since and continues to operate its Ale-8-One Bottling Company plant in Winchester, KY — about 87 miles from LOU.
A white spiral case inside the factory leads to a locked batching room where Fielding Rogers, the company’s president + George’s great-great-nephew, mixes the secret formula that goes into every batch.
Best in the Bluegrass
Today, there are 5+ Ale-8 flavors, including diet and caffeine-free versions. Aside from snagging a six-pack from almost any Kroger shelf, here are some ways to sip it around town:
- Feast BBQ’s Ale-8 bourbon slushie
- Louisville Cream’s Ale-8 float
- Frazier History Museum’s Ale-8 vending machine
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