Innocuous packaging and the words ginger ale do nothing to warn the unsuspecting of Blenheim’s fiery kick. Concocted from a secret blend of spices, this South Carolina icon is one that will both quench your thirst and set your mouth ablaze. While its reputation spans the country, Blenheim’s has deep roots in the Pee Dee region of our state. The story begins with the accidental discovery of a mineral spring near the present-day town of Blenheim. In 1781, Patriot James Spears was running from the English when he lost his shoe in a water hole. After a successful escape, he went back for his shoe. Hot and exhausted, he sat down to take a sip of the cool water and noticed its strong mineral taste. Word spread, and in subsequent decades, the area became popular with the plantation set, who sought relief from the summer heat.
By the 1890s, a permanent village had been established. Local physician, C. R. May began prescribing the beneficial waters from Blenheim’s spring. To make the strong taste more palatable to his patients, the doctor added Jamaican ginger. The new beverage gained popularity, and Dr. May and A. J. Matheson opened the Blenheim Bottling Company in 1903. Blenheim’s Ginger Ale was born.
For the next eight decades, Blenheim’s remained a small operation and eschewed any efforts to modernize. The granulated sugar was even hand-shaken into each bottle! The peppery drink was introduced to a national audience by Playboy in 1985. Charles Kuralt and the New York Times quickly followed suit.
Demand steadily increased, and in 1993, Alan Schafer, owner of South of the Border, bought out the company. Shortly thereafter, he relocated the plant to Hamer where it remains to this day. The original factory in Blenheim still stands, just a stone’s throw from the mineral springs.
Despite the move, the operation continues to be a modest one. Blenheim’s remains elusive in many stores, and as such, has acquired a bit of a cult following. Mention of this oft-revered drink can spark animated behavior in its devotees.Thankfully, there are three spicy varieties of Blenheim Ginger Ale to choose from: Hot (pink cap), Not As Hot (gold cap), and Diet (white cap). While we happily urge you to try this unique drink, we’ll recommend you try the Not As Hot first.
More Pictures of Blenheim’s Ginger Ale