With its vaguely spicy, distinctive taste, Dr Pepper is—as its old tagline claimed—one of a kind. The perennially popular soda was first made in 1885, making it the oldest major soft drink brand in the United States. Today, it remains one of the top-selling sodas worldwide. But was there really a Doctor Pepper, or is the name simply clever marketing? The answer, it turns out, is a little of each.
Experiments at the soda fountain
It would appear that there was actually someone named Doctor Pepper once upon a time, though he had nothing to do with the invention of the beverage.
The drink was concocted by a pharmacist—not a doctor—named Charles Alderton, who worked at Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, TX. In those days, pharmacies often doubled as soda fountains, and Alderton was known for trying different flavor combinations rather than simply pouring the usual fruit options. He eventually settled on not one, not two, but 23 flavors, plus phosphoric acid. And to this day, the company holds fast to the line that "Dr Pepper is a unique blend of 23 flavors. The formula for Dr Pepper is proprietary information." Talk about top secret!
Dr Pepper isn't just a soft drink in a can
Sure, you might like to crack open a can of Dr Pepper with a meal, but did you know that you can actually enjoy Dr Pepper heated up as well? According to the official site, Hot Dr Pepper was created years ago for a warm winter beverage! You simply heat the soda in a saucepan to 180 degrees, place a lemon slice at the bottom of a mug, and pour the heated Dr Pepper over it. We're intrigued!
So, who is Dr. Pepper?
Alderton started serving the drink, and the regulars kept coming back for more. They originally called it a "Waco" after the name of their town, but pharmacy owner Wade Morrison sensed they were onto something and wanted to give it a better name. According to the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, there isn't an official account of how the soda got its name, and they have more than a dozen different stories behind it—none of which can be verified.
According to popular legend though, Morrison suggested naming the drink Dr. Pepper (the company ditched the period after Dr in the 1950s) after an old colleague of his from Virginia named Dr. Charles T. Pepper. Those who crave a little more intrigue like to say that Pepper's daughter was an old love interest of Morrison's, but this story doesn't really add up.
Whoever the real Dr. Pepper was, we'll just continue to picture him as the bespeckled, top hat-wearing country doctor from its 1920s label. That makes as much sense as anything.