Though most people know that Dr Pepper is a Texas original, you might not know that Big Red is also a native Texan soda. The pop brand may not have the sales numbers of Coke or other big brand names, but it has a solid cult following of loyal fans, especially in the South.
Given that it’s not as widely popular as other soda brands, you might not know these 10 facts about the soda. For example, did you know it used to have a different name? Do you know what non-Texan city it was first marketed in? Or how to use it for purposes other than liquid refreshment? Read on to learn more.
First developed in 1937 in the same city that brought us Dr Pepper, Big Red was the brain child of chemist Grover C. Thomsen and businessman R.H. Roark. Roark owned the R.C. Cola bottling company in Louisville, Ky., so Big Red was invented in Waco but originally marketed in central Texas and Louisville. The soft drink is now headquartered in Austin.
Though Big Red has classically been marketed as a “red cream soda”, its flavor is described as “deliciously different” for a good reason. The soda has been compared to everything from bubblegum to cotton candy. The real flavor is a combination of lemon and orange oil along with vanilla.
Grover C. Thomsen was a chemist who worked for a barber and beauty supply company in Waco. Thomsen, alongside businessman R.H. Roark, came up with the recipe for the soda in the chemical lab where he worked.
The combination of the tender beef dish and the fizzy red soda is so popular that the good people of San Antonio have devoted an entire festival to it. The next Barbacoa and Big Red Festival is on May 21.
Alongside its flagship product, the company also makes Big Red Zero, Big Blue, Big Peach, Big Pineapple and Big Manzana (“Manzana” is Spanish for apple).
Though you may have heard of the now extinct Dublin Dr Pepper, you might not know that the Dublin bottling plant also used to make an Imperial cane sugar version of Big Red. In 2013, they lost the rights to produce that as well, to the disappointment of millions of Texans. If you’re really dying for some, you can find it on Ebay for about $75 per case.
You might wonder if the inventors were trying to earn an award with the longest soda name in history, because what is now known as Big Red started life as “Sun Tang Red Cream Soda” and then later, “Sun Tang Big Red Cream Soda” before finally being shortened to Big Red.
The story goes that in 1969 the men who were caddying for Big Red President Harold Jansing said to one another, “Let’s go get a Big Red” after having been paid. Jansing liked the moniker so much that he made it official, to the relief of future generations.
Dolly Parton has referred to iced tea as “the house wine of the south”. Well, in San Antonio, Big Red is sometimes referred to as “East Side Champagne”. In fact, it has even been used in place of a champaign toast at weddings.