Soda: Grapico, A Rich Taste of Alabama


Growing up, I was crazy about grape soda. For years, I dreamt of making enough money to buy a house where I could stock an entire room with grape soda and drink it all day, with no one there to stop me.

I would happily have run off to the Land of Grapico, depicted in the 1916 song "Meet Me in the Land of Grapico" as a place full of vines, whispering trees, singing birds, and the sweet perfume of grape soda. "Love lives forever in love land," goes the song. "That dear land of Grapico."

What drink inspired such verse? Grapico, born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1914, moved to Alabama in 1917 and has been produced there since. Though flavored artificially, the soda skyrocketed to early fame with advertisements that implied that it contained real grape juice (complaints from real grape-juice vendors led to eventual charges from the Federal Trade Commission that forced Grapico vendors to adjust their advertising). Today, the soda enjoys a cult following among Alabamians almost equivalent to that of Cheerwine in the Carolinas.

Dark purple and light on fizz, Grapico is so loaded with sugar and artificial coloring that, with a spoon more of either, it just might harden into candy. The flavor is an artificial grape to rival all others, rich as that of a grape lollipop and just about as sweet. In the depth of its sweetness, the drink approaches the faux-chocolate flavor of the Tootsie Roll—all in all, it tastes like nothing so much as a grape Tootsie Pop.

Grapico is nothing new, flavor-wise, but the grape-drink crazy among us will appreciate a soda so heavy on flavoring that the rest of us could probably use it as concentrate. Over melting ice, on a warm day—and don't laugh, temperatures are in the seventies in my hometown of Charleston this week—it's a rich taste of Alabama with a syrupy punch that satisfies.