Just Off the Bourbon Trail: Ale-8-One, Kentucky’s Native Soda

By: Marla Nicole Shivers

Even though 95 percent of bourbon is “distilled, aged and bottled” in this great state, did you know there is another popular beverage that was invented by a Commonwealth native and has been bottled in Kentucky since 1926? Can you say, “Ale-8-One?”

Bottles of Ale-8-One chill on ice

G. Lee Wainscott started a candy and mineral water facility in Winchester in 1902. “Roxa Kola” made its debut in 1906. Its popularity and success came to the attention of Coca-Cola®, which filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Roxa Kola. It’s interesting that both companies sold their popular rival colas in Kentucky for almost a decade prior to the lawsuit. 

Fun Fact #1:

This was one of the few trademark lawsuits Coca-Cola® lost.
After the suit, Wainscott traveled Europe and, thinking about others flavors for his carbonated water, became acquainted with ginger-based recipes. Based in his newfound knowledge, he introduced his newest creation Ale-8-One in 1926. 

Fun Fact #2:

A source of Kentucky pride, this unique, natural ginger-based citrus blend soda was called, “a-late-one,” the contest-winning slogan submitted by a 14-year-old girl because it was the newest soda. That slogan eventually turned into Ale-8-One.

Fun Fact #3:

Roxa-Kola discontinued production in 1968. Wainscott’s great-great nephew and current president, Fielding Rogers, still mixes the closely-guarded secret recipe using Wainscott’s hand-written notes. Since 1926, there have only been two ingredient changes made: when the first new product, Diet Ale-8, was introduced in 2003 and eight years later when Caffeine-free Diet Ale-8 appeared.

One of Kentucky’s most successful small businesses, this family-owned and operated enterprise is continuing a tradition that started when Wainscott invited the public to “inspect” his plant more than 100 years ago. Today, Ale-8-One factory tours are one of the most popular things to do in Winchester, KY. Free 30-45 minute Ale-8-One factory tours are available on Fridays by appointment only. Reservations must be made and confirmed prior to arrival.

The Ale-8-One store, open Monday through Friday, sells interesting specialty items and collectible memorabilia, including apparel, bottle openers and beverage glasses, mugs, coasters and cards, barbecue sauce, two kinds of salsa and Ale-8-One lollipops.

Fun Fact #4:

Although available in glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminum cans, there seems to be some debate about which tastes better: traditionalists insist the Ale-8 sold in returnable long-neck green glass bottles (a.k.a. green dragons) are the best. Do you agree?

Fun Fact #5:

Besides a cold one straight from the bottle (or can), Ale-8 makes an excellent and popular mixer with bourbon (a “Kentucky Cocktail”); and many University of Kentucky students give an A+ to the popular Ale-8 floats served at Smash Burger near campus. What is your favorite way to enjoy an Ale-8?

For tour reservations or to order Ale-8-One, call 859-744-3484 or email [email protected] Ale-8-One Bottling Company is located at 25 Carol Road in Winchester, KY, about 30 minutes east of Lexington in Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region.