If you’re visiting Eastern Kentucky and someone hands you a glass of “Kentucky Swamp Water,” don’t be alarmed.
In the region’s stores it’s called a more official name: Ale-8-One.
The soft drink, with ginger and fruity flavors, is unique to Eastern Kentucky and some areas of Ohio. But with the efforts of a Gwinnett County resident with Kentucky roots, it’s officially made it to Northeast Georgia
“It’s ginger mixed with fruit juices, it’s not a ginger ale but the responses we get are (people telling us it’s) a mix between a Mountain Dew and a ginger ale,” said Duane Sudderth of Sugar Hill, a former Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper drinker. “It’s something you’ve never tasted before.”
Sudderth discovered the soda on a trip to a family reunion near Winchester, Ky.
“When we were up there and went to a family reunion, this is all they had to drink,” he said, while enjoying an icy Ale-8-One. “I drank it and liked it and have been drinking it ever since, the past 25 years.”
Sudderth thought it would be a good idea to introduce the soda to Georgia, and said he began the process of distributing the soda about six years ago. But Ale-8-One, a family run business, wasn’t ready for expansion into six counties around metro Atlanta.
Then, after running some numbers and realizing the area’s population, they had a change of heart. Recently, the company agreed to allow Sudderth to distribute locally.
“We have zero to do with the production,” said Mike Fronzak, a sales manager with Southern Beverage Distributors. “This is a plant up in Winchester, Ky. It’s a beautiful facility ... This product was created in 1926 — we’re talking 84 years ago — and it wasn’t until 2003 that they came out with a diet.”
Locally, Ale-8-One will be available at J & J Foods on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville. Sudderth said he expects the store to expand the product to all three of its locations.
Ale-8-One appeals to different types of soda drinkers because of its versatile flavor, according to Fronzak. The soda is made with 100 percent natural ginger, although its fruity flavor brings some comparisons to Mountain Dew. But each bottle contains 44 mg of caffeine, compared to Mountain Dew’s 55 mg., Fronzak said.
The soda is made with half corn sweetener and cane sugar, and there is a diet version made with Splenda. A six-pack of glass bottled sodas is about $4.
There are also some ways to enjoy the soda other than right out of the bottle.
For example, according to Ale-8-One’s website, the soda also can be used as a mixer. Try The Winchester, made by mixing Ale-8-One with rum, vodka and orange juice.
Sudderth added that in Kentucky, frozen Ale-8-Ones are popular.
“There’s only a few stores that do it, but they have a frozen Ale-8 machine that is out of this world,” he said.