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Bootlegging Dr Pepper

The demand for sugar-sweetened Dublin Dr Pepper has never been higher — just ask the bootleggers

Ask any Dublin Dr Pepper bootlegger what the fuss is all about. They'll tell you that the top-shelf, premier cru of Texas soda pop is selling for eight bucks a six-pack in some stores — when you can find it.

Back in the 1970s, when soft drink bottlers across the country began sweetening their sodas with high-fructose corn syrup, the oldest Dr Pepper bottling plant, which is located in Dublin, about 20 miles south of Stephenville, refused to make the switch. Each bottle of Dublin Dr Pepper proudly bears the logo of Imperial Pure Cane Sugar.

But under their franchise agreement, the Dublin plant is only authorized to supply stores in the 40-square-mile area between Stephenville and Hico. The loophole is that individuals who visit the plant are allowed to purchase up to 20 cases for their private use. So diehards who are fixated on the flavor of old-fashioned cane sugar-sweetened Dr Pepper drive to Dublin to pick up their fix.

Dr Pepper was invented at the Old Corner Drug Store in Waco in 1885.
Dr Pepper was invented at the Old Corner Drug Store in Waco in 1885.
The Hubbard City Drug Store advertises Dublin Dr Pepper in the front window.
Julia Walsh
The Hubbard City Drug Store advertises Dublin Dr Pepper in the front window.

If driving across the state for soft drinks sounds a little obsessive, you need to consider how important a role Dr Pepper plays in some people's lives.

In cold climates, coffee is the favored caffeine delivery system, and when people talk about being addicted to the stuff, they aren't kidding. Caffeine is habit-forming, regardless of how you imbibe it.

In the warmer climate of the South, the bottomless iced tea glass is taken for granted at restaurants. But for other Southerners, the caffeinated beverage of choice is a carbonated soft drink — Coca-Cola in Georgia and Dr Pepper in Texas. Roughly speaking, a 20-ounce bottle of Coke or Dr Pepper contains as much caffeine as a five-ounce cup of coffee. Of course, some people drink Dr Pepper by the liter.

"It's an addiction," says Houston journalist Bobette Riner, who grew up drinking Dr Pepper in West Texas. She says she tries to keep her habit under control by only drinking two a day. But she is a discerning consumer. Just as Starbucks fans turn up their nose at inferior coffee, Riner prefers the taste of Dublin Dr Pepper to the "nasty corn syrup flavor" of the conventional stuff. She picks some up when she travels north to visit her family.

Riner sometimes shares a few bottles from her private stash when she needs a favor from the Dr Pepper-obsessed computer guys at work, where the soft drink is referred to as "crack." One IT guy decorated his office with empty Dr Pepper bottles, Riner said. The computer guys have reported having problems when they tried to quit drinking the stuff. (Yes, there are several Dr Pepper addiction support groups.)

Since the demand for Dublin Dr Pepper exceeds the supply, a thriving black market has sprung up. Driving around the state this spring, I noticed little paper signs in the front windows of small-town drugstores and mom-and-pop restaurants advertising the availability of Dublin Dr Pepper. I never really gave much thought to where they were getting the stuff.

That's where the bootleggers come in. At a cooking demonstration I gave this spring at the Dallas Museum of Art, I told the audience that the Dr Pepper-­marinated tenderloin recipe that I included in my The Texas Cowboy Cookbook worked a lot better if you used Dublin Dr Pepper. The cane sugar caramelizes better on the grill.

After the event, a bootlegger introduced herself. The wisecracking lady said she kept a group of small shops in her Dallas suburb supplied. It was all very hush-hush, because the bootleggers are going around the distribution rules of the bottling franchise. Each franchisee is supposed to supply its own area.

I was fascinated: Smuggling addictive soft drinks across county lines is the sort of aberrant behavior I have dedicated my life to investigating.
_____________________

It cost six bucks to get into the Dr Pepper Museum in downtown Waco. The first floor was devoted to historical information about the invention and early days of bottling and distributing the product. There was an eerie talking dummy that was supposed to look like the German pharmacist named Charles Alderton, who formulated Dr Pepper at the soda fountain of Waco's Old Corner Drug store in 1885, one year before Coca-Cola was invented.

His formula is alleged to contain 23 flavors, including natural fruit and spice essences, though the company is notoriously secretive about the actual ingredients (except to say that prune juice is not among them).

Alderton's customers called the drink a "Waco" soda, and it became quite popular at the soda fountain. The pharmacist gave the recipe to the owner of the drugstore, Wade Morrison, and the base syrup began to be made in larger quantities. When he began marketing the syrup to area drugstores, Morrison renamed the drink after Dr. Charles T. Pepper of Virginia.

Some versions of the story say the real Dr. Pepper was Morrison's girlfriend's father; others say he was a former employer. If such details matter to you, there's a Web site you can visit where the Dr Pepper catechism is carefully parsed by a fanatic named Christopher Flaherty on his Web site, Dr Pepper FAQ. You will also find stories there connecting Dr Pepper to various conspiracy theories. Lee Harvey Oswald was evidently a Dr Pepper lover.

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11 comments
Magnus Thunderson
Magnus Thunderson

feel betayed as I found I realy liked the sugar verson and cant stand the HFCS version so will stick with M-dew throwback and sierra mist

Lex
Lex

I just want the old Dr. Pepper back. Please! Pepsi puts out old sugar flavor, why not Dr. Pepper? I drank the old flavor last year and I can't drink the new stuff no more. For the love of god, please!

How many emails or letters do we have to set up to get Dr. Pepper's notice? Somebody should start up a website for this. seriously.

Joe
Joe

I had Dublin Dr. Pepper for the first time when I was graduating Basic Training in the Army. One of my platoon was from Dublin, and had his family bring up several cases of Dublin Dr. Pepper to share with his newfound family. It's like liquid crack. Best thing I've ever tasted.

Susan Lipin
Susan Lipin

If you are looking for cheap prescription drug pharmacy, I would recommend you all to shop at eshoprx.com They are reliable, fast and believe me CHEAPEST.

StoogeFan
StoogeFan

FYI, it's "paging Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine, Doctor Howard."

Marie
Marie

TRY ***JONES*** COLA WITH REAL CANE SUGAR! I tried it again for The 1st time since they removed the awful high fructose corn syrup,diabetes,cancer causing ingredient in people and rats/out of the drink.Let me tell you I am not a big Cola drinker(I prefer DUBLIN DOC. myself) but this is some REALLYreally great soda.(My husband and I shared one and later on in the day we could not resist having another:) We cannot stand the BIG soda company's that SHIP_OUT the real -sugar based- cola around the world and stick us with the bottom of the barrel CORN SYRUP laced crap. You know in other country's CORN SYRUP and HYDROGENATED OILS AND GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS ARE illegal, and RIGHTFULLY SO, Americans are finally READING LABELS and have started to take action. Why doesn't the FDA do anything about allowing company's to INJECT the PROVEN CANCER CAUSING SODIUM NITRATES in our meets.MOST people think sodiun NITRATE IS A SALT additive -WRONG! Companies wouldn't have to add SODIUM NITRATE to gray colored meat if they would feed the animals we eat a regular diet , with out growth hormones and pesticide ridden grains. LADY'S & GENT'S this is just the beginning,START emailing companies ask them to provide products with out harmful additives,EX:ask Heinz ketchup why do the citizens in England get Ketchup with real sugar and we get the cheap, unnatural , corn syrup in our bottles,in our restaurants.Even chick-fillet uses Corn syrup ketchup.HOWEVER Jason DELI is GREAT,food is the same price as eating at a fast food restaurant these days. also LOOK OUT for products that say NATURAL FLAVORS,that is how company's can legally put natural on their product without breaking the law.LOOK TO BUY FOODS WITH ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS -NOT all natural FLAVORS

In everything you eat their will always be a natural flavor in it so it is a legal term. READ YOUR LABELS,SUPPORT COMPANIES that sell REAL FOOD-like my daughter says.

Here are some more CORN SYRUP FREE PRODUCTS *Mexican COKE *HANSONS *IZZY LIZZY *BOYLYNNS(served at JASONS DELI,check out their corn-syrup free salad bar,they are 99% cornsyrup free!) *WALLGREENS brand bottled soda(it acually says CORNSYRUP FREE ON THE FRONT and is priced nice.) *SOBE-LIFE WATER(watch out for OTHER SOBE drinks because MOST of their products DO contain cornsyrup *SWEET LEAF,made in AUSTIN with litte old lady on front,the mint tea is yummy. *ACCELERADE-way better then TOXIC Gatorade but pricy. have a great day & teach someone else about natural ingredients:)

marie
marie

TRY ***JONES*** COLA WITH REAL CANE SUGAR! I tried it again for The 1st time since they removed the awful high fructose corn syrup,diabetes,cancer causing ingredient in people and rats/out of the drink.Let me tell you I am not a big Cola drinker(I prefer DUBLIN DOC. myself) but this is some REALLYreally great soda.(My husband and I shared one and later on in the day we could not resist having another:) We cannot stand the BIG soda company's that SHIP_OUT the real -sugar based- cola around the world and stick us with the bottom of the barrel CORN SYRUP laced crap. You know in other country's CORN SYRUP and HYDROGENATED OILS AND GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS ARE illegal, and RIGHTFULLY SO, Americans are finally READING LABELS and have started to take action. Why doesn't the FDA do anything about allowing company's to INJECT the PROVEN CANCER CAUSING sodium NITRATES in our meets.MOST people think sodiun NITRATE IS A SALT additive -WRONG! Companies wouldn't have to add SODIUM NITRATE to gray colored meat if they would feed the animals we eat a regular diet , with out growth hormones and pesticide ridden grains. LADY'S & GENT'S this is just the beginning,START emailing companies ask them to provide products with out harmful additives,EX:ask Heinz ketchup why do the citizens in England get Ketchup with real sugar and we get the cheap, unnatural , corn syrup in our bottles,in our restaurants.Even chick-fillet uses Corn syrup ketchup.HOWEVER Jason DELI is GREAT,food is the same price as eating at a fast food restaurant these days. also LOOK OUT for products that say NATURAL FLAVORS,that is how company's can legally put natural on their product without breaking the law.LOOK TO BUY FOODS WITH ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS -NOT all natural FLAVORS

In everything you eat their will always be a natural flavor in it so it is a legal term. READ YOUR LABELS,SUPPORT COMPANIES that sell REAL FOOD-like my daughter says.

Here are some more CORN SYRUP FREE PRODUCTS *Mexican COKE *HANSONS *IZZY LIZZY *BOYLYNNS(served at JASONS DELI,check out their corn-syrup free salad bar,they are 99% cornsyrup free!) *WALLGREENS brand bottled soda(it acually says CORNSYRUP FREE ON THE FRONT and is priced nice.) *SOBE-LIFE WATER(watch out for OTHER SOBE drinks because MOST of their products DO contain cornsyrup *SWEET LEAF,made in AUSTIN with litte old lady on front,the mint tea is yummy. *ACCELERADE-way better then TOXIC Gatorade but pricy. have a great day & teach someone else about natural ingredients:)

robb walsh
robb walsh

A commenter on the Dallas Observer website reports finding Dublin Dr. Pepper in Umm al-Quwain--one of the United Arab Emirates.

John
John

I just happened to stop off at a gas station in New Terrirory, and they had not only the small 8oz "classic" bottle of Imperial Sugar Dr. Pepper, but a full 20oz plastic bottle version of it too. I'm old enough to have tasted it when they were still using real sugar, but it's been too long and I didn't remember any difference to what we have now. Well I can say the taste is still very similar but it is much cleaner. It seems to be not as thick/syrupy (is that the right word?)... and the carbonation seemed just a little more refreshing because of that. Hey, it could have all been in my head, but I liked it.

I'm not sure how long ago this article was written, but I think they have expanded the rollout of the imperial sugar product, it's much easier to get I think. And the price at this gas station was the same price they charge for the other 20oz sodas. Not bad!

robb walsh
robb walsh

Spec's carrying Dublin Dr Pepper too.

Mike
Mike

Mexican cokes are the way to go. Try the Mexican orange drinks too.

 
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