In 1905, a pharmacist named Claude Hatcher began crafting soft drinks in his basement lab below a grocery store. His first major breakthrough was Chero-Cola, followed by the “Royal Crown” line of beverages — then including ginger ale, strawberry, and root beer flavors.
By the end of the 30’s, the “Royal Crown” line had been rebranded as the Nehi family of drinks, and Chero-Cola was renamed to Royal Crown. Hatcher named his company Chero-Cola after his original cola, then later renamed to Nehi Corporation in light of the success of the Nehi brand. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, the company would later rename itself again to The Royal Crown Company following sagging Nehi sales and the growing popularity of Royal Crown cola in the 40’s and 50’s.
Royal Crown was thought of as “the working man’s” cola (particularly in the south, where it was commonly paired with a Moon Pie), enjoying widespread popularity through the 1950’s. Late in that decade, Chero-Cola introduced the world’s first diet cola, “Diet Rite”, which became the 4th most popular cola in America within two years of its debut.
In recent years, Royal Crown Cola’s popularity has waned in the face of growing international competition. The Royal Crown brand changed hads a number of times before ultimately finding a home with Cadbury Schweppes as part of the Dr. Pepper/Seven Up family. Despite such adversity, Royal Crown still soldiers on as RC Cola.
We tried RC Cola from a 2-liter bottle, served over ice. The cola has a less pronounced aroma than Coca-Cola, with a slightly syrupy scent. Based on smell alone, we were braced for that cheap, cloying off-brand flavor, but were surprised by the light, almost crisp flavor of the cola. RC Cola offered more acidic “bite” than Coke, but without the sugar rush of Pepsi — in fact, the aftertaste was almost bitter. RC Cola is a bit too harsh to really enjoy on it’s own, but would probably go great with food; it’s less sweet and more mellow than most colas, and less likely to distract from other flavors.