Edit Module

Pop Culture

It’s chartreuse and sickly sweet, but it’s ours. One hundred years on, a tribute to Green River soda.

Edit Module

A Century of Seeing Green

  • 1919 Richard C. Jones, a retiring confectionery operator in Davenport, Iowa, sells his recipe for a popular carbonated drink nicknamed Green River to the Chicago-based flavoring company Sethness-Greenleaf, which then creates a syrup to replicate the lime flavor and supplies it to Schoenhofen Brewing Co. in Pilsen to sell.
  • 1920 Prohibition starts, and Green River becomes the brewery’s lifesaver: The soda is poured into old beer bottles and sold as a refreshing beverage.
  • 1933 With the end of Prohibition, the brewery is back in the beer business under the new moniker Schoenhofen Edelweiss Co. The soda continues to sell across the Midwest.
  • 1950 Schoenhofen Edelweiss goes broke and closes. Sethness-Greenleaf attempts to sell Green River.
  • 1950s The bottlers for Coca-Cola, 7Up, and Canfield’s pick up the rights to produce Green River. It’s outsold in the Midwest only by Coca-Cola.
  • 1964 Green River branches out into other flavored sodas: grape, cream, orange, and three more. (The sister lines don’t last more than a decade.)
  • 1970 Diet Green River is introduced. (It’s still available, but unless you like diet cough syrup, we don’t recommend it.)
  • 2010 Green River officially participates in Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parades for the first time.
  • 2011 WIT Beverage Company acquires the Green River brand from Sethness-Greenleaf.
  • 2013 Green River accounts for a quarter of WIT’s $15 million in sales.

Cocktail Hour

We asked bartender Liz Pearce of Flora Fauna on the Near North Side to create a drink incorporating the verdant beverage. She came up with a riff on a Paloma, a classic grapefruit and tequila concoction, with the bitter French apéritif suze to cut some of the soda’s extreme (like, 29-grams-of-sugar extreme) sweetness.

THE FOGERTY’S FAVE (makes one drink)

  • 1 1/2 oz. blanco tequila
  • 1/2 oz. white grapefruit juice
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1/4 oz. suze Salt
  • 2 1/2 oz. Green River soda Grapefruit and lime twist, for garnish

Combine tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and suze in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and stir. Pour the mixture over ice in a Collins glass with a salted rim. Top with Green River and stir slightly to incorporate. Garnish with grapefruit and lime.

Green River’s Greatest Pop Culture Moments

  • 1920
    EDDIE CANTOR’S “GREEN RIVER”
    The multidisciplinary performer wrote a ditty about the soda, with music by vaudeville duo Gus Van and Joe Schenck. Sample lines: “For a drink that’s fine without a kick, oh! Green River, it’s the only drink that does the trick, just Green River. Has others beat a mile, makes drinking worthwhile. And if you want to wear a little smile try Green River.”
  • 1969
    CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL’S “GREEN RIVER”
    This song on the album of the same name was written by John Fogerty, who, in 1993, told Rolling Stone that the reference came from “a soda pop syrup label. You used to be able to go into a soda fountain, and they had these bottles of flavored syrup. My flavor was called Green River.”
  • 2007
    GUY FIERI’S SICKENING SIPS
    “It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever had,” Fieri proclaimed on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives after tasting a Green River at the South Side Soda Shop Diner in Goshen, Indiana. Hoping to turn his tongue green, Fieri also took a shot of straight green syrup and regretted it immediately. “It’s like liquid Life Savers,” he said in between gags.
  • 2017
    A STEALTH APPEARANCE ON HAWAII FIVE-0
    It doesn’t get name-dropped, but keep your eyes peeled: It’s unmistakable in a short scene in season 7 (of the CBS reboot, not the original). In episode 21, “Ua Malo’o Ka Wai” (originally aired on April 7), ex-Chicago cop Lou Grover returns to the city and takes his son to the (fictional) restaurant Georgie’s, where, at the bar, a police officer enjoys a tall glass of the green stuff.

Slogans Through the Years

1919
The Snappy
Lime Drink
1920s
All-Ways
Delightful
1930s
First
for Thirst

1960s
Floats Your
Thirst Away
1970s
Have a
Green River
Wherever
You Go
Current
Caffeine-Free
Since 1919

Slogans Through the Years

1919
The Snappy
Lime Drink
1920s
All-Ways
Delightful

1930s
First
for Thirst
1960s
Floats Your
Thirst Away

1970s
Have a
Green River
Wherever
You Go
Current
Caffeine-Free
Since 1919

Where to Find It

  • Want it in bulk?
    Many local grocery chains stock liter bottles or four-packs of 12 ouncers, including selected locations of Jewel-Osco, Mariano’s, and Pete’s Fresh Market. No luck? Try Binny’s Beverage Depot or even your nearest Target.
  • Want a float?
    The Hackney’s locations in Glenview (1514 E. Lake Ave.; 1241 Harms Rd.) and Eleven City Diner (1112 S. Wabash Ave., South Loop) serve them up. (If you want to do it yourself, Hackney’s recommends a blend of 1 pint of soda with 21/2 small scoops of vanilla ice cream.)
  • Want a sip?
    You can find it on tap in the soda machine at one particular 7-Eleven in the Loop (35 E. Wacker Dr.). Only $2 for a large!

Share

Edit Module
Edit Module
Submit your comment

Comments are moderated. We review them in an effort to remove foul language, commercial messages, abuse, and irrelevancies.