The Surprising Origin of Mountain Dew
MOUNTAIN DEW – Initially, Mountain Dew was used as a whisky mixer. The historical origins of the neon beverage that now fuels video gamers and many entertaining demos are bourbon and moonshine.
Mountain Dew, originally known as a mixer for whiskey, has transformed into a vibrant, energizing beverage enjoyed by video gamers and various enthusiasts today, all while maintaining a connection to its historical moonshine and bourbon roots.
The roots of Mountain Dew lie in the moonshine and whiskey culture of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. The term “mountain dew” was a slang name for moonshine, and in the 1940s, brothers Barney and Allen Hartman developed a lemon-lime mixture, as such a beverage was not readily available in their new Knoxville home.
Their preferred brand, Natural Setup, couldn’t be found in Knoxville due to regional manufacturing limitations at the time. So, they devised their own version, which became Mountain Dew.
Initially, the soda didn’t contain caffeine or yellow dye; it resembled a clear soda like Sprite or 7-Up. Though initially crafted for personal use, the Hartman brothers eventually marketed it as “zero-proof hillbilly moonshine that will tickle your innards.” Sadly, Barney’s heart attack and subsequent passing posed challenges for the business.
The company was later sold to the Tip Corporation in Virginia, and the recipe underwent changes, although there are varying accounts of what occurred. One version suggests that a Tri-City lemonade recipe found its way into Mt. Dew bottles.
Early logos featured a barefooted “Grandpappy” hillbilly holding a jug of moonshine. Later on, in a nod to Prohibition-era aesthetics, the packaging depicted the hillbilly with a rifle, taking aim at a federal revenue agent. Interestingly, when Pepsi acquired the company in 1964, it retained the Appalachian marketing approach to continue catering to that market. However, this eventually shifted as the new “Mt Dew” brand was marketed to a younger audience with slogans like “Do the dew!”—a campaign that still used today.
Mountain Dew eventually found a devoted following among video gamers and other influencers, including athletes and race car drivers—a far cry from its Appalachian origins. Just imagine the diverse group of people who have embraced this iconic beverage over the years!