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June 6, 2024 22 mins

Dr Pepper's flavor is just one of many questions we have about the drink. Who is the doctor behind Dr Pepper? Is tomato one of the soda's 23 secret ingredients? Should you actually be drinking your Dr Pepper hot? And why doesn't Dr Pepper have a period in its name? (Does the good doctor think it's above the laws of grammar?!) Also, what did Dr Pepper do to make Guns 'n Roses so angry with it? Will and Mango have a lot of questions... and at least 9 answers for you. 

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:03):
You're listening to part Time Genius, the production of Kaleidoscope
and iHeartRadio. Guess what Will?

Speaker 2 (00:12):
What's that Mango?

Speaker 1 (00:14):
So I was looking up TikTok trends and I ended
up on this channel from Mississippi Mema. Do you know her?

Speaker 2 (00:20):
So? You think because I live in the South, I
know just all the memas. I guess No, I.

Speaker 1 (00:26):
Just thought you might know the channel. Also, she has
a great accent, so you should know her. But in
the video, she pulls up to a Sonic and she
orders a doctor pepper with pickles, which apparently is the
drink of the Summer. It's called a pickled doctor pepper.

Speaker 2 (00:41):
The drink of the summer. Is like this, is this
an official drink at Sonic?

Speaker 1 (00:46):
I mean, I don't think it's official. I think it's
more like a secret menu item. You know, it gets
requested enough that the woman who took the order wasn't
surprised by it at all.

Speaker 2 (00:55):
So what is in it? You said? It's called a
pickled doctor pepper?

Speaker 1 (01:00):
Mm hm, Yeah, it's really complicated to make. Basically, you
take it a giant doctor pepper, you put ice in it,
and then you add five or six pickle slices or
some pickle juice and that's it, and people go crazy
for it.

Speaker 2 (01:12):
Oh man. I mean, I know about the kool Aid pickles,
and I'm obviously a Doctor Pepper fan. It's a good drink,
but I don't know anyone who's drinking pickled peppers.

Speaker 1 (01:21):
This is new to me, well me either, But I
knew I had to try it. So I went out
and I bought a Doctor Pepper, And honestly, it felt
too ridiculous to like slice up a pickle and put
it inside, So I just ate a few bites of
a pickle and then I washed it down with the
Doctor Pepper.

Speaker 2 (01:38):
Oh man, this is a real experiment. You are dedicated
to the job, and so what what did it tastes like?

Speaker 1 (01:44):
It tastes like you're eating a pickle and washing it
down with doctor Pepper. Oh oh that's a big Okay,
all right, It did not change my life, but you know,
it is the drink of the summer. Also, I wanted
to celebrate Doctor Pepper because they've had a great year.
Did you know that Doctor Pepper just tied Pepsi to
be the second best selling soda in America?

Speaker 2 (02:02):
Oh wow, that is huge.

Speaker 1 (02:04):
Yeah, I know, I feel like we should be high
fiving over it. But Coke is still firmly in first place.
But according to The Wall Street Journal and Fox, part
of the reason is because Doctor Pepper keeps experimenting with
new flavors, all of which appeal to gen Z. Plus,
this pickled Dr Pepper trend has apparently been contributing to
their popularity. Anyway, That's just the first of nine strange

facts everyone should know about Dr Pepper. Let's dive in.

Speaker 2 (02:46):
Hey their podcast listeners, Welcome to part time Genius. I'm
Will and as always I'm here with my good pal
Mango and sitting there behind that big booth. I know
everyone's curious what he's doing today because he's always up
to something interesting. But it's our good friend Dylan. He's
not in a great mood that he's actually angrily waving
a picket sign and it says, oh I'm trying to read.

It says no Pepper, no period, look at him, go Mango.
It's just it's just wild.

Speaker 1 (03:13):
Yeah. I actually talked to him before the show and
he said, as someone who's really passionate about grammar, he's
protesting Doctor Pepper until they put the period back in
the name. I guess the doctor in the soda used
to have a period after the R until the nineteen
fifties and then they with the fun it looked weird.
And so you know, I'm not going to join Dylan's
grammar protest, but I do agree with him in spirit.

Speaker 2 (03:35):
Yeah, yeah, I mean he's always right when you think
about it. Well, speaking of the doctor, why don't we
talk a little bit about the doctor in Doctor Pepper
Like it's always been kind of a mystery who this
Doctor Pepper is. And Doctor Pepper is actually one of
America's oldest sodas, first formulated in eighteen eighty five. It's
a year older than coke, eight years older than Pepsi,

and practically speaking, it's from Waco Tech Now. According to
the Doctor Pepper Museum in Waco, it was invented by
a pharmacist named Charles Alderton, and in fact, in the
early years of the drink, people used to call the
drink a Waco, which is kind of fun, and they
call for the drink at the counter by saying, shoot
me a Waco. But according to some its real origins

are actually from Virginia, the way Texas Monthly tells it
a young drugstore clerk perfected a tasty formula of twenty
plus ingredients that you could add to soda water, and
then sold it to a chemist on one condition that
he would name the beverage after the clerk's father in law. Now,
this was a physician named doctor Pepper, so he takes

the drink with him to Texas starts this soda empire.
Now all of this is a little apocryphal, but what
we do know is that, like most of these early sodas,
doctor Pepper was originally sold as a curel, which is
likely why they added doctor to the title of the drink.
But by nineteen seventy three, the CEO of Doctor Pepper
was clarifying that quote, a spoonful of doctor Pepper will

not relieve constipation, hives, excessive acidity, morbidity, sterility, bile, eczema, hysteria, bronchitis,
or what ails you in general. And while folks still
splash it on and some rub it on, I guess
the only claim we make is that doctor Pepper is
soothing to youngsters suffering post Ton selectomies. So that's what

he clarified. Didn't do any of the other stuff, but
it will help youngsters suffering from post Ton selectomies. So
there you have it, mango.

Speaker 1 (05:28):
I love the idea of people rubbing Doctor Pepper on
like it's a colone. Just flash, you're in this smell
kind of good. I wonder why it was so important
to the kid that the drink be named for his
father in law, though.

Speaker 2 (05:40):
You know, of course, like so many of these stories,
there's a lot of lore behind it. But another claim
is that the doctor is doctor Charles T. Pepper, who
is a Confederate physician. It's hard to tell what's true though,
Like supposedly, the Doctor Pepper Museum has like a dozen
different origin stories that they've tried to fact check. Not
a whole lot of luck so far, though.

Speaker 1 (06:00):
Well, I know one of the things that Doctor Pepper
has always pried itself on is the fact that it's
an original flavor, right that no one knows what the
twenty three ingredients are, et cetera. And I always laugh
looking at those lists of Doctor Pepper knockoffs, like the
Soda Lover's wiki has one hundred different budget variations, from
Doctor Shasta to Doctor Bob, Doctor Topper, Doctor good Guy,

doctor Gulpster, Doctor Sparkles, Doctor Wham, Doctor Slam, Doctor A Plus,
and Professor Fizz.

Speaker 2 (06:29):
Like you're just making a few of these out, but
that's a fun.

Speaker 1 (06:32):
List, just scratching the surface here. And there's some misters
on there as well, because some of the sodas didn't
make it through grad school, which does make me wonder
about the origins of.

Speaker 2 (06:42):
Mister pib and so, so what did you learn?

Speaker 1 (06:44):
Basically that SODA's were very much a regional delicacy for
a very long time. So aside from Coke and Pepsi,
who are bottling their product nationally, you have things like
Werners from Michigan or Moxie, which is from Maine, right,
and Doctor Pepper was really considered a Southern drink. When
Doctor Pepper started making a push to go wider, Coke
was threatened, so they decided to introduce a competitor, and

they tried a few times. According to Texas Monthly, Coke
did some small scale tests of two drinks in the
nineteen sixties. One was called Texas Stepper and another one
was called Chime. But in nineteen seventy two they rolled
out a drink called Pepper, which obviously was a little
close in name to Dr Pepper, so Dr Pepper sued them,
and then they changed the name to Mister PIB. But

what's really funny is that this entire time, Coke denied
that they were trying to make a Doctor Pepper knock off.
Like a Coke spokesperson told Texas Monthly quote, I haven't
tasted Dr Pepper myself, so I wouldn't know how similar
it is to mister Pip. He goes on, I don't
think it was meant to compete with Doctor Pepper as
far as I know, Coke just felt there was a
market for this kind of soft drink. It's ludicrous, especially

knowing the name change. But the other part that's really
funny is that Texas Monthly looked a little closer and
found that even though mister PIB had no relation to
Doctor Pep, and even though Coke wasn't trying to imitate
the flavors, the places where they decided to test market
Mister PIB were Waco, Texas, which is the birthplace of
Doctor Pepper, and the other towns in the South that
were strongholds of Dr Pepper. Yeah, yeah, it's super coincidence.

But this actually one other funny thing about the cover up.
When mister pib first debuted, the color was brown, but
Coca Cola quickly changed it to red, and according to mash,
it's because Quote Coke was worried people would think it
was a Rupier rip off instead of a dr Pepper ripper.

Speaker 2 (08:33):
Ah, I see, yeah.

Speaker 1 (08:35):
Which is so funny to me. But what do you
wanna what do you wanna talk about next?

Speaker 2 (08:40):
All right, well, all your talk of pickled Doctor Pepper
made me think about the original Doctor Pepper hack, which
was to heat it up on the stove. Have you
heard about this?

Speaker 1 (08:49):
Yeah, nothing like a piping hot Doctor Pepper on a
hot day. But uh, do you know how how that
hack got started?

Speaker 2 (08:57):
Apparently this goes right to the top, like like the
drink was invented by Doctor Pepper's former company president, this
guy Wesby R. Parker, who was irritated that his sales
basically dropped to zero in the winter, so he was
trying to figure out what to do with this. This
was back in the nineteen fifties, so Parker started experimenting
with different variations at home, just trying to make a

winter mocktail of sorts and he realized that when you
heated doctor Pepper on a stovetop, it actually retained its flavor,
and if you added a slice of lemon to it,
it was really delicious. Now, the funny thing is Parker
actually did a comparison and warmed up a bunch of
different sodas, and his belief was that because Doctor Pepper
was made with natural fruit flavors instead of artificial ones,

he'd actually retained the flavor in a way that other
sodas didn't. Anyway, the company started pushing the drink, and
for a while, hot Doctor Pepper was served at the
Cotton Bowl and other Southern regional football games in the winter.
I'd not heard about this before.

Speaker 1 (09:54):
Yeah, I'd never seen that. It's also kind of funny
that all the variations are like pickle. Doctor Pepper tastes
like doctor Pepper with pickle, he did. Doctor Pepper still
tastes like Doctor Pepper.

Speaker 2 (10:05):
Just hot. Yeah, it's just just hot doctor Pepper. But
you know, the company really tried to make it a
thing for a while, and they pushed it the holidays
as kind of a warm punch, and the next president
of the company said he used to have it in
place of coffee. Even told journalists that he'd have three
or four hot Doctor Peppers in the morning and then
a bunch of cold ones in the afternoon, but obviously

it never really took off.

Speaker 1 (10:28):
Yeah, but I also kind of want to try that.
We should do another episode where we just test all
these sodas from like, I feel like there's so many
hacks online from like Coke with peanuts, Doctor Pepperoni, which
is Doctor Pepper with pepperoni in it, like Doctor Pepper
with a screamer. Oh, it's gonna be terrible. I really
can't wait. Also, I didn't mention this, but earlier when

I had that Doctor Pepper, like, I'd eaten the pickle
separately and then I just left the Doctor Pepper in
the bottle on the counter, and Henry walks over and
he puts some mentos in it, and then down's the
rest of it. It's like, why can't you just drink
the Doctor Pepper?

Speaker 2 (11:07):
Yes, seriously, come on, Henry, that's a different drink you're
supposed to do with. So what fact do you want
to run with next?

Speaker 1 (11:15):
Here's a fun one. The Dallas NBC station went to
the Doctor Pepper lab to see if they could get
some tips on what those twenty three flavors and Doctor
Pepper are, and of course they didn't have any luck.
They were told the formula has been a secret since
eighteen eighty five and that it's kept under lock and
kena safe for sometimes even talked about being in two saves,
with half the recipie in one and half the recipie another.

But one thing they did find out is that when
new flavors are sampled at the Doctor Pepper labs, they're
all done under a blue light so that the tasters
can't see the color of the beverage. Apparently the color
of a drink can have a real impact on the
way you perceive a drink, and the blue light keeps
tasters honest.

Speaker 2 (11:52):
Which is great, But do you know what any of
those twenty three flavors are? Like, I'm actually pretty curious
about this now.

Speaker 1 (11:58):
Yeah. I look that up as well, and there's a
whole community of super fans online who've tried to figure
it out. And according to Mashed, people think the main
flavors are amaretto, almond, BlackBerry, black licorice, caramel, carrot, clove, cherry, ginger, juniper, lemon, molasses, nutmeg, orange,
plum pepper, root beer, rum, raspberry, vanilla, and most surprising

to me, tomatoto incredibly Yeah, yeah, I guess if you
blend all those things up and you add some seltzer,
you've got a house formula for your own. Doctor Will
or mister Will or whatever you want to call it.
But one thing that Doctor Pepper is adamant about, and
they say this all over the list, is that there
are no prunes in Doctor Pepper. According to Doctor Pepper's

faq online. They've got a question, does Doctor Pepper contain
prune juice? The answer is no, Doctor Pepper does not
contain prune juice.

Speaker 2 (12:52):
That is very good to know. I will put fewer
prunes and more tomatoes in my homemade Doctor Pepper from
now on. But still got a few more facts to go.
But why don't we take a quick break first.

Speaker 1 (13:18):
Welcome back to part time genius. When we're talking all
things Doctor Pepper. So will, where do you want to
take it from here?

Speaker 2 (13:24):
All right, we've only got a few facts left. So
you know, one of the things that's always interesting to
me is the advertising over the years for all sorts
of products, but especially sodas and foods and drinks like this.
So in the early years they advertised Doctor Pepper for
quote them vigor and vitality. You see what they did
that did alliteration there, and they called it liquid Sunlight.

But according to The Daily Meal, in the nineteen twenties,
there was a study from Columbia University that showed that
blood sugar tends to dip at ten am, two pm,
and four pm. So Doctor Pepper decided to capitalize on
this with the slogan drink a bite to eat at
ten two and four. I had to read that a
couple of times because just drink drink a bite to

eat at ten to two and four. And basically they
were pitching doctor Pepper as three tiny square meals to
give you this kick of sugar between your bigger square meals.
And I guess according to The Daily Meal, the ads
worked because wartime laborers kind of thought of it as
their like their red bull or something, and so later
in the fifties they continued that marketing line with the

phrase the friendly Pepper upper. These are all such confusing phrases,
and it was actually used on Dick Clark's bandstand. But
back to the whole drink a bite to eat thing
for a second. Oddly, that ad is the only time
Doctor Pepper decided to use a doctor mascot to sell
the brand. They supposedly wanted to use a picture of
a typical country doctor, but the cartoon image is is

of this guy with like this top hat and these
glasses and a glass soda bottle. He kind of looks
like like a human version of mister Peanut. And for
some reason, under him there's a second slogan that reads
join the club, which is a little more clear, Like
it's not very exciting, but just like you know what
they mean by that.

Speaker 1 (15:08):
At least, I feel like they're so good at mixing
wrong ingredients and so bad at mixing wrong words.

Speaker 2 (15:15):
Yes, yeah, yeah Pepper the bite me so yeah. It's
really good stuff.

Speaker 1 (15:21):
Yeah, it's not at all confusing. But one thing I
hadn't realized is how important it's been to Doctor Pepper's
growth that the drink is not a cola. So, as
we've mentioned before here, Coca Cola and Pepsi were well
ahead in the soda game right like. By the nineteen sixties,
Doctor Pepper was in fifth place in the Soda Wars
and it wasn't even a competition. And that's partially because

Pepsi and Coke had done a really clever thing. They'd
each gone into markets to work with bottling companies and
made them sign agreements that they had to be exclusive
to their cola. But in nineteen sixty three, Doctor Pepper
got a federal court to rule that because no cola
nut extract is in the drink, it is not actually
a cola. And because of that loophole, they got bottlers

around the nation to start making the drink for them.
So now if you're a bottler, you can like bottle
Pepsi and Doctor Pepper, or Coke and Doctor Pepper without
any conflict of interest. And if you remember, that's basically
the point at which Coca Cola decides to accelerate the
development of their Mister pib concoction. It's basically so that
they can offer these companies their own version of the
drink and cut Doctor Pepper out anyway. According to the

Motley Fool, the company went from doing about fifteen million
dollars of sales annually to two hundred and twenty seven
million dollars of sales in nineteen seventy seven. And it
changed the company's perception of just being this regional drink.
And actually, just to bring this poem for a second,
when Dr Pepper entered the New York market in nineteen seventy,
there was this Dallas born journalist named David de Vos,

and he told Texas Monthly about how he entered a
Manhattan delicatessen and he ordered a kosher salami on rye
with a cold and sparkling Doctor Pepper. And it was
this thing that it was unimaginable to him prior to that, right,
like it was this taste of home. And as he wrote, quote,
it simply blew my mind. It was like the merging
of two great cultures. Munching on a big kosher pickle

and washing it down with my doctor Pepper almost brought
tears of joy. The two complimented each other like wine
and cheese. Right, I guess means people have been pairing
Doctor Pepper with pickles for a very long time.

Speaker 2 (17:25):
Now, apparently. So that is a great fact, and it's
gonna be hard to top, but I think I have
one that'll do it. Because Mango, I remember that when
you were younger, you were a huge guns n' Roses fan. Well,
actually I may have just made that up, but either way,
it's a good fact. Did you know that Guns and
Roses once sued Dr Pepper?

Speaker 1 (17:46):
No? But uh, but now I'm very curious.

Speaker 2 (17:48):
Well, I don't know if you remember this, but Chinese
Democracy was an album that came out in two thousand
and eight, and it had taken forever to create a.

Speaker 1 (17:57):
Yeah, I remember, it was like one of the most
expensive albums of all time, and they were always talking
about what it was going to come out.

Speaker 2 (18:02):
That's exactly right. And Guns n' Rose's last original music
before that had been the Use Your Illusion one and
two albums from nineteen ninety one, and trying to get
their new album, Chinese Democracy off the ground had just
been this nightmare, of course, and apparently they'd recorded like
over fifty tracks. Slash left the band, the guitarist Buckethead

left the band, lots of others left the band, and
tons of creative differences in all this drama. And to
your point, Axel Rose, he'd spent like thirteen million dollars
of David Geffen's money in the studio to that point.
Then Doctor Pepper for some reason stepped into the Fray
and offered a free Doctor Pepper to everyone in America
except for Buckethead and Slash if the band just put

out the album. The copy from the offer is incredible.
I'm just going to read it here. It says we
completely understand and empathize with Axel's request for perfection. We
know once it's released people will refer to it as
Doctor Pepper for the Ears because it will be such
a refreshing blend of rich bold sounds, an instant classic.
I just love this so weirdly. Axel Rose said that

he appreciated the support, said he'd share his drink with
Bucketheads since he played on the album, and then later
announced that the album would be coming out some months
later and Doctor Pepper kept their promise, which is all
really cool, except the rollout was poorly executed. The details
are too much to go through here, but trying to
get free drinks to three hundred and five million Americans

turns out to be easier said than done. And it's
not clear whether Doctor Pepper actually believed that the album
is going to come out as promised or not, since
it had been like fourteen years in the making. Anyway,
people were pissed. Axel's lawyers threatened a lawsuit and called
the whole thing this unmitigated disaster, and they said, quote
in the eyes of vocal fans, doctor Pepper ruined Chinese

democracy's release. They also demanded full page apologies from doctor
pepperin all the major newspapers at the time, from USA
Today to Wall Street Journal to the New York Times.
So it was a whole thing for a minute until
Axelrose told his lawyers this isn't really an issue, and
they dropped the whole thing.

Speaker 1 (20:14):
That is so good, crazy and I love the idea
of Slash, just like watching the whole thing go in flames,
like with his feet up on his stool, smoking a cigarette,
drinking at doctor Pepper. It just feels perfect. I think
you definitely win this one.

Speaker 2 (20:29):
I'll take it. That's awesome. I appreciate that. And that's
it for this week's episode. Thank you so much for listening,
and remember we love hearing from you, whether that writing
a review for the show or writing to our moms
don't forget at pt Genius Moms at gmail dot com.
We heard from a lot of you. We'd love to
hear from many more of you. Pt Genius moms at
gmail dot com. Seriously, that is the email address. Lalita

and Paultte are waiting to hear from you. We'll see
you next time.

Speaker 1 (21:09):
Part Time Genius is a production of Kaleidoscope and iHeartRadio.
This show is hosted by Will Pearson and me Mongas
Chatikler and research by our good pal Mary Philip Sandy.
Today's episode was engineered and produced by the wonderful Dylan
Fagan with support from Tyler Klang. The show is executive
produced for iHeart by Katrina Norvell and Ali Perry, with

social media support from Sasha Gay, trustee Dara Potts and
Viney Shorey. For more podcasts from Kaleidoscope and iHeartRadio, visit
the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to
your favorite shows.

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