Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Phillies lore: Where did Champ Cherry come from?

The old-time soda is being relaunched to coincide with the home opener.

Phillies lore: Where did Champ Cherry come from?

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Entrepreneur Elliott Hirsh of Amazing Beverages -- remember Elliott's apple juice? -- is relaunching an old Philadelphia soda brand on April 12, the date of the Phillies' home opener.

It's Champ Cherry, the cherry soda and drink of choice at the old Levis hot dog and fishcake shop on Sixth Street between Lombard and South. Hirsch bought the formula when he bought the business in 1990; the shop closed in 1992 and is now Gianna's Grille.

Champ Cherry was "Champagne Cherry" around the turn of the 20th century. But in 1950, Levis founder Abe Levis celebrated the Phillies' first National League championship in 35 years with the new name.

Levis was inspired by a trolley driver who, legend has it, stopped in front of his shop ("A.L. Levis, purveyor since 1895 of Soda Water, Ice Cream and Light Lunch") every day for a hot dog and Champagne Cherry soda.

The two discussed the Phillies. The red soda and the Phillies' team color got the driver to think that if he drank Champ Cherry every day, the Phillies would win. (There's nothing in the story about why the Whiz Kids folded to the Yankees in four games. Perhaps Krass Bros. around the corner had a customer who liked black pin-stripes.)

Hirsh has been selling Champ Cherry -- which is not too sweet (thanks to a hint of apple juice) -- in 12-ounce bottles, and in syrup form.

To mark the 2010 season, Hirsh's company will offer free Champ Cherry soda on April 12, the day of the Phillies home opener game, to the first 100 people who buy a sandwich at Shank's Uptown, 120 S. 15th St.

Staff Writer
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Michael Klein, the editor/producer of philly.com/Food, writes about the local restaurant scene in his Inquirer column "Table Talk." Have a question? Email it! See his Inquirer work here.

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