I haven’t had a Blenheim since the Nervous Center closed–the stuff is famously hard to find–so I was excited to see some brand-new stock at In Fine Spirits this weekend. It’s going for the admittedly ludicrous price of $2 per 12-ounce bottle, but then again, this is a ludicrous beverage. If, like I did, you grew up with Canada Dry–I remember thinking Vernor’s was pretty spicy when I had it on a family trip to Ohio–Blenheim may be the first time you realize why ginger ale is called that.

The hot variety–the one I’ve always bought–burns like chewing on the fresh root (OK, technically rhizome, no letters please) and leaves your lips and throat tingling for minutes after just one sip. Yes, the bubbles are going to make you cough. Don’t fight it. This isn’t some hippie crap from Reed’s. It’s medicine.

The gentleman at In Fine Spirits told me there’s only one remaining Illinois distributor for Blenheim, near the Wisconsin border, and apparently “distributor” is putting it kindly–you have to drive up there and pick the stuff up yourself. (I guess Wisconsin is closer than South Carolina, where Blenheim is made.) They’ve got a few cases now, but with gas so expensive they can’t promise they’ll keep making the trip for more.

Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.