If you’ve lived in Waco for more than 15 minutes, then you’ve heard about the city’s connection with Dr Pepper. If you’re new to the area, here’s a quick recap.
In 1885, a 28-year-old pharmacist named Charles Alderton worked at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store at 329 Austin Avenue. The majority of his time was spent mixing this pharmaceutical with that ingredient to create medicine for the store’s customers. Alderton, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, and went to college in England before studying medicine at the University of Texas, liked the way the store smelled, as it’s told in one story, and he wanted to create a drink that tasted like that smell. He tried mixing together various flavors of fruit syrups until he hit on a combination that he liked. Each time he experimented with varying amounts of syrups, he would make a note of it in a journal.
Another story says that Alderton’s customers at the soda fountain in the drugstore had grown tired of drinks flavored with lemon and vanilla and sarsaparilla, so he experimented with flavors until finding the perfect 23 ingredients that ended up being Dr Pepper. The first Dr Pepper was served December 1, 1885, making it the oldest American soft drink. (Coca-Cola entered the market a year later.)
The drink was originally called a Waco, so customers would order by saying, “Shoot me a Waco.” But Morrison changed the name to Dr Pepper when he applied for a patent in 1885. (Morrison had a horse named Pepper, by the way. At his home on Washington Avenue, exactly 1 mile from his pharmacy, Morrison built a barn for Pepper. That barn, many years later, was converted into a recording studio by the musician David Crowder. Much of the music of the David Crowder Band was recorded in that old barn. #TheMoreYouKnow)
Dr Pepper was introduced to the world at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. That fair ended up being a major food event. In addition to Dr Pepper, the fair also marked the debut of the hamburger — supposedly brought there by Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas, though some food historians say the burger dates back to the 1880s. The hot dog, iced tea, the club sandwich, cotton candy, the ice cream cone and peanut butter are all rumored to also have gotten their start at the World’s Fair.
Dr Pepper proved so popular that Morrison had to buy another building to continue producing his new drink. That building was at 300 South Fifth
Street and is now home to the Dr Pepper Museum, which you can read more about on page 61 in the Q&A with Jack McKinney, who is soon to retire after 18 years as president and CEO of the museum. (We had decided on a Dr Pepper-themed Food & Drink column about a week before I received the assignment to talk to McKinney.)
Today, there are 10 varieties of Dr Pepper produced by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, and it’s one of the most popular soft drinks in world.
While we don’t drink many sodas in our house, when we do, it’s Dr Pepper.
I’ve found that the effects of a migraine can be lessened by washing down BC Powder with a cold DP.
So we decided to try cooking with Dr Pepper and had great success. The pulled pork was tender and tasty, and the barbecue sauce had a nice balance of sweetness and heat. All the Dr Pepper dishes were a hit with the folks we had over to help us sample.
When I asked McKinney if he ever cooked with Dr Pepper, he said he actually uses Dr Pepper syrup, which is available for purchase at the Dr Pepper Museum. He uses the syrup in a recipe for baked beans, which we’ve included below, and he also uses 7UP syrup to make salad dressing and Big Red syrup to baste grilled chicken.
And though they didn’t make it into the photo, we’ve included recipes for a couple of drinks containing Dr Pepper, one with alcohol and one without.
Dr Pepper Pulled Pork
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 5-6 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
- 4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
- 1 lemon, sliced
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 six-pound pork shoulder butt
- 1 can Dr Pepper
- 1 cup chicken stock
Heat oven to 450 F. Place the onion, garlic, carrots, celery and lemon in the bottom of a roasting pan. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper over the pork. Place the pork shoulder on the vegetables and pour the Dr Pepper and chicken stock over the vegetables. Bake for 45 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 F and bake for 4 1/2 to 5 hours, or until the pork is tender and can easily be shredded. Cover with foil if the meat is browning too quickly.
When the pork is tender, remove from the pan and let rest on a cutting board for 20-30 minutes. Use two large forks to shred the meat.
Serve on hamburger buns, onion rolls or brioche buns. Top with Dr Pepper Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows) and coleslaw.
Makes 8-10 generous servings.
Dr Pepper Barbecue Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cans Dr Pepper
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon coarse mustard
- 1-2 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo, or to taste
- Salt and ground black pepper
In a saucepan set over medium-high heat, heat olive oil and butter. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until the onion is just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the Dr Pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the mixture by about half. Add the ketchup, mustard, adobo, and salt and pepper, to taste. Lower the heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer for 30-45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Makes about 3 cups.
Jack’s Baked Beans
- 1/2 red onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cans (15 ounces each) pork and beans, drained
- 8 ounces Dr Pepper syrup
- 2 teaspoons brown mustard
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat oven to 350 F. In a large casserole dish over low to medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in bacon drippings or canola oil, until softened.
Add beans, then stir in all the other ingredients in sequence. Cover the dish and bake for 30 minutes.
Makes 8-10 servings.
Dr Pepper Cake
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup Dr Pepper
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 8 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- Dr Pepper Frosting
Heat oven to 350 F. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray and dust with flour.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt, and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the Dr Pepper. When it starts to bubble, reduce heat to low, add the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla for 2 minutes. Then slowly whisk in the Dr Pepper mixture and mix for 1 additional minute. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat on medium or low until smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, and bake for 30-38 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 15 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks, lift off pans and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Place one cake on a serving plate and apply frosting to the top. Place the second cake on top of the first cake, and then frost the top and sides.
Makes 12-16 servings, depending on how thick you slice the cake.
Dr Pepper Frosting
- 1 pound powdered sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- About 6 tablespoons Dr Pepper
Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. With a wooden spoon, mix the powdered sugar and butter. Mix in the chocolate and vanilla. Add the Dr Pepper.
Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat for 1-2 minutes, or until well blended and light. Add more sugar or Dr Pepper, if needed, to get to the consistency of frosting.
Makes about 3 cups.
- 1 ounce coconut rum
- 1 ounce gin
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
- Splash lemon juice
- 4 ounces Dr Pepper
Fill a glass with ice and add the coconut rum, gin, lime juice and lemon juice. Add the Dr Pepper and gently stir.
Makes 1 drink.
Dirty Dr Pepper
- 1 lime slice
- 2 ounces coconut syrup
- 2 cups Dr Pepper
Add ice and lime slice to a glass. Pour in coconut syrup and Dr Pepper. Stir and serve.
Makes 1 drink.