What do Big Shot soda and LaCroix water have in common? (More than you probably think.)
The year was 1935, in the middle of the Clutch Plague, when Jefferson Bottling Co. — which also at the time produced Chocolate Soldier and a lemon-lime soda known as Bi-Up — created a new root beer it dubbed Big Shot. New Big Shot flavors were soon to follow, such as fruit punch, produced from the company’s plant off Metairie Road that had originally been the Virginia Dairy farm, also owned by the Pailet family. But what made Big Shot stand out to many was the face on its logo: a cartoon drawing of a rumpled, cigar-smoking former “Big Shot” — a logo, that still appears on bottles of Big Shot produced today.
According to Jonathan Wallick, the grandson and great-nephew of the founders of Big Shot soda, the brand was sold a couple of times before being bought in 1992 by the Florida-based National Beverage Corp., which also makes a number of other soda brands, including Shasta and Faygo, but which may best be known for its LaCroix Sparkling Water. Big Shot soda can now be found in a variety of flavors such as pineapple, strawberry, pineapple watermelon, peach, root bear, orange, grape, crème soda, black cherry, peach and fruit punch, among others.
- In 1997, Mike Ditka filmed a commercial for Big Shot while he was coach of the New Orleans Saints. Joining Ditka in the commercial were former Gov. Edwin Edwards, singer Charmaine Neville, attorney Morris Bart, former City Councilwoman Dorothy Mae Taylor, and then-City Councilwoman Peggy Wilson.
- Big Shot was a sponsor of the TV program “Ditka Live” on Fox 8 while he was coach.
- Rapper Lil Wayne mentioned the soda in “Ice Cream Money” from his 2009 “No Ceiling” mixtape.
- In 2015, chef Nathan Richard, then at Kingfish restaurant, incorporated the Red Crème flavor of Big Shot into a dish.
- Other sodas once produced by Jefferson Bottling Co.: Bi-Up, Big Giant Cola, Chocolate Soldier, Cola Hi-ball, Double Cola, Dr. Up, Tom Collins Jr., and Hires, a root beer originating in 1876 in Philadelphia, Penn.
- Virginia Dairy, which evolved into Jefferson Bottling Co. in 1920, was located on the corner of Frisco and Hector avenues, just off Metairie Road. The building was torn down in the mid-1980s.
- National Beverage still bottles soda at a plant in Harahan.
- Despite being a city surrounded by water, New Orleans didn’t have well water for at least 200 years after Bienville’s landing. When the city’s first water treatment and distribution system was built in the early 1900s, things started to change. While sodas had already started popping up, it was the early 20th century when you saw the rise of sodas and soda shops, now much fewer in number.
Big Shot is a local soda survivor, outlasting other Jefferson Bottling Co. products, as well as Zatarain’s Pa-Poose and Zat-So root beers, Grapico, Orange Squeeze, Rex Root Beer, Cafe Nola Brulo, Judy Punch, Grape Fruit, Lou Breeze, Sweet Mandy and Dr. Nut. How did Big Shot survive, while others didn’t? Hard to say, but its allure may lay in its bright, fruity, in-your-face colors embodying sometimes unusual — and sweet — flavors as well as its inexpensive cost and that memorable Big Shot on its label.