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Nostalgia For Sharktooth Brings Us This Holiday Drink: Hot Dr. Pepper

Jim Hill
Everything you need to make hot Dr. Pepper

Do you remember Sharktooth Ski Area? It's a defunct small ski hill located on the Colorado plains between Greeley and Windsor. Turns out a lot of people have fond memories – learning to ski, tubing down the hill and drinking hot Dr. Pepper after a run.

Wait, hot Dr. Pepper?

For most of us, hot chocolate is the go-to beverage for winter activities. But warmed-up soda? It got us wondering, was it something unique to Sharktooth, or was it something more widespread?

Turns out it is a thing – or at least it was, back in the day. In the 1960s, to counteract the winter slowdown of cold soda consumption, the company began touting 'hot Dr. Pepper' as a festive holiday beverage.


"It's not as cloyingly sweet as you might think," said Emily Kemme, a writer and blogger who grew up in Greeley and skied (along with her husband Doug) at Sharktooth. She was one of the Facebook commenters who mentioned the drink, so we called her up to ask about it.

"Once you warm it up… you get these little tingles of bubbles rising up in the saucepan. And there was just something satisfying. It wasn’t hot chocolate – in that chocolaty overwhelming sense. It was almost like a sweet tea," Kemme said.

Given that description, of course we had to try it for ourselves. We also have the perfect test subject in-house, KUNC's Chief Operating Officer (and resident Dr. Pepper fan) Jamie Wood.

"I love Dr. Pepper. I drink it more often than I should, probably," Wood admitted. But she’d never heard of drinking it hot.

The recipe itself is actually pretty easy – in fact, according to the Serious Eats blog, you don’t even need a recipe.

The Dr. Pepper website recommends heating the soda in a saucepan to 180 degrees, then pouring it into a mug over a thin slice of lemon to serve.

"It's not as cloyingly sweet as you might think."

So what did our 'expert' taster think of it?

"It's hot. Umm…." Wood said, then paused to take another sip. "It brings out the syrupy-ness of Dr. Pepper... maybe in an alright way? I suppose after a day of skiing this would be good."

It was suggested it might be improved by spiking it – adding a little bourbon, vodka, or even spiced rum, similar to grownups' eggnog.

"Well… when I drank this I was a kid. But yeah, definitely," Emily Kemme agreed. "Then you could turn it into a holiday drink. I’m actually thinking I might try this. What I would put in it would be either bourbon, or maybe even a little touch of Southern Comfort."

You may not be ready to replace eggnog with this, but, in a world where old traditions often become new trends, hot Dr. Pepper could make a comeback… if only for children chilled from sledding or making snow angels.

"We did this not only at Sharktooth but anywhere we skied, we would go in and have a cup of hot chocolate or a hot Dr. Pepper, and then you go back out on the slopes again," Kemme said. "I’m really into fitness -- and so anything you can do to keep yourself active and go back out there into the snow and go play some more is good."

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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