I Tried This Retro Hot Dr Pepper Recipe from the 1960s

This recipe for hot Dr Pepper was popular in the '50s and '60s. But would it work for a modern party?

I love vintage ads from the 1950s. When I see an ad that’s set in a mid-century modern home, with a June Cleaver-style woman of the house in pearls and a record player that’s surely spinning Frank Sinatra, I want to jump right into the picture!

In an attempt to time warp, I’ve tried out more than my share of retro recipes, from elaborate molded Jell-O dishes to fancy fondues. So when Dr Pepper shared some vintage 1950s and 1960s ads promoting a hot Dr Pepper holiday drink, I had to try it.

Hot Dr Pepper Winter WarmerCourtesy Dr Pepper

How to Make Hot Dr Pepper

It’s not a difficult recipe! Heat up some Dr Pepper to 180°F. Then, pour it over a thin lemon slice. (You can add rum to make a Schuss-Boomer, but I tried the mocktail version.)

Some vintage Dr Pepper ads for this drink recommend making it with Diet Dr Pepper. So I bought all types of Dr Pepper at my store, and ended up trying regular Dr Pepper, Diet Dr Pepper and Dr Pepper Cherry.

Here’s What I Thought

My husband snorted and walked away from the kitchen as I was heating up the various drinks, but I gave this experiment a fair shot. I loved the idea of digging up a retro recipe! Unfortunately, all of the Dr Pepper varieties tasted pretty much as expected—like they’d be better cold.

Hot Dr Pepper

Regular Dr Pepper was probably the best. The spiciness that makes Dr Pepper stand out from Coke or Pepsi was flattened only a little by the heat, making it taste like a melted Tootsie Roll, and the lemon slice added a spray of fresh citrus. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine holding a fancy teacup of the stuff around a fire at a 1958 holiday party, with “Volare” playing in the background and party guests discussing whether or not they liked Ike.

I enjoy hot tea and have downed an Irish coffee or hot toddy in my time, but I couldn’t imagine finishing a whole cup of this stuff. I set it down mostly untouched.

Hot Diet Dr Pepper

Hot Diet Dr Pepper was a no-go instantly. A chemical aftertaste that isn’t present in the iced version of Diet Dr Pepper coated my mouth, and bleah. I moved on.

Hot Dr Pepper Cherry

My husband’s favorite was hot Dr Pepper Cherry. “I can see drinking this at a party,” he said. “It reminds me of mulled wine. Of course, I don’t really like mulled wine, but some people might.” (Note that one Taste of Home reader regularly makes mulled hot Dr Pepper! The reviews are mixed.)

Will I Make Hot Dr Pepper for the Holidays?

Probably not. In short, none of these hot Dr Pepper drinks will make it onto a party menu of mine. If Ricky or Lucy served me a cup at a holiday party, I’d smile politely, take one sip and find a way to dump it out into their rubber tree plant before joining a conga line through the kitchen. You may want to opt for Dr Pepper bourbon instead.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is a pop culture junkie and the co-author of Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops and The Totally Sweet '90s. She covers TV, movies, books and pop culture, as well as food news of all kinds. Gael is a weblog pioneer who started her first blog, Pop Culture Junk Mail, in 1999.