Love him or leave him, Pete Rose is a permanent stitch in the crazy quilt of Cincinnati. All joking and allegations aside, he has been part of the marketing of the Queen City to the outside world, from his Big Red Machine days, to his post playing days, coaching and betting – and even recently with his new “sliding into home” statue at the entrance to Great American Ballpark, brilliantly sculpted by artist Tom Tsuchiya of Touchdown Jesus II fame.
During his heyday in Cincinnati, Pete had his own restaurant, but also, little known, is that for less than a year, Pete Rose had his own chocolate flavored beverage. I’ve never been a fan of chocolate sodas like Yoo-Hoo or Choc-ola; or those scoop and mix chocolate drinks like Nestle or Ovaltine. To me chocolate as a drink, was meant for a milkshake, malt, or ice cream soda, not a thirst quenching drink to go with lunch or dinner.
The first widely distributed, bottled American chocolate drink, Cho-ola, was conceived by Harry Normington, Sr., who founded Choc-Ola Bottlers in neighboring Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1944. The drink became popular in the 1950s and through its peak in the 1970s, as other competitors like Yoo-Hoo, entered the market to take their piece of the chocolate flavored drink market. There was even a locally made and bottled chocolate drink in Cincinnati called Chocolate Royal. In 1977, Harry sold the company to Moxie Industries of Atlanta, Georgia, and the drink began being bottled by Consolidated Chocolate, a contract manufacturer. .
As it turns out, Pete was a big fan of Choc-ola chocolate drink and in 1978 he contacted the company to partner with them. As one of the biggest sports names of the time, Charlie Hustle, was an endorsement dream. So Moxie created a new chocolate drink , which came in cans, they called it Pete, and put his image sliding into home on it. The company figured with his notoriety the drink would become an instant success. But, as this chocolate drink naysayer will say, it was pretty disgusting. Even though it was billed as, “the drink that will give you hustle,” the can also, said “shake well before drinking.” That meant that like other chocolate drinks, there could be a gritty, non-homogenized glump of chocolate goo that likely would be part of that lovely experience.
Despite the largest chocolate drink maker behind it, and a seemingly awesome sports figure as endorser, there was one major problem with Pete Chocolate Flavored Beverage. That problem was that Pete failed to recognize some of the fine print in his contract. Rose’s contract stated that he could not make any unauthorized advertising reference to the Cincinnati Reds, including the cap and uniform in which he was pictured wearing on the can. That was a super-big oopsey for Pete, and actually surprising that Moxie didn’t dive into that contract to investigate, given how big of a figure he was. So, the Pete Chocolate Beverage was shelved almost as soon as it was released, less than a year after in 1979, and quickly forgotten.
So the short lived, disgusting Pete Chocolate Favored Beverage is now an ebay collectors item. Not surprisingly, you can still easily find unopened cans of it for purchase to add to your Cincinnati oddities mancave or she-shed display.