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We waited as long as we could, hoping to be surprised by spotting a dusty bottle or a wayward case on the shelves of a grocery store or liquor retailer. We scoured the internet, asked like-minded friends to keep an eye peeled, and held out hope nostalgia might bring about a resurgence before it was too late. But we’re calling it: 50/50 is gone.

Time of death? Sometime between early 2021 and today. Cause of death? Unknown…but we have a theory. Before we speculate on the cause of 50/50’s unceremonious demise, allow us to say a few words about this soda’s history and honor this Milwaukee-rooted beverage.

Courtesy West Milwaukee Historical Society.

The tale of this obscure pop starts way back in the 1870s, when John Graf first made soda on 22nd St. and Greenfield Ave. His flagship root beer, Grandpa Graf’s, gained popularity in the region and his arsenal of carbonated drinks grew in kind. Following his death in 1930, John’s daughter Sylvia Graf took over as president of the burgeoning beverage business and operations were moved to 41st and Greenfield in the nearby suburb of West Milwaukee. Upon Sylvia’s death in the early ’60s, Lawrie O. Graf took over the family business and used his Marquette University engineering background to bring the local libations like Grandpa Graf’s and other Graf’s beverages (including 50/50) to national consciousness.

In 1968, Lawrie sold the company to P & V Atlas. From there, Graf’s soft drinks were sold to Canada Dry, who later turned around and sold the line to the Chicago-based A.J. Canfield Company. Each step of the way, 50/50 and its distinct blend of “naturally flavored natural flavors” went along for the ride.

Canfield and all its beverages—50/50 among them—was then gobbled up by Select Beverages. Select Beverages and all its affiliated products were subsequently bought by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group in 1998. In the years since that latest acquisition, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group became known as Keurig Dr Pepper Inc. after what was then called Keurig Green Mountain acquired the beverage company in 2018. This is where the tinfoil hat theories start to come into play.

Prior to acquiring the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Keurig Green Mountain’s largest shareholder was the Coca-Cola Company, which owns the Fresca grapefruit soda brand. Meanwhile, Keurig Dr. Pepper owned another grapefruit soda standby in the form of Squirt. With those two (far more established) brands already in their stable, there seemed to be little need to continue producing and distributing a lesser-known grapefruit/lime soft drink that only seemed to have minor cult popularity in the Midwest and parts of the East Coast…even if it’s significantly better than most of its contemporaries.

Even prior to the pandemic, 50/50 wasn’t exactly easy to find. Some Piggly Wiggly locations had it in two-liter bottles, it was on the websites of Sendik’s and Festival Foods (though seemingly absent from the shelves of each grocer), and had some online availability to signify it was noticeably endangered but not extinct. It post-pandemic times, limited availability suddenly turned into no availability whatsoever. Fans of the brand eventually started employing the dreaded “D word”—discontinued. Today, 50/50 is no longer even listed on Keurig Dr. Pepper’s list of brands.

Unless a miracle happens, such as Sprecher stepping in to save the brand as they have for bygone beverages like Green River and Black Bear sodas, it seems like 50/50’s odds of living on are about 1/1,000,000. While it’s likely the end of the road for this Milwaukee-born grapefruit delight, 50/50 is survived by a handful of quality grapefruit and citrus soda options…including some it directly helped to inspire.

While we’ve never tried it in an old fashioned, Jarritos is incredible in a paloma and also quite good on its own. We can’t speak to its availability in Wisconsin beyond the Milwaukee area, but you won’t go wrong if you come across one of these guys.

While Faygo’s “60/40” could be seen as a direct ripoff of 50/50, we’ve decided to view it as an homage to the brand and a recognition the Graf family was really onto something. Instead of becoming bitter about how things turned out, we’d say it’s worth supporting another Midwest-based soda option when trying to fill that 50/50-sized hole in your life. Plus the price is usually right with Faygo.

Speaking of Midwest-made grapefruit and lime soft drink combos, Jolly Good’s iconic Sour Pow’r made its triumphant return to the market just shy of 10 years ago. Like 50/50, its flavor breakdown is allegedly half grapefruit flavoring and half lime flavoring.

To be quite honest, Fresca is pretty fucking wack. However, if you live in a region without many soft drink choices or if this option best suits you due to wanting (or needing) a diet/sugar-free grapefruit soda now that Diet 50/50 is no more, this exists.

Finally (at least when it comes to mainstream soft drinks of this ilk), we come to Squirt. Founded in Arizona back in 1938, Squirt peacefully coexisted with 50/50 for decades until brand acquisitions and piling of corporate commodities ultimately rendered 50/50, by comparison, irrelevant. In our opinion, Squirt indirectly killed 50/50.

All that being said, it’s a damn solid grapefruit/lime soda that’s available pretty much everywhere, is oftentimes on sale, and can be had in a variety of volumes (two-liter, individual 12-ounce cans, 12-ounce cases, and sixers of eight-ounce cans). Even as ardent 50/50 lovers, we’ll buy Squirt and we have come to accept it’s the new tart citrus soda in our life.

Though we’ve moved on and accepted 50/50 is probably gone for good, we pledge to honor its name, preach its quality, and reference it for years to come with the hope it will never truly vanish in the minds of those who’ve had it. May its eternally outdated bottle and can design imprint itself on your mind for years to come. May the artificial and tongue-tickling tart citrus tinge stick with your senses long after your last sip has subsided. May the image of the unnatural green hue of a two-liter bottle in your parents’ liquor cabinet and your grandparents’ pantry outlive all of them. Gone but not forgotten and replaced but never replicated, 50/50 will live on as long as there are people left who remember it. Or as long as there are people around to read long-winded posts about it on Milwaukee-based entertainment websites.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.