While nearly three dozen states in the U.S. have an official state drink, that’s not the case in New Jersey.
However, a bill being considered by Trenton lawmakers seeks to change that by designating cranberry juice the “state juice” in New Jersey.
Originally introduced by Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, D-7th District, in February 2020 – a month before the pandemic began – the proposal was inspired by fourth graders in Cinnaminson Township who were studying New Jersey’s state symbols, noticed there was no state beverage, and pitched the idea of cranberry juice.
After Murphy reintroduced the measure earlier this year, it was referred to the Assembly Agriculture and Food Security Committee for review. On Dec. 12, Assembly Bill 2271 was reported out of the committee favorably.
Murphy told NJBIZ, “I am very pleased my bill to designate cranberry juice as the state juice is advancing.”
She went on to say the measure “is particularly special” because the fourth graders are from her legislative district in Burlington County.
“The students had a chance to see how the legislative process works,” she explained. “Even stitching together their own grassroots campaign, I received 20 letters from students advocating for the state juice to be cranberry juice.”
“This is those students’ day in our democracy, introducing the bill and watching it through the process allows them to understand how a bill becomes a law and that anyone can play a part in the process. It was an honor to work with this class and to let them know that their voices are heard,” Murphy said.
Naming cranberry juice as the state juice would be a “fitting and proper” way to “formally recognize the significance” of the fruit to New Jersey’s history, economy and culture, the bill’s text says.
After Wisconsin, Oregon and Massachusetts, New Jersey is the fourth-largest cranberry producing state in the country.
In the Garden State, the fruit predates the arrival of the first European settlers as cranberries were a staple in the diets of Native Americans. Commercial cranberry farming operations didn’t begin until 1835, at a bog in Burlington County.
New Jersey was also home to Elizabeth Lee, who, in 1912, was one of the first growers to create jellied cranberry sauce from the berries. She later went on to team up with other farmers to launch the company that became known as Ocean Spray, an agricultural cooperative owned by more than 700 farmer families.
In 1965, Ohio became the first state to declare a specific beverage as its official drink – tomato juice. Since then, 28 other states have adopted a beverage of choice, with the majority (22) designating milk.