Secret formula for Coca-Cola found in old newspaper column

Monday, February 14th, 2011 By

secret coke recipe

The secret recipe for Coke is said to contain ingredients anyone can find. Image: CC Marion Doss/Flickr

The formula for Coca-Cola is one of the most closely guarded trade secrets in the history of the U.S. The syndicated radio show “This America Life” revealed Monday that the original Coca-Cola recipe was discovered in an old newspaper column. The Coca-Cola Company keeps the Coke recipe locked in a vault, but the radio show said all the ingredients can be bought online.

How the secret Coke recipe was revealed

The formula for Coca-Cola was concocted by a doctor in Atlanta named John Pemberton in 1886. It has been reported that only two people who know how to mix the secret ingredient called “Merchandise 7X” are alive at any one time. But “This American Life” found what it said is the formula for Coca-Cola in an article published in the Feb. 18, 1979, edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A columnist reported discovering the hand-written Coke recipe in a notebook passed along by pharmacists through the generations. The article has a photo of a book open to a recipe which is described as a copy of Pemberton’s original formula for Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola without the cocaine

A recipe described as the original Coke formula has turned up before. Journalist Mark Pendergrast published a book in 1993 called “For God, Country and Coca-Cola” that included what he claims is the original recipe for Coke. Coca-Cola has claimed that the recipe in Pendergrast’s book differs from the formula used to make Coke. Company executives may be referring to the fact that the original Coke recipe called for fluid extract of coca leaves. The modern version of Coca-Cola uses “spent” coca leaves. Spent coca leaves are run through a process that extracts the cocaine. But cocaine extraction doesn’t get rid of cocaine alkaloids at a molecular level. Thus, today’s Coke contains trace amounts of cocaine.

Why Coke is addictive

When Dr. Pemberton formulated Coca-Cola extract, he took it to a local pharmacy, where it sold for five cents a glass. Sans cocaine, today’s Coke is still rather addictive because of an “asymmetrical” base of flavors that combines sweet, sour, bitter and salty, combined with huge amounts of sugar and caffeine. Plus, carbon dioxide injected under pressure — otherwise known as carbonation — lowers the pH level of the mixture to help the bloodstream absorb the sugar and caffeine as quickly as possible.

The alleged original Coke recipe:

Fluid extract of Coca 3 drams USP
Citric acid 3 oz
Caffeine 1 oz
Sugar 30 (it is unclear from the markings what quantity is required)
Water 2.5 gal
Lime juice 2 pints
Vanilla 1 oz
Caramel 1.5 oz or more to colour

7X flavour (use 2 oz of flavour to 5 gals syrup):
Alcohol 8 oz
Orange oil 20 drops
Lemon oil 30 drops
Nutmeg oil 10 drops
Coriander 5 drops
Neroli 10 drops
Cinnamon 10 drops


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