The drink was invented in 1886 by Dr. John Pemberton, based on a recipe suggested by his bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, who also created the now-famous logo.
Coca-Cola was first sold to the public at Jacob’s Pharmacy on May 8, 1886. The following year, Asa Chandler bought the formula for $2,300 and began the advertising campaign that led to Coca-Cola becoming the dominant soft drink in the world.
Until 1905, it contained coca extract as well extract of kola nut (which provided the original source of caffeine). With the added jolt of coca leaf extract along with the caffeine, the original drink probably put today’s energy drinks to shame. Although the recipe has been one of the world’s most closely-guarded secrets for 125 years, the secret was eventually revealed.
It seems the original formula inked in a friend of Pemberton’s own handwriting was photographed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1979, and that photograph was eventually uncovered. The recipe has changed many times over the years: the biggest change being the current use of GMO corn syrup in place of the original cane sugar. Those wishing to achieve something closer to the original taste prefer the brand produced in Mexico, as it is made with beet or cane sugar and contains zero high-fructose corn syrup.
The real “secret” in the recipe, however, is the balance of essential plant oils, which has likely changed little since the original formula. The “7X flavor” is a blend of citrus oils with cinnamon, coriander and neroli oil. Neroli oil is the most common scent used in the perfume industry and blends well with citrus. Lime juice and vanilla are also essential ingredients. After this recipe was recently discovered, some researchers whipped up a batch (including some de-cocainized coca leaf) and some of those sampling the results could not distinguish the results from a real Coke, which leads to the conclusion this may very well be the actual original recipe finally uncovered. Maybe this will help some companies to step up to the plate and produce a healthier version of the drink that still maintains the instant addicting taste of the world’s most popular drink.
Fluid extract of Coca: 3 drams USP
Citric acid: 3 oz
Caffeine: 1 oz
Sugar: 30 (unclear quantity)
Water: 2.5 gal
Lime juice: 2 pints, 1 quart
Vanilla: 1 oz
Caramel: 1.5 oz or more for color
The secret 7X flavor (use 2 oz of flavor 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