I’d like to buy the world a Coke from 1902


The Origin of Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola was actually invented by Civil War pharmacist John “Doc” Pemberton produced Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, which flavored with kola nut extract that also contributed another stimulant, caffeine, to the cocktail. This was popular, but when prohibition set in he devised a new drink in which sugar syrup replaced the alcohol. He called the drink Coca-Cola and it was sold at the soda fountain mixed with carbonated water.

Soda fountain gatherings were on the rise as new social spots as Temperance (a religious movement against alcohol) was keeping folks out of the bars. Out of the new soda trend, Doc’s knowledge of medicine, and that addicting and social effects of stimulants, Coca-Cola was born.

Coca-Cola is the only business in the world where no matter which country or town or village you are in, if someone asks what do you do, and you say you work for Coca-Cola, you never have to answer the question, ‘What is that?’


Pemberton called for five ounces of coca leaf per gallon of syrup, a significant dose; in 1891, Candler claimed his formula (altered extensively from Pemberton’s original) contained only a tenth of this amount. Coca-Cola once contained an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass. (For comparison, a typical dose or “line” of cocaine is 50–75 mg.) In 1903, it was removed.

After 1904, instead of using fresh leaves, Coca-Cola started using “spent” leaves – the leftovers of the cocaine-extraction process with trace levels of cocaine. Since then, Coca-Cola uses a cocaine-free coca leaf extract prepared at a Stepan Company plant in Maywood, New Jersey.

In the United States, the Stepan Company is the only manufacturing plant authorized by the Federal Government to import and process the coca plant, which it obtains mainly from Peru and, to a lesser extent, Bolivia. Besides producing the coca flavoring agent for Coca-Cola, the Stepan Company extracts cocaine from the coca leaves, which it sells to Mallinckrodt, a St. Louis, Missouri, pharmaceutical manufacturer that is the only company in the United States licensed to purify cocaine for medicinal use.

Long after the syrup had ceased to contain any significant amount of cocaine, in the southeastern U.S., “dope” remained a common colloquialism for Coca-Cola, and “dope-wagons” were trucks that transported it. The traditional shape of the bottle is said to resemble the seed-pod of the coca bush, memorializing the cocaine recipe.

If you haven’t tried a Mexican Coke, you are missing out. I use to drink one a day from the glass bottle when I lived south of the border. I know it’s a little pricey, but treat yourself, you only live once.


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