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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Coca-Cola: "Delicious and Refreshing"

The Birth of Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola was born in Atlanta, Georgia on May 8, 1886. A local pharmacist, Dr. John Stith Pemberton produced the syrup, took a jug of it to Jacobs' Pharmacy, and teamed it with carbonated water to produce the soda fountain favorite that was coined as "Delicious and Refreshing."

The drink sold for five cents a glass at the soda fountain where Pemberton's partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, suggested the name and penned the now famous trademark "Coco-Cola" in his unique script. ("Birth Of a Refreshing Idea,

During the first year, sales averaged a very modest nine drinks per day. It cost John Pemberton over $70 in expenses, so the first year of sales were a loss.

Although it seems difficult to fathom today, Dr. Pemberton never realized the potential of the beverage he had created and gradually sold portions of the business to various partners. Just before Pemberton's death in 1888, Asa G. Candler bought the remaining interest. Asa also bought additional rights and acquired complete control of the product. ("Birth Of a Refreshing Idea, Does anyone have to question this Atlanta businessman's amazing insight?

With Asa Candler, now at the helm, good advertising, aggressive marketing of the product, and selling syrup to independent bottling companies licensed to sell the drink made Coca-Cola a monster product in the United States and in Canada. The Coca Cola Company increased syrup sales by over 4000% between 1890 and 1900. (Mary Bellis, "The History of Coca-Cola,", 2009)

The "Secret Formula"

As a publicity, marketing strategy and intellectual property protection strategy started by Robert W. Woodruff (President of the company from 1923 until 1954), the company presented the formula as a closely held trade secret  known only to a few employees, mostly executives.

Sources reported, "Published competitors say it contains sugar, caramel color, caffeine, phosphoric acid, coca leaf, kola nut extract, lime extract, flavoring mixture, vanilla and glycerin. Alleged syrup recipes vary greatly. The basic “cola” taste from Coca-Cola and competing cola drinks comes mainly from vanilla and cinnamon; distinctive tastes among various brands are the result of trace flavorings such as orange, lime and lemon and spices such as nutmeg." (William Poundstone, Big Secrets, 1983)

Since cocaine is naturally present in coca leaves, today's Coca-Cola uses "spent," or treated, coca leaves, those that have been through a cocaine extraction process, to flavor the beverage. Some contend that "this process cannot extract all of the cocaine alkaloids at a molecular level, and so the drink still contains trace amounts of the stimulant." (Edward J. Rielly, Baseball and American Culture: Across the Diamond, August 7 2003) The Coca-Cola Company currently refuses to comment on the continued presence of cocoa leaf in Coca-Cola.(Jimmy Langman, "Just Say Coca," Newsweek, on, October 30, 2006)

Kosher Coca-Cola

What happened to the true Coca-Cola taste for American consumers? For nostalgic Coca-Cola lovers, unless you live in a foreign country that classic taste is but a distant memory. But, take heart -- Kosher Coca-Cola is the closest formula to the original Coca-Cola that can be purchased, and it is still produced for Passover. Jason Perlow (, March 25 2006) stated a small number of Coca-Cola bottlers make a limited batch of the original Coke formulation, using refined sugar, a more costly ingredient when compared with HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup).

Kosher Coca-Cola is sold in 2-liter bottles with a yellow cap marked with an OU-P, indicating that the Orthodox Jewish Union certifies the soda as Kosher for Passover or with a white cap with a CRC-P indicating that the certification is provided by the Chicago Rabbinical Council.

How About That Great Coke At McDonalds?

Now for the pertinent question of the day. Many people believe that fountain Coca-Cola simply tastes better at the McDonald's restaurants than at other establishments. Could some tiny manipulation of the formula or the of process cause this to be true? 

I read lots of unfounded theories about this taste difference on the Internet. Some say the use of a cold fountain instead of a room temperature fountain creates a better flavor.  I also read that some preferred ultra-syrup mixture is sold in great volume to McDonalds by the Coca-Cola company. One theory held that a slower application to the cup mixed more tasty syrup into the drink (calibration?). Or could it be that someone is using a different sweetener other than corn syrup? Maybe it's the cocaine additive?

If, indeed, any real difference does even exist, I thought this to be the most logical explanation for the great McDonalds' Coke taste.  This is an answer from blogger Rogue in Norman, Oklahoma, (, December 17 2006).

As a former manager at McD's, I can state the following:

1) Each franchisee has it's own standards which must meet or exceed the Corp. for how often these procedures are performed. I don't believe we were more diligent what what Corp. required, because we weren't in other areas.

2) We calibrated our dispensers twice a week, on Sunday and Wednesday mornings.

3) We disassembled our fountain heads every night and washed them, leaving them soaking in a solution of "sanitizer" (cholorinated water) overnight. Sanitizer was sprayed on the fountain itself (where the heads attached).


Brett McCay ("Soda Review: Which Is the Best Cola?" The Art of Manliness, February 28 2009) reported, "Sadly, along its way to world domination, Coke committed soda sacrilege and left the pure cane sugar fold for dreary high-fructose pastures. And you know what they say about high fructose corn syrup, don’t you? Yeah, that it doesn’t cause the pancreas to produce insulin, meaning the hunger signal to the brain doesn’t get shut off as quickly and we eat more without feeling as full."

McCay continued to say that the smaller soda brewers carry the real "cola banner forward." So for those who are soda connoisseurs, he pits these colas against each other as examples of some of the best. The requirement for inclusion in the taste test was for the cola to come in a bottle and be made with pure cane sugar goodness or other natural sweeteners.

McCay said a taste test between regular HFCS Dr. Pepper and Dublin Dr. Pepper made with cane sugar (Dublin, Texas is known officially as Dr. Pepper, Texas.) was conducted with 12 individuals. The results? Of the 12, 1 preferred the regular, 1 had no preference, and 10 preferred the cane sugar variety. ("Soda Review: Which Is the Best Cola?" The Art of Manliness, February 28 2009)

Here is McCay's ranking of great smaller soda brewers. The more bottle caps, the higher

Virgil's Real Cola of Los Angeles, California: rating 3 and one half bottle caps.
Boylan Cane Cola of  Moonachie, New Jersey: rating 3 bottle caps.
Red Rock Premium Cola of  Atlanta, Georgia: rating 2 and one half bottle caps.
Eric's Famous Energy Cola of Mill Creek, Washington: rating 2 bottle caps.

News From the Coca-Cola Nation 

Ryan Christopher DeVault (, September 04, 2009) reported that Fried Coke was drawing a lot of attention at the 2009 State Fair of Texas.

According to vendor Abel Gonzales Jr. there are several steps involved in making the deep fried drink. First Gonzales deep-fries chilled Coke flavored batter, and then drizzles Coke fountain syrup on top of it. Then, the fried Coke is topped with whipped cream, cinnamon sugar, and a cherry. Will culinary innovation ever cease?

Also, Meg Marco (, August 6 2009) reported that Coke is testing a new fountain drink machine that contains such advanced science. The machine offers over 100 different Coke products in the same space as a regular fountain drink machine. 100 different products!

The machines are being tested in two Atlanta restaurants and 10 Jack-In-the Box locations according to the San Diego News Network.

Myths and Applications 

Barbara and David P. Mikkelson (Urban Legends Reference Pages and Mikkelson, 1995-2005) gave many interesting uses for Coca-Cola. Remember, this information is included here for fun. Do not attempt any of these applications as stated unless you want to take any risk involved. Here are some interesting Coca-Cola uses and myths:

  •  In many states (in the USA), the highway patrol carries two gallons of Coke in the truck to remove blood from the highway after a car accident.
  • You can put a T-bone steak in a bowl of coke and it will be gone in two days.
  • To clean a toilet: Pour a can of Coca-Cola into the toilet bowl and let the "real thing" sit for one hour, then flush clean. The citric acid in Coke  removes stains from vitreous china.
  • To remove rust spots from chrome car bumpers: Rub the bumper with a crumpled-up piece of Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil dipped in Coca-Cola.
  • To clean corrosion from car battery terminals: Pour a can of Coca-Cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion.
  • To loosen a rusted bolt: Applying a cloth soaked in Coca-Cola to the  rusted bolt for several minutes.
  • To bake a moist ham: Empty a can of Coca-Cola into the baking pan, wrap the  ham in aluminum foil, and bake. Thirty minutes before the ham is finished,  remove the foil, allowing the drippings to mix with the Coke for a sumptuous  brown gravy.  I wouldn't do this, though, if it breaks down metals,  what's it adding to the gravy from the aluminum foil?
  • To remove grease from clothes: Empty a can of coke into a load of greasy clothes, add detergent, and run through a regular cycle. The Coca-Cola will  help loosen grease stains.
  • It will also clean road haze from your windshield.
  • Farmers in India have discovered that common colas, like Coke and Pepsi, can be sprayed on crops and function as an effective and affordable pesticide. Although the Coca-Cola corporation says this is impossible, literally hundreds of farmers now claim the soft drinks kill the bugs on their cotton plants as well as any other pesticide.
 1. The active ingredient in Coke is phosphoric acid. Its pH is 2.8. It will dissolve a nail in about 4 days.
 2. The commercial trucks carrying Coca-Cola syrup (the concentrate) must use the "Hazardous Material" place cards reserved for highly corrosive materials.
 3. The distributors of coke have been using it to clean the engines of their trucks for about 20 years!
 QUESTION: Are you maybe drinking too much soda?

For a rebuttal, go to
Urban Legends Reference Pages © 1995-2005
by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson
Their sources:

Allen, Frederick.   Secret Formula,  New York: HarperCollins, 1994.   ISBN 0-88730-672-1   (p. 209).
Pendergrast, Mark.   For God, Country, and Coca-Cola, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1993.   ISBN 0-684-19347-7   (p. 191).
Poundstone, William.   Big Secrets, New York: Quill, 1993.   ISBN 0-688-04830-7   (p. 25-46).


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