Coke's Original Recipe: Was There Really Cocaine in It?

Coca-Cola is an absolute giant when it comes to marketing. Few brands are so well recognized across the globe and the company has done a brilliant job in making itself hip, cool and even apparently healthy! (Despite the fact that Coca-Cola is anything but…)

If you need any more proof that this is a company that knows how to handle its marketing, then look no further than the modern depiction of Father Christmas. Santa used to be green! It is only thanks to Coca-Cola that he looks the way he does today…

Or at least that’s what some people believe. Other sources say this isn’t true. But if it isn’t true and Coca-Cola have led us to believe that they invented Santa’s look… then isn’t that even more impressive?

But while Coke might be great at crafting an image and spreading the word, there is one persistent rumor that they have had a hard time quashing. That rumor is that the original recipe included cocaine and that this is what gave rise to the name.

It sounds like playground logic but as it turns out, there may just be some truth to it…

The Truth

As you might expect, Coca-Cola vehemently denies that the original recipe ever contained any narcotics and certainly not cocaine. That said though, it is generally agreed that the drink probably did contain cocaine as recently as 1903. And apparently this was a significant dose as well, according to

We know this simply because it has become history – and because it actually wouldn’t have been shocking anyway at the time. The drink was originally invented by a pharmacist (bad start) named John Pemberton. John modelled the drink after a popular French beverage at the time which was ‘coca wine’. Coca wine meanwhile used coca-leaf extract and combined that with Bordeaux wine. Due to liquor restrictions, Pemberton mixed the coca-leaf extract with sugar syrup instead and added some kola-nut extract. When you combine coca and kola nut, what do you get? Coca-Cola! He also added in a bit of caffeine to give his drink a kick.

Coca-leaf is still used to create Coca-Cola but back then, the leaf was not treated to remove the psychoactive effects meaning that you were essentially getting a dose of cocaine. This would have been the ultimate energy drink!

What Happened?

While this seems shocking today, keep in mind that cocaine infused drinks were common until the late 19th Century. It wasn’t until the 1900s that the drug started to become unpopular and not until 1914 that it was completely illegal in the US. Until then, many people used cocaine tonics, powders and pills believing them to be effective in treating a range of conditions (including nausea, asthma and impotence!).

While cocaine stopped being considered acceptable in 1903, it actually took a few more years – until 1929 – for the drink to become completely free from cocaine. That’s because it took until this time for the process of removing the effects to be completely perfected!

The precise recipe is a closely guarded company secret today but it’s safe to assume that the same leaf is still included in the drink: only without the psychoactive effects.

But if you want to get some cocaine legally then all you have to do is take any normal dollar note. Research shows that most of our money is contaminated with trace amounts of drugs (1) among all manner of other scary things!

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