The formula for Coca-Cola is one of the closest guarded corporate secrets in history. For 125 years, aspiring soda sleuths have tried to duplicate the iconic cola's signature taste and uncover John Pemberton's secret recipe with no luck. But now, a group of radio producers say they've discovered the secret and claim it may not have been so "secret" after all.
Producers of the radio program "This American Life" claim the actual recipe was published on page 2B of the February 18, 1979 Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The article which describes the history of the Coca-Cola company ran with a photo that the group claims shows a hand-written copy of Pemberton's original recipe.
When Asa Candler, an early president of the company, purchased the formula from Pemberton in 1887, he insisted no one ever write it down again so as to protect it from competitors. Labels were removed from ingredient containers and workers learned to identify them by only by sight and smell. In addition, Candler reportedly had all company invoices shredded so workers could not sell a valuable ingredients list to other drink makers.
Though the soda maker's formula has been often imitated, it has never been effectively duplicated. So with what they believed to be the original recipe in hand, the radio producers set up a taste experiment to test their theory.
Reportedly, the uncovered recipe didn't quite measure up to tradition, but host Ira Glass had an explanation: they had no access to the extract from cocoa leaves that Coca-Cola uses. Because of the lack of this key ingredient, the world may never really know whether or not the recipe in the old newspaper photograph is actually "the real thing."
Coca-Cola South Pacific's public relations manager Susie Crumpton declined to comment on whether the radio program's recipe was genuine. But she pointed out how the soda makers ingredients haven't been so secret for a while.
"The ingredients used in our beverages are listed on the product labels and many people have tried over time to crack the secret formula of Coca-Cola," Crumpton said. "That secret combination of ingredients holds a special place in the history and mythology of Coca-Cola – something we continue to celebrate as we mark our 125th anniversary this year."
In case you're interested in whipping up a batch of your own, here's the supposed secret formula from "This American Life":
Fluid extract of Coca 3 drams USP
Citric acid 3 oz
Sugar 30 (it is unclear from the markings what quantity is required)
Water 2.5 gal
Lime juice 2 pints 1 qrt
Caramel 1.5oz or more to colour
7X flavour (use 2oz of flavour to 5 gals syrup):
Orange oil 20 drops
Lemon oil 30 drops
Nutmeg oil 10 drops
Coriander 5 drops
Neroli 10 drops
Cinnamon 10 drops