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Posted at 12:31 PM ET, 02/15/2011

'This American Life' bursts Coca-Cola's bubble: What's in that original recipe, anyway?

By Katie Rogers
height
A secret no more! "This American Life" claims to have uncovered Coke's original recipe. (Ian Waldie/Bloomberg News).

One of the great mysteries of our time is now solved, thanks to the popular radio program "This American Life."

Producers think they've uncovered Coca-Cola's official recipe and unveiled it in this week's podcast.

"I am not kidding," breathless host Ira Glass says into the mike as he snaps the paper containing the ingredients. "I am not kidding."

The recipe was originally discovered in 1979 by Charles Salter, a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His son, Chuck, wrote Tuesday:

The column was called the "Georgia Rambler." He'd travel the state looking for colorful people and places, often stories with a historical bent. One of his best sources was the late Everett Beal, a fishing buddy of his who worked as a pharmacist in Griffin, Ga. One day, Everett showed my dad his prized possession, a leather-bound book of recipes that had once belonged to a pharmacist named John Pemberton. The John Pemberton who created the original syrup to make Coke.

Back then, before the Internet and cable television and viral stories, the column got filed on the inside of the local news section and that was that. Until "This American Life's" Ira Glass heard about the recipe from Chuck Salter and begged to try it out.

Before I show you the recipe, I'm going to make the argument that it doesn't really matter what's behind the magic of the fizz. For better or for worse, Coca-Cola is ingrained in American culture, so knowing how to make the drink won't really change why we love it in the first place. Many of us grew up with images of soda-guzzling polar bears instead of dancing sugarplum fairies each Christmastime. And those who didn't grow up with snazzy wintertime commercials have even better memories -- for instance, my grandmother was so loyal to her childhood favorite that she didn't stray into Dr. Pepper territory until her 70s.

As a culture, we might even be more familiar with the more infamous parts of Coke's storied history. Was there ever cocaine in Coke? (Yes, but not recently.) Can it really strip the paint right off a car? (Online car buffs say to just dip a bit of foil in the soda and scrub away. Yikes.)

But enough about the past.

Without further ado, here are the recipe ingredients from the "This American Life" Web site, which, not surprisingly, seems overwhelmed by all the traffic.

Recipe:

Fluid extract of coca

Citric acid

Caffeine

Sugar

Water

Lime juice

Vanilla

Caramel

Alcohol

Orange oil

Lemon oil

Nutmeg oil

Coriander oil

Neroli oil

Cinnamon oil

Well, are you going to make homemade Coca-Cola now?

Ingredients are available online, as the site notes -- are you going to try your hand at it? And, to that end, would you make KFC's original recipe if you knew what was in the breading? Would you spend your time slaving over a slow cooker if you knew what went into making Bush's Baked Beans? Let us know if knowledge is really power by using #secretrecipe on Twitter or in the comments below. Or just take the poll:

Some responses:

@washingtonpost No. People really going to go make it in their basement now instead of buying a can for $1? #secretrecipeless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

No, @washingtonpost I won't be making my on Coca Cola, even though the recipe has been leaked. #secretrecipe Who makes their own pretzels?less than a minute ago via web

Breaking: Not only was the #secretrecipe for Coca Cola deciphered. Desani water recipe also spilled.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

By Katie Rogers  | February 15, 2011; 12:31 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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Next: Valentine's Day, we just can't quit you (#postvday)

Comments

Even if these are the ingredients, as any cook knows, proportions and procedures are key. It's like saying that the recipe for a fine wine is grapes.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 15, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Neroli oil?

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 15, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I see it has both caffeine and alcohol; isn't that combination banned in drinks as per the recent FDA's four loko witchhunt?

Posted by: stikyfingas | February 15, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm with you, RD_Padouk. If you want to know the secret to a delicious aged steak get a cow.

Posted by: ShovelPlease | February 15, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

The Daisani recipe is as follows: Waste water run-off from the local trailer park wrung through a dirty makeup sponge and filtered with a used coffee filter.

Posted by: ozpunk | February 15, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, there's an ocean-sized difference between a recipe and a list of ingredients.
Flour, eggs, sugar, baking powder: enjoy your cake!

Posted by: jconrad1980 | February 15, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I love Coca Cola. I wish they would make Coca Cola seltzer--no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. I would guzzle the stuff by the gallon.

Posted by: nuzuw | February 15, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

This is really no big deal. Of the 15 ingredients listed, I counted 8 that either were givens or already appeared on the label. I could have guessed at least 3 others (definitely not Neroli oil though, that caught me by surprise. That's probably what's not in Pepsi).
As someone else said, it's all about the recipe in terms of quantities, time, temperatures, and even the atmosphere where the stuff is made. There's a reason we have other brands of cola and they're all a bit alike and sometimes I actually like the store brands better. Anything is better than regular Diet Coke.

Posted by: blankspace | February 15, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

in this order i like new coke, caffeine-free regular coke, caffeine-free regular pepsi, regular pepsi, regular coke(now classic)! but it's cheaper to go to the dollar tree & get 1 3-liter of regular cola for a buck!

Posted by: gailschumacher | February 15, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Well, I will take your word for it. But do I care? HELL NO!

Posted by: hock1 | February 15, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

And here is another secret recipe for a well boiled-egg:
Water
Egg.

Posted by: hock1 | February 15, 2011 7:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised that nobody's posted this yet, but the recipe for KFC's 11 herbs and spices already appeared on the Internet as long ago as 2009. MSNBC ran an article on the guy who reverse engineered the recipe. For whatever reason the reverse engineered recipe went viral again in January.

http://theinternettoday.net/pics/kfcs-top-secret-11-herbs-and-spices-revealed/

Posted by: CJMARTIN04 | February 15, 2011 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Not to point out the obvious, but the thrust of the TAL story was that they failed to replicate Coke despite having the ingredients. These are the ingredients for any cola. 28/30 people at the supermarket on whom they tested the coke were able to identify the Coke.

Posted by: foxistheman1 | February 15, 2011 9:57 PM | Report abuse

I just wish they'd go back to making Coke with sugar, as opposed to high fructose corn syrup. I have to buy large quantities of Passover Coke and stash it in my basement.

If they can make it for Passover, they can jolly well make it the rest of the time -- it tastes so much better! Not that it is good for you...

Posted by: MidcenturyModern | February 15, 2011 10:02 PM | Report abuse

"Passover Coke?" Where do you find that? Costco sells bottled Coke from Mexico that contains sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup; it's better (and healthier) than Classic Coke, but still not as good as the recipe from a couple of decades ago.

Posted by: Voter4Integrity | February 16, 2011 12:35 AM | Report abuse

My favorite is still Sprite, which is a light lemonade with effervescence. I do prefer Classic Coke to Pepsi because everything (KFC or Whoppers just goes better with it--Pepsi with ice tastes a bit like dust to me). My second favorite is, of course, SevenUp. Sue me.

S D Rodrian
http://sdrpdrian.com

Posted by: sdr1 | February 16, 2011 3:25 AM | Report abuse

of course, the original coke had a bit of cocaine in it, therefore the name!

Posted by: astroman215aolcom | February 16, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

of course, the original coke had a bit of cocaine in it, therefore the name!

Posted by: astroman215aolcom | February 16, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Sugar? The last can of Coke I bought that had "sugar" listed as an ingredient (excluding Mexican and Passover Coke) was in 1983, when "New Coke" was introduced. As everyone knows, the life span of "New Coke" was short. But, as perhaps fewer people realize, when "Classic Coke" came back, it was with "high fructose corn syrup" rather than with "sugar."

Posted by: Auslander1 | February 16, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Sugar? The last can of Coke I bought that had "sugar" listed as an ingredient (excluding Mexican and Passover Coke) was in 1983, when "New Coke" was introduced. As everyone knows, the life span of "New Coke" was short. But, as perhaps fewer people realize, when "Classic Coke" came back, it was with "high fructose corn syrup" rather than with "sugar."

Posted by: Auslander1 | February 16, 2011 9:44 AM | Report abuse

What did they accomplish here? Couldn't they just leave well-enough alone?

I rather liked not knowing as there are so few mysteries left in life.

I will replace it with the mystery of not knowing what their show is featurng as I won't be listening anymore.

Posted by: njacobs | February 16, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

This is like saying that the Secret Recipe for cow dung has been revealed.

Do people still drink this stuff? No wonder they're so fat. I haven't had a soda in years.

Posted by: whitwhit | February 16, 2011 10:15 AM | Report abuse

"Would you make KFC's original recipe if you knew what was in the breading"

Sheesh, they'd probably go out of business if people knew what was in their breading.

Posted by: whitwhit | February 16, 2011 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Wait, wait--it's Coca COLA. Where is the cola nut?

Posted by: Lamentations | February 16, 2011 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Kola nut

Posted by: Lamentations | February 16, 2011 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Ah yes, the mysterious Kola nut. Wait, that's a secret!

Posted by: allamer1 | February 20, 2011 2:11 AM | Report abuse

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