A Georgia antiques collector is the latest person to claim that he might have found the original recipe for Coca-Cola.
Cliff Kluge and his wife Arlene recently bought a box of letters at an estate sale, and one of the yellowed papers, dated 1943, includes instructions for making cola, according to Atlanta’s WXIA. Kluge thinks it could potentially be the recipe for Coca-Cola and is trying to sell it on eBay; bidding starts at $5 million, but customers can buy it now for $15 million.
While most of the text has been whited out, Kluge says it seems to include instructions for making “one gallon of concentrate, which, when combined and processed yields enough to make 16 gallons,” according to the eBay description of the letter:
Offered for sale is a single page, hand typed and written, 70+ year old recipe on yellowed paper that was purchased out of an estate of a local chemist in a city that claims the right of being where Coca Cola Bottling originated. Whoever typed this letter back in 1943, had access to the original recipe, and references that fact on the second page — ‘On page 83 of the Extractor is the original Coca Cola formula(e) which might serve as a source of preparation information.’ … You will be purchasing the entire recipe to include ingredients, ratios and preparation details.
The Atlanta-based Coca-Cola has denied the claim, FOX News reports:
“Through the years, many have tried to crack the secret formula, but no one has been able to reproduce the ‘real thing,’” the statement read. “The real formula is safely tucked away in a vault at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.”
Kluge is not the first to claim he has found the secret formula. In 2011, the producers of NPR’s This American Life found a recipe in a Feb. 18, 1979, issue of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and published it online — producing a wave of traffic that crashed the news outlet’s website. Coca-Cola debunked that report as well.
The original beverage was dreamed up by Civil War veteran John Pemberton, who created a concoction of kola nut and French coca wine — a wine treated with coca leaf — to help him kick a morphine habit he developed after a war injury, according to historian Mark Pendergrast’s book For God, Country and Coca-Cola. After Georgia approved a Prohibition law in 1886, Pemberton created a nonalcoholic version, named it Coca-Cola and sold it to pharmacies throughout the state. In the late 19th century, the beverage did contain a trace of cocaine, which was derived from the coca-leaf ingredient.
Businessman Asa Candler purchased the rights to Coca-Cola in 1888, and whenever a shipment of the formula came in — a blend of flavors known as 7X — he would remove all the labels and replace the names with a number code. Even back then, at least 10 people had access to it, so, Pendergrast said, Candler modified the formula so that his would stand out. “As Coca-Cola achieved universal popularity, versions of the formula were offered by imitators, druggists and charlatans for varying amounts, ranging ‘from $1,000 down to a bottle of whiskey,’” Pendergrast wrote. Perhaps that’s why recipes like the ones discovered by Kluge and This American Life pop up every now and then.
In fact, when Pendergrast was writing his book, Coca-Cola told him only two people knew how to mix the soda’s key ingredient, 7X. And, as he told This American Life in 2011, “those two people never travel on the same plane in case it crashes.”