The Real Thing? Original Coca-Cola Recipe Might Be on eBay

A Georgia antiques collector is the latest person to claim he's found the original recipe for Coca-Cola

  • Share
  • Read Later

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.

(MORE: Bubbly Buzz: Coca-Cola Says Its Secret Recipe Is Still a Secret)

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.

(MORE: Is This the Real Thing? Coca-Cola’s Secret Formula ‘Discovered’)

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.”

5 comments
markpendergrast
markpendergrast

Hello, this is Mark Pendergrast, author of FOR GOD, COUNTRY & COCA-COLA.  Thanks for writing about the Coca-Cola formula that I reveal for the first time in the new edition of my book, which has just come out.  On page 491, you will find a facsimile of the recipe in Frank Robinson's handwriting - the "unsung hero" of Coca-Cola who named the drink, wrote out the familiar script logo, saved it and brought it to Asa Candler as Pemberton was dying, advertised it and manufactured it.  But the sweeping saga of how Coca-Cola, invented as a patent medicine "nerve tonic" to cure the mythical disease of neurasthenia, headaches, and hangovers, then became the world's most widely distributed single consumer product -- that is the real story of the "Real Thing."  

I'd like to clarify the story a bit.   John Pemberton was indeed a morphine addict, one of the reasons he was fascinated by the coca leaf and its alkaloid, cocaine.  Like many others during the 1880s, he thought cocaine was a harmless wonder drug and could help with morphine or alcohol addiction.  In 1884, Pemberton invented French Wine Coca, one of many imitations of the then-famous drink, Vin Mariani, a red wine with an infusion of coca leaf.  When Atlanta planned to go dry in 1886, Pemberton modified French Wine Coca to create Coca-Cola, first served in May 1886.  Pemberton died in 1888.  His former partner, Frank Robinson, convinced Atlanta pharmacist Asa Candler that it would be a great success.  Candler got hold of the rights to Coca-Cola piecemeal in a very unclear manner that probably involved forgery.  See my chapter, "The Tangled Chain of Title."  But he made it a nationally distributed soda fountain beverage.  He saw no future in bottled Coca-Cola, however, and gave away the bottling rights in 1899, thus launching the first and most successful American franchise system.  The bottlers provided vastly expanded sales of Coke syrup, but this give-away contract caused multiple lawsuits, headaches, a expensive buybacks in years to come.

AazobaYuzuki
AazobaYuzuki

this guy will be arrested of fraud in a few weeks ....


RobertHornung
RobertHornung

It was sold for $15 mil so at least one person cared.