What patent medicine begun in 1885 eventually became one of our most popular drinks?
Here’s a hint: It contained two “medicinal” ingredients–extract of coca leaves (cocaine) and kola nuts (the latter being a source of caffeine). How much cocaine was actually contained within the syrup at the time is unknown, but we do know that cocaine continued to be an ingredient in the syrup (however minute) to secure the trade name “Coco-Cola” right up to 1929.
Wounded in the Civil War, inventor Confederate Colonel John Pemberton became addicted to morphine. His need to replace morphine led to the formulation of the Coca-Cola recipe, originally produced as a coca wine. It was formally registered as a French Wine (Coca) nerve tonic. It was reformulated in 1886 in a non-alcoholic version, became Coca-Cola, and sold out of Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. But “soda” drinks had already become popular.
Increasingly found in pharmacies by the 1830’s, soda fountains were helping to dispense medications with the flavor of mineral (or naturally carbonated) water. Back then, two plant roots, specifically sarsaparilla and sassafras, were recognized for their unique flavor and presumed to contain medicinal properties. Sassafras (as well as sarsaparilla) was a major ingredient in root beer, brewed as a mildly alcoholic beverage. (Studies found sassafras oil caused cancer or permanent liver damage in laboratory animals in 1960. A process was then discovered to remove the harmful substance.)
And, by the way, Coke’s main competition was created by Caleb Bradham of North Carolina when he concocted a fountain drink in his pharmacy that was intended to aid digestion and boost energy in 1898. The main ingredients are pepsin (a digestive enzyme) and kola nuts, later to become Pepsi-Cola.
And really, this is nothing. Think what man discovered they could do with rice, corn and grapes and those drinks have been around for thousands of years! ©2016 Virginia Williams