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The mysterious formula for Coca-Cola

In 1925, the only written copy of its formula Coca-Cola admits to having was retrieved from a New York bank (where it had been held as collateral on a sugar loan) and reverently laid in safe deposit box in Woodruff’s Atlanta bank, the Trust Company of Georgia (which later merged with Sun Bank of Florida, creating SunTrust Bank).

But that was only the first step. That same year the company set a policy whereby no one could view the formula without written permission from the Board, and then only in the presence of the President, Chairman, or Corporate Secretary. Furthermore, the rule dictated that only two company officials would be allowed to know the recipe at any given time, and their identities were never to be disclosed for any reason. In keeping with the spirit of things, company policy was amended once air travel became the norm to preclude those two officers from ever flying on the same plane.

The mystery revealed

In 1993, Mark Pendergrast published what he believed to be Coke’s original formula in For God, Country and Coca-Cola. He’d come across the following among John Pemberton’s papers:

Citrate Caffein, 1 oz.

Ext. Vanilla, 1 oz.

Flavoring, 2.5 oz.

F.E. Coco, 4 oz.

Citric Acid, 3 oz.

Lime Juice, 1 Qt.

Sugar, 30 lbs.

Water, 2.5 Gal.

Caramel sufficient

Mix Caffeine Acid and Lime Juice in 1 Qt Boiling water add vanilla and flavoring when cool.


Oil Orange, 80

Oil Lemon, 120

Oil Nutmeg, 40

Oil Cinnamon, 40

Oil Coriander, 40

Oil Neroli, 40

Alcohol, 1 Qt.

let stand 24 hours.

The Coca-Cola Company was quick to label Pendergast’s published find as "not accurate" and "the latest in a long line of previous, unsuccessful attempts to reveal a 107-year-old mystery." Mind you, given how much Coca-Cola has invested in proclaiming its formula to be a carefully-guarded secret, it is never expected to react in any other fashion even if it is someday handed the real formula.

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