Warning! Do Not Make This At Home!
I am a professional recreating this historically significant recipe for experimentation and preservation of the recipe. Some ingredients can be dangerous if misused and can kill you. No illicit substances were used to make this; one should always consult a doctor before taking anything medicinal or making any changes.
Pure ethanol is highly flammable and explosive. Exercise great caution and care anytime you are working with dangerous items.
How Coca Wine Became Coca-Cola
French Wine Coca taste like Christmas mulled wine. Not just any mulled wine either but a really good one. I would describe the flavor of French Wine Coca as brown spices, sweet green leaf, and floral. Depending on the wine used, it can add fruit, citrus, earth, etc. Skys the limit with the wine used as John Pemberton never specified a type to use beyond “Red Wine.” This may sound different from what Coca-Cola tastes like, but I can see the similarities, having tasted the two.
French Wine Coca and Coca-Cola are made of subtle flavors, and it’s hard to differentiate between individual or primary flavors. Coca-cola is a blend of lemon, orange, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange blossom essential oils, and these flavors imitate the medicinal extract flavors in French Wine Coca before the wine is added. It’s not a one-to-one match, but the similarities are strong. One of the strongest flavors in French Wine Coca is the Coca Leaf Extract.
The two primary flavors of Coca-Cola are vanilla and coca leaf. Coca leaf extract has a warm sweet herbal tea-like flavor. People hike the Andes and describe chewing on the coca leaf as bitter, but when extracted with ethanol and then diluted, the taste is soft and sweet. When transforming French Wine Coca into Coca-Cola, Pemberton preserved the herbal medical flavors by using essential oils, using a sizeable amount of coca leaf extract, and replacing the wine flavor with more of a cream soda vanilla flavor.
About John Pemberton, The Creator Of Coca-Cola
John Pemberton was born July 8, 1831, in Knoxville, Georgia. In 1850 he earned his medical degree from the now-defunct Southern Botanico-Medical College of Georgia. Pemberton was a Lieutenant Colonel for the former Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. After being wounded in the Battle of Columbus, Pemberton eventually became addicted to opiates and tried to cure his morphine addiction with stimulants. Returning from the war, Pemberton opened a pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. One of the medicinal drinks he sold was John Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, his version of the popular French Coca Wine, Vin Mariani. Pemberton’s French Wine Coca was sold as a cure-all panacea since it contained many different medicines.
In 1886 Atlanta enacted local alcohol prohibition, and Pemberton was forced to remove the wine from his French Wine Coca. He removed most of the medicines from the drink, except for the coca leaf extract, and set to make a new drink. He combined lemon, orange, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange blossom oils to create a new drink reminiscent of his French Wine Coca, and in doing so, he invented the “Cola” flavor. Unfortunately, Pemberton would not live to see Coca-Cola’s success. He soon after became sick with stomach cancer and sold the recipe to Asa Candler to pay for his painkiller addiction. John Pemberton died on August 16, 1888, at 57.
Imitation Coca Leaf Extract
Coca leaf is illegal where I live, but you can make imitation coca leaf extract with yerba mate and bay leaf. I have heard of using the ratio of yerba mate to bay leaf is 2/3 yerba mate with 1/3 bay leaf by weight. The extract is a 2:1 ratio of ethanol to plant. So for 120 grams of ethanol, use 60 grams of plant material. The 60 grams of plant material will comprise 40 grams of yerba mate with 20 grams of bay leaf.
What Is B.S. Color?
One of the ingredients I couldn’t figure out was what “B.S Color” was. The best guesses I could come to was burnt sugar and beet sugar color. I was unsure which it was, so I left it out. Burnt sugar sounds highly probable, but in other parts of his book, he refers to that dye as Brown Carmel color. It would be odd for him to use a different name on this one recipe. Beet sugar sounds good too, but again, I can’t know for sure. Seeing that it is just dye and offers no flavor, I figured it was best not to guess and not include it.
American Soda Fountain Culture And Medicine in the 19th Century
19th-century soda fountains were above and beyond anything most could imagine today. Using many of the same tools American saloons used to create cocktails, soda fountain drinks were expertly crafted and creative drinks. Soda fountains were the domain of pharmacists, and how many Americans filled prescriptions. Remember, pharmacists are chemists with knowledge of how to extract medicine and flavors from any herb, bark, or leaf and access to some of the most exotic plants in the world. They were not limited to manufactured bottles of alcohol, and a 19th-century pharmacist could run circles around most bartenders. Its parallel evolution alongside the pharmaceutical soda fountain created the unique American-style saloon. Soda fountains were shaking drinks before bars were. Shaking drinks predates the United States and was a common method for doctors and pharmacists to mix medicines in the 17th century. Here is a 1690s recipe for a treatment that clears the lungs that uses harts-horn, soda water, lemon juice, and syrup and is prepared by shaking. Not to say they invented the Boston Shaker, but the technique well predates American bars. The catalyst for this rapid evolution of bars and soda fountains was the invention of mechanically and locally manufactured carbonated water.
Sparkling mineral water was considered a healthy drink for its mineral content and alluring natural carbonation. But it could only be bottled at the source, and shipping was expensive. Even artificially manufactured soda water from companies like Schweppes was still costly to ship. That changed in 1832 when John Matthews invented a tank small enough to economically make soda water and fit under a bar. In just a few years, hundreds of his tanks were in New York alone. Pharmacies became a great place to get a refreshing medicated drink. Opium and chocolate were a popular combination. Absinthe originated as tapeworm medication. Angostura bitters were used to “clean the blood,” malaria, etc. Gin began as a kidney medication. Juniper berry extract is still used today for regulating renal function. Taverns and soda fountains shared many similarities and influenced each other over the next few decades. Pharmaceutical extracts became common at the bar, and cocktail tools and techniques became common at soda fountains. Soda fountains and bars found themselves in competition for patrons. Bars got you drunk, and soda fountains got you high.
However, things started to get out of hand toward the end of the 19th century. America’s drug and alcohol problems got severe. The temperance movement was gaining speed, and the federal government took notice of soda shops getting people hooked on narcotics. In 1906 the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed, and the FDA was created, with its first job being the removal of narcotics in everyday food and drinks. January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified, and recreational drinking was made illegal in the US. The passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 killed the classic soda fountain. Pharmacists no longer profited from sodas since they could no longer add medication to their drinks, and pills were becoming more and more mass-produced. Pills were easier to sell with higher profit margins, so the soda fountains businesses were sold, and the decline began. Thus ending the classic soda fountain era. For more information, please check out Darcy O’Neil’s book “Fix the Pumps.”