8 May: Cocaine + Caffeine = Coca-Cola

John Pemberton launched Coca-Cola from a pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on 8th May, 1886. Legend has it that a serendipitous mishap had led to the addition of carbonated water, transforming the medicinal tonic into a fizzy beverage that would capture the public’s imagination.

But in fact, Pemberton’s original formula – Pemberton’s French Wine Coca – had already been attracting a following; but it had to be relaunched to the market in a non-alcoholic formula, because it boasted wine among its ingredients, at the onset of temperance legislation in Atlanta. Nobody seemed bothered that it contained cocaine, however…

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Coke’s origins lay in curing morphine addiction; consider how strategic marketing, aggressive advertising, and a stroke of luck in a bottling deal pushed Coca-Cola’s proliferation across the globe; and reveal why their iconic logo is written in handwritten script… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Vin Mariani: The Cocaine Wine Beloved by Popes and Presidents’ (Mental Floss, 2021): https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/644226/vin-mariani-cocaine-wine-history

• ’John Pemberton And The Quiet Tragedy Behind Coca-Cola’s Invention’ (All That’s Interesting, 2017): https://allthatsinteresting.com/john-pemberton

• ‘John Pemberton and the invention of Coca-Cola (The Coca-Cola Company, 2017):