drink, Coca-Cola®, soda, pop

Top 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Coca-Cola

Read Time: 3 minutes

Do things really go better with Coca-Cola®? The company’s 1963 slogan would have you believe so. And that was far from their only suggestion about the product.

In 1932, the company wanted consumers to believe the drink was “Ice Cold Sunshine.” Twenty years later, the corporation explained, “What You Want Is a Coke.”

But those are marketing claims. What’s the real story? Some of the facts behind the red-and-white logo are interesting, surprising and even bizarre.

1. What’s in a Name?

There’s a good reason the beverage has the nickname “Coke.” It’s 1886 original recipe included leaves from the coca plant, which is used to produce cocaine. However, the beverage had only 9 milligrams of cocaine per serving.

Who decides to put cocaine in a soft drink? Coke’s creator, John Pemberton, was a Confederate Civil War soldier wounded in battle.

During his recovery, he became addicted to the painkiller morphine. As professional chemist and druggist, he experimented with mixtures that would wean him off his pain medication.

After hearing that cocaine relieves morphine addiction, he developed a drink with wine, kola nuts, and coca leaves. A local prohibition ordinance soon forced the removal of alcohol, but coca leaves remained part of the recipe until 1903.

2. Not an Enduring Legacy

Coca-Cola®’s originator didn’t experience much success with his creation. Not long after Pemberton’s business started, he began selling it off to fund his addiction to morphine. (Apparently, coca leaves didn’t work for him.)

By 1888, Pemberton had to give up his entire interest in the company. His son Charley retained partial ownership for a while longer. However, Charley had chemical dependencies of his own to deal with, and the business soon left the family for good. John passed away the same year he sold the company, and Charley died six years later. John’s widow was left penniless.

3. Good for What Ails You

When Coca-Cola® was introduced to the public, it wasn’t a mere soft drink. They actually advertised it as a brain tonic. Supposedly, it could treat a variety of disorders, including exhaustion, headache, neuralgia, hysteria, and melancholy.

Indisposed customers wouldn’t find the elixir at their local drugstore alongside other medications. Sufferers had to pull up a stool at the soda fountain and order Coke instead of a root beer float or orange soda.

4. Crack Open a Bottle

They patented the classic curved shape of a Coke bottle was in 1915. Before that, bottlers used ordinary straight-sided glass containers.

In 1923, the Coca-Cola® Company was the first to introduce the six-pack carrier. Since residential refrigeration was more commonplace, customers were encouraged to enjoy the drink in the comfort of their homes.

Coke’s cans didn’t begin competing with its bottles until 1960. An image of the iconic bottle was on each can, just in case consumers weren’t sure what was inside. Can development had started before World War II, but the required materials were scarce in that combative era.

5. A Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures

The emblematic calligraphy for Coca-Cola® wasn’t the brainchild of an advertising executive. It was hand-drawn by John Pemberton’s partner and bookkeeper, Frank Robertson.

Robertson was also responsible for the double C in the product’s name. He preferred the letter repetition to the “Coca-Kola” option, which was a more obvious reference to the use of the kola nut.


What was the most surprising fact you learned about Coca-Cola®? Let me know in the comments.

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Category: Everyday Science

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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. Megan is also a regular contributor to The Naked Scientists, Thomas Insights, and Real Clear Science. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking, and stargazing.