By KevinSevenNgo 28 Comments
Coca-Cola is simply the most well known brand in the history of the world. Sure, it's mostly just soda water and sugar. But they sell about 400 billion cans of the stuff a year to about 200 countries, an average of more than 60 cans to every single human being on the planet.
Pretty impressive for a drink that routinely gets beat in taste tests by Pepsi.
Coke has it right there in the name. When Coca Cola was created in the summer of 1885, the market was even more crowded with sodas than it is today. In addition to Coke, Pharmacists were selling thousands of sodas, including Dr. Pepper, which got its name from the Texas doctor who marketed it as a cure for impotence. The belief that effervescent water contained health benefits goes back to the Romans, and given the state of mainstream medicine in the 1890s, customers were more than happy to believe Dr. Pepper got your dick up just as well as an old fashioned leech bleeding. Coca Cola was able to stand out in the crowded market because it's purported health benefits weren't total and utter bullshit.
John Pemberton, the Atlanta pharmacist that invented Coca Cola, claimed that the ingredient it was named after, the Coca leaf, cured everything from depression and nervousness to morphine addiction. If those purported effects sound familiar, congratulations, you could beat a chimpanzee in a game of memory. Coca is the leaf that produces cocaine, and like Freud, John Pemberton was incredibly enthusiastic about its "health benefits."
But surely he wouldn't go so far as to stake the claim of his fledgling business on an unproven drug, right?
Why It Makes Sense:
Like Freud, Pemberton practiced what he preached. In fact, when he said he was convinced from "actual experiments that coca is the very best substitute for opium addicts," he was speaking from personal experience, since he was a himself a morphine addict. But whereas Freud retired his cocaine megaphone once doctors sounded the "shit kills you" alarm, Pemberton chose to put it in his soda, plug his ears, and hum loudly.
In his history of the beverage, Mark Pendergrast claims there was about 8.45 milligrams of cocaine in each serving, which is about 1/4th of what people put up their nose to get high these days. But fans of the drink were known to chug up to five at a sitting, or to drink it with five times the syrup called for in the recipe. When combined with the sugar and caffeine, that brings the drug to right around street level.
So it's not surprising that by the time cocaine was removed from the drink in the early 20th century, people were ordering Cokes by asking for "a dope."