Drink of the Week: Cuba Libre
We are just going to come right out and say it: This week’s DOTW is getting hijacked. Anyone who recognizes the Cuba Libre also knows that it’s just a fancy name for the popular Rum and Coke. Sure, there’s a squeeze of lime, and we’ll get to the drink itself.
Most of you are probably thinking, “But isn’t the formula for Coke one of the most guarded secrets on earth?” Well, yes and no. Many aspects of the recipe are known (the ingredients are written right on the can), but there is some truth to the story that only a select few individuals know the formula of the primary flavoring component. However, some very convincing evidence exists that the Original Recipe—the one first created by Coca Cola inventor John Pemberton back in 1886—may have been revealed in a newspaper photograph, hiding in plain sight since 1979.
Sharing the details of this evidence isn’t actually our story. It comes by way of the radio program, This American Life. Back on February 11th, 2011, Ira Glass aired a story in which he describes a photograph of an old pharmacy journal. The photo was published in a Georgia newspaper in 1979 and shows a leather-bound recipe book opened to a page with the title, “Coco-Cola Improved” listing every ingredient, quantity and procedure. It is widely known that back in 1886 when John Pemberton invented Coca Cola in reaction to the temperance movement in Atlanta, Georgia, he sold the recipe to several of his colleagues. This book happened to belong to one such associate and many years later it was re-discovered which led to the newspaper article in 1979.
A dusty old recipe journal that belonged to someone nobody remembers would hardly convince most people of the recipe’s authenticity, but Coke historian Mark Pendergrast, author of For God, Country, and Coca-Cola, confirmed that while researching his book in the Coca Cola Company archives, he was allowed to review Pemberton’s notebook. There in the notebook, in Pemberton’s own hand, is the exact same recipe, item-for-item in matching quantities. We would encourage you to check out the radio program yourself to hear how it all unfolds. It’s a fascinating story that includes the help of Jones Soda to whip up a batch along with taste tests and some interesting reactions from flavor experts and regular consumers. You’ll have to draw your own conclusions because the Coca Cola Company will never confirm that this recipe is correct. Nor will they file a lawsuit because doing so would require them to produce the actual formula.
It’s also important to recognize that this is a recipe for the original Coca Cola, not the Coke that is made today. The differences may be subtle, but there is certainly no claim that this is exactly what is sold in stores right now. We know for example that Coke made in the United States no longer uses cane sugar, (although you can buy Mexican Coke that does). We also know that they no longer use fresh lime juice, opting instead for the more stable lime oil. Citric Acid has been replaced with phosphoric acid. You get the idea.
What about the cocaine?
“Coca” isn’t just a playful reference. It’s true that cocaine was part of the original Coke recipe. In fact, the ingredients below include an item called FE Coca, or fluid extract of coca, but by 1903 the cocaine was removed leaving this extract as just another flavor component. Coke still uses it, but the coca leaves used to make the extract have had the cocaine taken out by the Stepan Chemical Company in Maywood, New Jersey. Stepan is the only company in the US that is licensed by the DEA to legally import Peruvian coca leaves. Cocaine-free coca leaves are perfectly legal and available as an herbal tea. Using them to make your own drug-free FE Coca is simple.
And the Caffeine?
The word cola is a reference to the kola nut, which is a natural source of caffeine. Eventually, caffeine citrate took its place making the nut unnecessary. This is probably one of the “improvements”. We chose to leave out the caffeine which might affect the flavor somewhat. We have read that caffeine imparts some bitterness, but to use the amount specified would result in a beverage five times more potent than what is typically used in soda today! We think we made the right decision to leave it out, but if anyone knows of a proper source for it, we might try another batch reducing the quantity to one-fifth.
That’s the fancy name Coke gives their secret flavoring. Cola is a complex beverage, but the key to building the right combination of natural flavors is to use essential oils. Oil and water don’t mix, and since the majority of the final product is water, you need the oils to emulsify. By mixing tiny amounts of the incredibly potent essential oils with pure alcohol, you stretch the oil drops into a flavoring solution that will more readily mix with the water-based ingredients. We have read that modern soft drinks take advantage of highly specialized emulsifying equipment capable of generating microscopic droplets at practically a molecular level. This results in a mixture that can remain stable in a can or bottle without separating for years. When it was first invented, bottling the product wasn’t a consideration. Like our version here, it was meant to be mixed up and consumed immediately.
Besides cocaine, the other controversial ingredient in Coke is all of that sugar. The final product has a pound of sugar per gallon of soda. The syrup also contains a fair amount of lime juice. If anything in this recipe took us by surprise it was the amount of lime juice. We had no idea there was so much. There’s also some vanilla and caramel coloring.
So, that’s the basic idea. It doesn’t sound too difficult, right? To make your own, you really have five basic steps:
1. Make FE Coca
2. Make Merchandise 7X
3. Make the basic syrup (using some of your FE Coca)
4. Add some 7X flavoring to your basic syrup
5. Combine the syrup with carbonated water
Actually, you are done with the recipe at step 4. Once you have the syrup, you can make Coke whenever you want by mixing it on the spot. This is similar to how we make ginger beer, so get that siphon ready or grab some club soda. The mixing in step 5 is exactly what happens every time you get Coke from a soda dispenser. You hold your glass under the spout and carbonated water mixes with syrup at a five-to-one ratio. Fascinating!
Making FE Coca
Get yourself some coca tea. We bought ours on Amazon. It arrived in little tea bags, so we had to cut them all open. The next thing we did was reduce the leaf particles in a blender to a powder, but this may not even be necessary. Using a food processor on dry ingredients doesn’t always work, but our coca tea had some pretty big pieces in it, so we figured a finer powder would lead to better extraction. To make the extract, you need a percolator or some vessel that can serve the same purpose. A percolator is a piece of lab equipment that is basically an open cylinder with a screen filter at the bottom where it then constricts like a funnel with a spigot. We don’t have a percolator, but we do have a Clever Coffee Dripper!
1 pound powdered coca leaf
6 oz diluted alcohol (60% abv)
Plus plenty more alcohol to saturate and rinse when straining
You could probably just use a mason jar and filter the result, but the idea is that you need to totally saturate the leaf matter with dilute alcohol and let it sit covered for 48 hours. According to the book A Treatise On Beverages or The Complete Practical Bottler by Charles Herman Sulz, you want to use ethyl alcohol at 60% strength. That’s 120 proof vodka, if you can find it, and if not, figure out the proportions and add water to some Everclear to get you to 60%. According to the book, a proper fluid extract of coca requires a pound of the leaf and 6 ounces of alcohol, plus more alcohol to saturate the leaf matter and even more to rinse when
you strain the results. We’ll admit, there’s some ambiguity here, and since we had about 4 ounces of coca tea, We knew we would probably only end up with some fraction of a cup of extract. This would still be more than enough FE Coca to make so much cola it could rot the teeth of everyone we know.
Once we had a layer of alcohol covering the saturated coca tea, we stretched plastic over the top of the Clever Coffee Dripper and waited two days. In the end, it was the perfect tool to pull this off. We removed the plastic wrap and set the contraption over a glass jar and watched as our FE Coca came out deep olive green. Rinsing the leaves with more alcohol produced even more extract, but at some point we realized we would be diluting the flavor. However, the color continued to be a deep green, and in the end, using 100 coca tea bags, we produced about 6 ounces of finished coca extract.
We wondered if we could have saved some trouble and simply left all of that coca in the tea bags. That’s probably the best shortcut if you don’t have a percolator. The extract itself smells like green tea, and the pungent flavor is strong. Not much of this will go into the syrup, and before we started we wondered if it would be worth the effort or expense. But, after making the extract, it really wasn’t that hard after all, and when it came time to mix everything together, we were surprised how much aroma carried into the syrup from the tiny amount used.
Making 7X (the secret formula)
This part requires Everclear at full-strength. You really should have the 95% (190 proof) stuff. The 151 might work too, but we think it’s expected that you are mixing your essential oils with pure alcohol. Although it can be a challenge getting all of the essential oils (and they tend to be somewhat pricey), this was probably the easiest part of the whole operation. It’s ironic that the secret formula is actually the simplest part to execute.
8 oz alcohol
20 drops orange oil
30 drops lemon oil
10 drops nutmeg oil
5 drops coriander oil
10 drops neroli oil
10 drops cassia cinnamon oil
We used mostly Young Living essential oils which are food-safe and 100% pure organic. Neroli was a harder one to come by. You want everything you use in this whole process to be food-grade otherwise it can make you sick, and don’t use anything that has been cut with neutral oil. You need full-strength, 100% pure. Once you have the FE Coca and the 7X flavoring components, you can start making the syrup. You probably won’t need to make another batch of either ingredient for a long time. An eight-ounce bottle of 7X will probably last the rest of your life.
Making The Basic Syrup
Since we only made a gallon, we reduced everything by a factor of 5. First, dissolve the sugar in water. Have patience. It can take a while to get that much sugar to dissolve, but keep stirring! Then, add the caramel coloring. We used class IV caramel 050 coloring from DDWilliamson which is designed for acidic beverages, but we found we needed twice the amount indicated to match the color of modern Coke. Next, add your FE Coca. It’s amazing how little you add and how the smell fills the room. Add the vanilla extract, caffeine if you use any, lime juice and citric acid in that order.
.375 oz FE Coca (3/8 oz) or 180 drops
30 pounds sugar
3 oz citric acid
1 oz citrate caffeine
2.5 gal water
1 quart lime juice
1 oz vanilla
1.5 oz caramel coloring
The final step is to add your 7X flavoring to the basic syrup. It feels really exciting at this point, like you are participating in a time-honored ritual or building a magic potion. You need to add only .5 oz of 7X per 5 gallons of basic syrup. Our fractional reduction in quantity had us adding 7X by the drop. If you do a little research you find that most people calculate that there are 480 drops of liquid in one US fluid ounce, but drops per ounce will always depend on how thick the liquid is, or how much surface tension exists. We went with this common measurement and added 48 drops. If you are making the full 5 gallons of syrup you can measure a half ounce, but if you want to make less, do the math and add 7X with a clean eye dropper.
Mix up some cola using 1 part finished syrup to 5 parts carbonated water. We presented our homemade Coke the other day at an office pot luck and it was a big hit. Everyone loved it. Some said it was actually better than regular Coke. After first mixing the syrup, we detected a strong lime flavor in the finished soda, but over the course of several days refrigerated, it has mellowed quite a bit. After six days, the fresh citrus flavors have less impact in the final soda, and it’s getting very hard to distinguish it from the commercial product. If you decide to make this yourself, we’d be curious how yours turns out. And now, at long last, we come to our Drink of the Week. Of course, you can avoid all the hassle above and just buy some Coke to mix with Rum and a squeeze of lime, but what fun would that be?
2 oz white rum
.75 oz homemade cola syrup
3.75 oz carbonated water
squeeze of lime juice
Build in a glass with ice and give a stir to make sure the syrup mixes completely. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Lynden’s Soda Fountain is now serving this 1886 Cola recipe in their shop in St. Paul. Here’s a short video of our morning making the cola syrup described above:
You are a machine, sir. An impressive amount of effort for a rum and coke.
Thanks. I have so much syrup now, I’m not sure what to do with all of it!
[…] the whole thing here. Share this:ShareEmailDiggFacebookTwitterRedditPrintStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]
FYI, Young Living now sells Neroli.
Update: We just made another batch at Lynden’s Soda Fountain, and added a video to this post! If you ever wanted to taste a homemade cola as it was intended back in 1886, save yourself the trouble of following the above steps and head down to Lynden’s.
Could you tell me where I can get the DD Williamson Caramel Coloring? Or what you used for caramel color when you made your syrup. Thanks.
Rory, You should be using class IV d150 caramel color designed for stability in acidic beverages. I obtained a small sample from DD Williamson working directly with them, but knowing others might be interested in buying small quantities, I asked their sales rep the same question. They suggested contacting their partner, colorMaker in Anaheim California who will sell as little as a quart. That’s much more than you will need. I have not worked with them, but their phone # is 714-572-0444, or was when this was first written. I have also seen caramel coloring for sale by baking retailers,… Read more »
Thanks for the help Randy! I will let you know how it turns out. I love your site. I am always interested in cocktails and making as much as I can from scratch. I run a bar in a small French restaurant in Boston.
Wow, Rory! Thanks for kind words. It truly makes the process of writing and sharing my own explorations worthwhile when someone else benefits. I am looking forward to hearing about your cola!
What restaurant? I am in Boston and would love to give you business if you are still open. 👍
Cassie, you may find the additional comment below, but Rory was making cola for La Voile. 261 Newbury St. but that was seven years ago.
For what it’s worth, I’m adapting this recipe for the phosphate soda program at my bar as well. Rory, I’d be interested to know if you’re able to obtain the caramel coloring from Color Maker and what their price is.
Nathan, where’s your bar on the off chance we can visit and taste the results?
Tender Bar + Kitchen in Pittsburgh, PA. You can read more about us here: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/life/libations/spirits-tender-is-the-night-spot-677153/
Hi – kokatonic.com here
Just want to clarify that we sell full alkaloid coca leaf powder . It is not decocanized but rather -00% natural, any questions please feel free to call the toll free number on our website or drop us an email , we are happy to be of service . Kind regards
The kokatonic team !
Nathan, I wanted to let you know that I ordered se caramel coloring from Color Mark. Class IV d150. And they are sending me 2 lbs (which is the smallest quantity you can buy from them) for only around $3. They also told me it has a 3 yr shelf life in case you only need a small amount. Good Luck with your phosphate soda experiments.
Sorry. Color Maker. Not Color Mark. Lol.
I finally have everything I need for my soda. Starting the process this week!
Fantastic! Thanks for the update. I am looking forward to hearing how everything turns out. By the way, the last few batches I made have allowed me to experiment and draw some interesting conclusions. First, the vanilla extract is important. Cheap, bottom shelf grocery store vanilla definely tastes different in the cola than a high quality vanilla extract. My best results have come from vanilla I make myself using vanilla beans, high proof rum, bourbon or vodka. Second, I have noticed that white granulated sugar works best. Natural, or “raw” sugar that is light brown in color contributes flavor. It’s… Read more »
For the 3 oz of citric acid, is that citric acid (liquid) or citric acid (powder)?
If the former, what is your dilution rate? I usually do 2.5:1.
It’s citric acid powder and the measurement is by weight. It is easy to over do it for this item. It will taste metallic.
Thanks, Randy. I usually go easy on the citric acid until I have a finished product.
In the past, I’ve forgone the acid entirely and waited to make the soda to dash in citric and phosphate acid (2-3 dashes each)
That’s an interesting approach. For this, we were trying to accurately reproduce a historic recipe. Actually, if measured properly, the acid is right where it needs to be.
Randy, I just finished my first batch of the 1886 cola today. It’s actually very good! Finding some of the ingredients was a bit tricky, and I felt like a drug dealer while I was making the Coca Extract….but it was a lot of fun. And the taste came out very balanced. Thanks for help on everything! I’m featuring the home made cola in the form of a Cuba Libre on my Spring Cocktail menu. If you are ever in Boston, you should definitely stop by the bar. La Voile. 261 Newbury St. Thanks again!!!!
Rory, thanks for reporting back! I am so excited that your cola turned out. I honestly think we are among a very small group of people who have bothered to try this. You are right about some of the steps–it feels like you are takng part in a secret apothecary ritual. It’s one of those experiences that seems a little crazy when you are collecting all the stuff but when you are actually doing it the results are so worth it. For instance, after making FE Coca, I wondered if it was worth the effort and expense given how little… Read more »
There are only a few tips I could give. The essential oils may be difficult to find on amazon and a little expensive but they will last a very long time once you create the 7X formula. For the oils, just make sure everything you purchase is organic and food safe. Also, the home made vanilla extract is much better than using some from the store. You are right. I used vanilla bean and a 151 Demerara Rum called LemonHart. This high proof rum has a lot of flavor and is very complex for being an ovenproof rum. You could… Read more »
Rory, Thanks for the additional notes. Regarding heating the mixture to dissolve the sugar–that’s a step I haven’t done. There is differing opinions about using a cold process versus a hot process for making syrup. Some claim the heating creates invert sugar which is complex chemistry stuff that basically results in sucrose splitting and forming gluose and fructose. Fructose is supposedly sweeter and the inversion of the chemical makeup is said to improve stability by reducing crystallization, but fruit acid has similar effects by inducing the inversion. I have had better luck with clean bottles and no heating. With ginger… Read more »
Using the amount of 60% alcohol suggested I couldn’t even moisten half of the coca leaf, never mind get any sort of extract. How could 6oz of fluid be anywhere near enough for 16oz of powder? When I mixed them together, the alcohol didn’t even penetrate halfway down. Most of the coca leaf was still completely dry. I used an ounce of fine powder coca leaf and needed to use about 3.5oz of alcohol. I have no clue how much of this to use in my syrup. Should I just multiply it by a factor of how much more liquid… Read more »
Also, what unit is the sugar? It says 30#. Thanks
30 pounds. Roughly 60 cups. The base syrup is a 3:2 sugar-to-water solution, which was standard for drug store soda.
Yeah, the listed solvent quantity isn’t right at all, but as Randy pointed out, the Sulz recipe basically says to keep adding solvent until you’re satisfied with your yield. The procedure I used for my FE coca was to steep 1 oz of powdered coca leaf in 3 fl. oz. of 60% ethanol for 48 hours, then pour the whole mess into a coffee filter, add another 1.5 fl. oz. of solvent over the top, and allow it to percolate for 2 hours. The yield was about 2 fl. oz, and it’s some pretty intense stuff. I added it to… Read more »
Thanks for the response. So even though you had more, you used the same volume of liquid (0.375oz)? I was thinking that if 16oz of liquid was the final output for 16oz of leaf, then with a 2oz of liquid final output for 1oz of leaf you should use double, 0.75oz. Know what I mean? Maybe the relevant solutes in the coca leaf form a saturated solution even with double the solvent.
Drew, You are right. The recipe for making FE Coca is pretty ambiguous. According to the old book, you should be using a lab percolator. I can only imagine that the proper pharmacy equipment somehow allows you to saturate powdered coca leaf as described, but I too found the amount of alcohol nowhere near enough to do the job. I added enough to saturate and barely submerge the leaf as the book also describes. To me, that seemed to be the point. 48 hours later, the drained extract was dark olive green, aromatic, and according to the old book, I… Read more »
So you had a total extract of 6oz? Doesn’t it say to keep running more solution through the leaf and filter until it reached 16oz?
The old book does say that, but it’s based on starting with a pound of coca leaf. I had only 4 ounces by weight of coca leaf tea, so I assumed my FE yield would be a similar fraction less than 16 ounces of liquid described in the book. This makes the amount of saturating alcohol even less logical since I had to use more than the book specifies with less leaf matter. I suppose if I was going to rewrite the book, given my experience with this, I’d say: Using an appropriate apparatus for the maceration, saturate and submerge… Read more »
Regarding the heavy cinnamon, that may be ok. It’s one of the more potent flavors, but I can certainly detect the mixture of other flavors too. Are you using 100% pure essential oils?
Thanks for responding. Yes I used pure oils. I mixed a few drops of 7X with a glass of carbonated water and noticed it only contributed a subtle flavor. I guess it’s not as significant as I thought.
You might try making a fraction of the recipe to test your 7x. I have been making 1/2 gallons of syrup successfully reducing everything by a factor of ten. A least that way you are only using 3 pounds of sugar. This is enough syrup to last a good long while for me. If you decide your 7x is totally off, send me a message using the contact form.
I was thinking about trying a few glasses of soda before making a big mix. I have a 10ml graduated cylinder and mg scale at my disposal so I think I can scale down the recipe pretty low with good precision.
There’s no reason to leave the details hard to follow, so I am updating the post with clarifying info about the measurements. Good feedback all around.
That’s a good point. I didn’t think about that but you are right. I think my cola may have lost a little of the initial flavor it had when I first made it. It still tastes good but it was a but more complex at the beginning. It will stick with the cold process next time. After all, it’s only my first batch. Practice makes perfect. Thanks again!
What kind of Lime did you use, persian or Key Lime, or a different type?
Stein, they were definitely not key limes. These were just typical, medium-sized grocery store limes, (sometimes labeled “Product of Mexico”). I suppose they were Persian limes. Someone out there probably knows a lot more than I do about the different limes we have here in the US.
I came across your site in my search for a Coca-Cola recipe and I have to say that you have given me a lot of motivation to want to try this at home. I got a SodaStream for Christmas and while it is neat to be able to “make your own soda” at home, I still feel like I am not REALLY making my own soda since I’m using SodaStream’s brand of flavorings. It’s just not the same thing and plus I think a lot of their flavors don’t actually taste all that great anyways. Of course, finding most of… Read more »
(Oops! My bad actually! The link I gave was incorrect. I didn’t actually buy my Essential Oils from there. That was another site I was looking at, but I actually decided to buy the oils from THIS site: Bulk Apothecary – Essential Oils They are Therapeutic Grade and Food Grade 100% Pure Essential Oils and their prices are the dirt-cheap lowest I have seen anywhere. They are located in Ohio and I’m hoping they will ship fast. They also carry some homebrew equipment if you decide to brew your own beer at home… or just purchase some 12 fl oz… Read more »
Kevin, also, check out our recipe for really easy fresh ginger syrup. A squeeze of lime juice and your Soda Stream will make you the most amazing ginger beer you’ve ever tasted! That syrup will be a regular addition to your TRULY homemade soda repertoire. Also, find the Mai Tai cocktail here and whip up some orgeat for a delicious almond soda. Finally, when you are feeling a bit more adventurous, follow our post for making Raspberry Shrub. Talk about a refreshing twist–tastes like raspberry sparkling lemonade without the lemon, if you can imagine such a thing.
Actually, what I would REALLY like a recipe for is Dr. Pepper! I found plenty of Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola recipes out there to mix up your favorite Colas, but I have literally spent weeks scouring the Internet trying to find a legitimate Dr. Pepper recipe only to fall short. Not sure what the deal is, but I guess the Dr Pepper/7-Up and/or Dr Pepper/Snapple Group have done a much better job of keeping their recipes a secret from the public still, even to this day. Sure, I found some “imposter” recipes out there like, “Oh, dude I mixed prune… Read more »
Kevin, great minds think alike. I too have been searching. In fact, I added another 45 minutes to the task after your comments yesterday! I haven’t gone so far as to buy additional oils, hoping to find an “open” Dr. Pepper recipe first, but nothing has come close. In fact, your note here may be the first/best clues out there! I have seen mention of cherry, and a “Flaming Dr. Pepper” shot uses amaretto, so almond oil seems likely. I think it’s a good experiment. I have a friend who owns a soda fountain and he serves a Dr. Pepper… Read more »
You may be able to go back now and edit it. When you post comments with URLs, my site flags the comment for admin approval.
Kevin, it’s great to hear from people actually trying to make this. Several of the items are hard to obtain without leveraging online resources. I notice that vendors change too. Some of the items I used are no longer available via Amazon, for example. Such is the way of things. Still, some stuff like anhydrous caffeine is still readily available through our Amazon recommendations here. I appreciate the additional options you listed. One of the harder items is the proper caramel color discussed in comments above. Neroli oil is extremely expensive, probably due to low demand or difficulty sourcing the… Read more »
I’m really wanting to try this, but I’m having a little problem with the 7X formula. I’m living in a state where the 190 proof version of Everclear isn’t available. Should I go across the state line (I believe there’s a store about 30 minutes away), or should I look at gum arabic as an emulsifier?
Get the 190. The emulsifier (if you use one at all) would be for mixing the 7x into the syrup, not for mixing the 7x itself.
Any other sources for caramel coloring other than ColorMaker? I’ve exchanged a few emails with them and I’ve been trying to order, but they’ve stopped responding to me. I’d look elsewhere, but 2 lbs for $3 sounds like it will be hard to beat.
You might contact DD Williamson for a sample and to see if they have any other recommendations.
I can’t seem to find coca leafs ANYWHERE, not even amazon. All I can find is guayusa tea instead. :(
Octavio, You are right, it’s getting hard to find. Makes you wonder about the supply vs. demand. It has to be a difficult product to sell while avoiding misinformation and controversy. I expect folks like us trying to make historic coca cola reproductions are not exactly keeping these sellers in business with very many sales, and with the ease of product misrepresentation, who knows how Amazon deals with such things. In any case, I did see that LaTienda.com is selling 100 bags of organic coca tea. That’s more than enough. As a last resort, you could try making cola without… Read more »
Regarding LaTienda.com, they are a decent vendor. I purchased a wonderful classic steel paella pan and woven grass serving tray from them–both awesome. LaTienda ships fast and carries great products. I wouldn’t hesitate getting the coca tea from them.
I had posted previously where you can get the Coca leaves as well. I bought mine from a site called BuyCocaTea.com. It was about $40 for a 200 gram brick of ground leaves. This site you are ordering them from is based in Peru, so you are getting them straight from the farmers, basically. It took a while to get them and, if I’m being honest, I was a bit worried that it would be confiscated by U.S. customs or something and I would never receive my Coca leaves! But, they finally came after a couple of weeks and I… Read more »
I also use anhydrous caffeine from Amazon. A small container is cheap, although one must take care to measure properly as this much caffeine is dangerous. In other words, buy a small precision scale and keep the caffeine out of reach of children. I would be very surprised if your coca was direct from a farm. It’s far more likely that to sell as tea it undergoes the process to remove the cocaine alkaloids first. I would expect Peruvian imports to be highly screened and that customs/DEA checks would have to recognize this tea as safe and legal for it… Read more »
Well, you know what I mean… not DIRECTLY from the farmer, but the farmers are in Peru and my Coca leaves shipped right from Peru, so it is close to the source. That’s all I was trying to say. (Not like it came from China where it was shipped to and re-packaged or something…) I DO need to get a scale myself to accurately measure the caffeine to be able to properly dose it. I tried looking up estimations based on how many milligrams might be in a teaspoon or something, but it is only a rough guess and depends… Read more »
Kevin, regarding the caffeine, I have tried the dry measure conversion and it was problematic. I ended up with too much caffeine and you could feel it! The beauty of anhydrous is that you can pick up a can of soda, read the milligrams and simply do the math to match commercial products exactly. Regarding heat, I have three comments. First, I don’t use heat. Not at all. Everything needs to be clean. It was Rory above who suggested heat in a comment and later expressed some regret that it may have affected the flavor retention over time. I don’t… Read more »
Safe , legal ,full alkaloid coca leaf powder 100% natural
I just happened to come across this recipe, and have decided to give it a go. In my particular case, getting a hold of all the oils will be a hard task. However, I suppose some online purchases from many different parts of the world may be the solution. However, I do live in Bolivia, home of some of the best coca leafs available. So I will be trying this recipe with raw, all natural, just harvested coca leafs. Now, to make things clear, using these leafs will not get you high. Even though the alkaloid is contained in the… Read more »
Geekr86, the resources don’t say that the effect of raw coca leaves is NONE. They say the extraction is low without an accompanying acid/base chemical. This is why the leaves are often chewed with limes (acid) or baking soda (base). In any case, there are still traces from raw coca even if it’s not enough to get “high”. This is beside the point. Unprocessed coca leaves are illegal in most countries. You can certainly do whatever you like, but it would be extremely irresponsible to share your cola with anyone without telling them that you are using a raw coca… Read more »
They are not chewed with limes but rather with lime
Aka calcium carbonate- I have gotten that confused in the past as well lol
What’s the longest you’ve let the final product sit? I’m interested in making a full keg of this for a party but am worried it might separate in the time it takes for keg carbonation to set in.
Tom, I’m not sure why I missed your comment. I was probably busy at work or something. I am sure your party is long over. Did you make any cola? I have to admit that I have only ever let the syrup itself sit for long periods. I have never mixed syrup with carbonated water that wasn’t in a glass full of ice ready to be consumed. That said, I seriously doubt you would have a problem over the course of a party. When people mention stability of the bottled product, I always figured it was related to distribution times,… Read more »
I just happened across your post while searching for homemade soda recipes.
Is there a way that you could break this down into a much smaller batch recipe?
I don’t need enough to last a lifetime!
I use essential oils, so those are not an issue, and I have a source for the vanilla and alcohol. I would need to purchase the coca leaves.
I’d like to make like maybe a quart of concentrate at a time?
If that is possible, how much of the concentrate would be used to make a liter of soda?
Jan, You can’t break down the 7x formula, nor the coca extraction process. No need to do that since these are just ingredients you use when making syrup. But you can shrink the basic syrup recipe. It makes precise measurements very important. For a quart, you would divide those items by 20. That means you only add 12 drops of 7x and nine drops of FE coca. I don’t know if the recipe holds up with such small amounts, but a gallon of syrup does for sure. To make a liter of soda, you mix 166ml of syrup and the… Read more »
Thank you Randy, for sharing all this!
Somehow I missed out on hearing about the TAL information and just recently found out. I love Coke and am sad about where the company has taken it. Here in Michigan, the Coke changes almost changes from batch to batch.
I’m going to make a 1/10th batch this winter. Is there anything you would change, at this point?
Since writing this I continue to be amazed at how delicious and accurate this recipe is. Although I did not add caffeine in my first attempt, I have since added anhydrous powder to the syrup using extremely accurate scales. These can be obtained online for around $20 and I think that”s a fair price for something that needs to be so precise, especially in fractional recipes. I’d also like to experiment with other caramel color. The authentic product may be hard to obtain in small quantities. Now that I have made several successful batches using it, I would be willing… Read more »
I noticed that La Tienda (tienda.com) is no longer selling coca tea. This item is getting harder to find. Perhaps ebay is an option now? It’s a controversial product I guess, as some people may not understand the difference between the tea product with alkaloids removed and unadulterated Peruvian coca leaves. Legality aside, I can understand why an online seller might chose to stop selling it. One thought I have had is to try subbing Yerba Mate in it’s place. Mate has a very similar smell when brewed (to my taste anyway) and I wonder if an alcohol based fluid… Read more »
are you still making coca cola? if so, i’d love to know where you buy your coca tea from, i’ve been looking everywhere online and to no avail (unless i buy the real stuff from peru but i cant serve that at my restaurant!)
Brie, It’s all from Peru. Are you in the US? If you can get coca tea sent to you in the US, it is highly unlikely that you are getting cocaine. Think about it. The DEA would have a field day if it were possible to obtain pure coca leaves via mail. It is far more likely you are finding sources that claim to be farm direct but are actually leaves that have had the cocaine alkaloids removed. You could also follow the recipe and just skip the coca leaf part altogether. You add so little coca extract to the… Read more »
I suspect that the caffeine is the more important item to work on. I’ve tasted home made pops with and without it, and there is a difference. Perhaps a little sharper, but it’s hard to describe. So if you’ve had good luck before, I think adding caffeine will take this a step closer.
Did you use organic sugar?
I use white sugar. You could use organic, but don’t use anything dark. The extra flavor of sugar in the raw screws up the recipe. I tried it once and was very disappointed.
Right! Thinking about what was available in 1886, ‘organic’ was likely what was common; cane sugar.
Have you ever heard anything about the formula for Mexican Coke?
Yeah, I wrote about it once here when it was first available at Costco. It’s basically the same as classic Coke in the iconic glass bottles, only it usually has cane sugar instead of HFCS. That alone makes it taste much better in my opinion and before I made the syrup, Mexican Coke was king. It’s how I remember it growing up. Now I don’t bother with Mexican Coke which comes at a premium price. Making syrup is way cheaper. Truth be told, I don’t drink much soda anyway, and I’d rather drink Dr. Pepper.
Well, thanks again for this. I’ll definitely check back here to see if others are doing stuff with this. And I’ll post when I’ve made a batch. I shouldn’t drink it often but it would be great to take it to parties, etc. I have lots of friends who prefer Coke to anything else.
I love the net. ;-)
where did you get your coca tea? i can’t find it!
i am having an impossible time finding coca tea.
does anyone have a current resource for it?
Hello, making Coca-Cola like this is something I have wanted to try for years. I thought I was the only person crazy enough to try this. Thank you for posting all the great information! Can i ask – what brand of neroli oil did you use? I tried to match it with the picture you posted, but I am not sure. Thank you!
I found this site that claims to sell coca leaves. https://www.kokatonic.com/home Please let me know if you order this and your results.
I tried to find a statement on that kokatonic website about cocaine alkaloids and came up empty. I have to believe the products, if sold in America and most other countries outside of a handful in South America, are de-cocainized. Of course, that might be a fact that they are not emphasizing because they believe it could decrease their sales, but pure unadulterated coca leaves are definitely illegal, so it might be worth confirming what exactly you are getting. Back when I first made my fluid extract and several years after, you could buy coca tea on Amazon, but I… Read more »
Hi – kokatonic.com here
Just want to clarify that we sell full alkaloid coca leaf powder . It is not decocanized but rather 100% natural, any questions please feel free to call the toll free number on our website or drop us an email , we are happy to be of service . Kind regards
The kokatonic team !
Good day i – kokatonic.com here
Just want to clarify that we sell full alkaloid coca leaf powder . It is not decocanized but rather 100% natural, any questions please feel free to call the toll free number on our website or drop us an email , we are happy to be of service . Kind regards
The kokatonic team !!
Great timing—I am making house cola Cube Libre cocktails tonight for a small pizza party! The Neroli was challenging to find food grade and expensive. I wanted to use Young Living, but they were not making/selling it at the time. I used a brand called Veriditas which I found at the Wedge co-op in Minneapolis. Good luck with the recipe. My last batch revealed that my old caramel color was drying out—I ended up with globs of black gunk. I also make my own vanilla extract these days and I can tell you that good vanilla makes a difference. Also,… Read more »
Thank you for the information. I have an old book of formulas from 1919 and the describe a procedure for making caramel coloring. I also found the following link on the web. https://www.justapinch.com/recipes/dessert/other-dessert/caramel-color.html Can I ask what brand of scale you used to weigh some of the ingredients? I have a gram/oz scale, but I am not sure of how accurate it is.
Thank you for the information! I have found procedures to make caramel coloring on the web, but I am not sure how well that would work. I would much rather find some pre-made caramel coloring. Can you indicate what brand/model scale you used? I have an older digital grams/oz scale, but I am not sure how accurate it is. Funny you should mention vanilla – as that is the very first thing I plan to make is some high quality vanilla extract, since it takes at least a couple of months to make. I am lucky that I can buy… Read more »
I ended up getting a digital milligram scale at amazon by American Weigh. This is pretty important for the caffeine. Miligram scale. That is a link to the one I bought. It was inexpensive and accurate enough. It has come in handy for a few other projects as well, but it does have limited capacity. Thanks for the info on the caramel color. I will have to check that out. When I did this project I had read several accounts of using burnt sugar to color, but I worried it would introduce flavors I did not want. I will have… Read more »
Thank you for the information on the scale. I am getting my wish list together and just like any drink or recipe, the better the quality of tools and ingredients will always add up to make a better final result. I would bet that the ingredients we are using will result in a better quality soda – then even Coca-Cola themselves currently make and this is their flagship product! This brings to mind a super high-quality sugar made by C&H for professional bakers that I use for all my recipes. You can taste a pronounced BETTER flavor using this sugar,… Read more »
John, I am aware of C&H superfine. It’s good stuff and the fine grain will definitely make this easier. Also, there is no typo. Read it again. There are 480 drops in an ounce, but we are not adding anywhere near an ounce of 7X. It would be a half ounce per 5 gallons, and since I made 1 gallon, I only add one tenth of an ounce of 7X, which is 48 drops.
Thank you, Randy. I am sick with the flu and one of the first things that goes when I’m sick is my IQ.
Coca leaf Distributors
Can’t beat the healing
Great write up! Can I ask, did you reduce the amount of 7X? I have read that modern essential oils are much stronger then they were back in the old days, so some are saying to reduce the amount of the 7X by 75%. Does your formulation have that same reduction?
If you listen to the Original Recipe episode of This American Life, they discuss the potency/reduction idea. My efforts were based on those details, so the reduction is already “baked in”.
Thank you, Randy
I finally made some syrup. It turned out great, and I plan to make it again.
Ohhh! I love it. Thanks for posting a photo! Even have the vintage Sparklets. Very nice.
You are one of only a handful of people that I have ever heard of that bothered to go through all of the trouble. I have always thought it was a great learning experience. What did you do for the caramel coloring in the end? I may make another batch soon and I don’t think my DD Williamson supply is much good anymore as it gelled up a bit.
I used “durkee” brand color – I bought from amazon. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007KZJZ8G/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
I really have you to thank, Randy – I have wanted to try this since reading the book: “For God, Country and Coca-Cola” way back in the 1990’s – but you are the only person that actually rolled up his sleeves and did it, with a great write up and pictures! I must have read your entire article a million times before venturing into trying it. I will definitely make more. I used caffeine – again, from amazon. That soda bottle is made by ISI – it’s meant to look vintage, but it’s actually hard plastic. It seems way-safer than… Read more »
So glad it worked out. It is fun to hear about you reading that post over and over. There are so many little details to cover, but now that you have done it, it should be easier the next time knowing what to expect. As for the caffeine, I always add it now too since it was so cheap from Amazon years ago—-I have enough to last ten lifetimes! Good tip on the caramel. I am glad I asked. Perhaps others will benefit too. As for the ISI, it definitely looks like a nice replica, and you are right about… Read more »
For my 3rd batch of Coca-Cola syrup, I thought I would try using Key Lime juice. Who knows, maybe that is what was used originally. Key limes do have a different flavor than the standard ones usually seen at the store.The resulting cola was really good! A friend gave me a soda stream as a gift, so I have tried soda stream and CO2 cartridges – the soda stream makes a much stronger carbonized drink.
That’s fantastic! I would not of tried key limes because they are smaller—I don’t have the patience for all the squeezing! Glad it worked out though.