The Cola Wars Documentary
History Channel 1990
Coca Cola was first produced in 1886, when cocaine, morphine and alcohol were common patent medicine ingredients. The immediate predecessor to Coke was a concoction produced by Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton called French Wine Cola, containing cocaine, alcohol and caffeine. When Atlanta outlawed alcohol sales In 1885, Pemberton left the patent medicine business to produce his renamed Coca Cola for the increasingly popular soda fountain trade. His first version combined cocaine with kola nut extract (a stimulant).
Pemberton, a cocaine addict, sold the company to another pharmacist Asa Kandler shortly before his death in 1889. Kandler added more sugar to disguise the medicinal taste and citric acid to disguise the excessive sweetness. In 1916, he began bottling it as well as dispensing syrup to soda foundations.
Pepsi Cola, Coke’s arch rival, was also invented by a pharmacist in Newburn, North Carolina in 1898. It’s name was deliberately deceptive, as it never contained either pepsin (an aid to digestion) nor kola nut extract.
During World War II, Coca Cola gained the upper hand by making an agreement with the US government to be the exclusive soft drink provider to US troops stationed in Europe and the Pacific. The agreement also exempted from the sugar ration, which virtually crippled Pepsi Cola.
In 1985, after Coke made the disastrous misstep of secretly changing the coke formula to make it taste more like Pepsi, the company faced a massive backlash from Coke drinkers, briefly making Pepsi the number one soft drink in the world. Three months later they re-introduced the original formula as “Classic Coke.”