Codenamed "Merchandise 7X", the list of ingredients that go into Coke - 922 million litres of which were drunk in the UK last year - has been kept carefully shrouded in mystery since the drink's inventor, a medicinal chemist called John Pemberton, first wrote it down in 1886. These days it is supposedly kept under 24-hour guard in a vault in Atlanta, Georgia, which is odd considering that author Mark Pendergrast published it in his exposé of the cola industry For God, Country & Coca-Cola (Basic Books) in 1993. The company maintains that this recipe is not the same as the one it uses.
Any alternative they were going to offer had not only to taste almost identical but overcome the incredible pull of Coca-Cola's marketing. "Given that most of the Cube's customers come because they like the place's DIY attitude," Brandon explains, "one way of doing that was to make the cola ourselves."
Cola is basically a mix of caramel, caffeine, sugar, fizzy water, citric or phosphoric acid, and eight essential oils. It's the precise blend of these oils that lies at the heart of the 7X secret formula. A trawl of the web soon uncovered several 7X-type recipes, the most promising of which was adapted from the one in Pendergrast's book.Brandon and Rich acquired the ingredients (many of which were hard to get) and set up an "open lab" where, assisted by a few friends, they attempted to make a Coke-like substance, destroying four mixers in the process. Eventually, with the help of a hand whisk attached to a hammer drill, they succeeded, making something that sounds almost exactly like the Real Thing™:
The initial surprise is that it really does taste like Coke. Very slightly sweeter than "the real thing" but less acidic. A satisfying, complex flavour, subtly different from the brand leader, but easily as good.They are planning to sell concentrate kits to other small bars and businesses, allowing them to make their own right-on Coke substitute. They have also released their recipe (included in the article) under the GPL.
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