Classic. Like 80’s Coca Cola.

Any history of Coca-Cola must begin with Dr. John Stith Pemberton. Although Pemberton is best known for his invention of the most popular soft drink on Earth, Coca-Cola, he had already had a distinguished career before creating the drink in May of 1886.

It was an aging Pemberton who created Coca-Cola in his laboratory in May of 1886. He already had a product serving as a nerve tonic, stimulant and headache remedy he had put on the market and was sold by most of the druggists in Atlanta: Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. The drink was inspired by the popular French concoction, Vin Mariana.

In 1886, however, alcohol became illegal in Atlanta and Pemberton was forced to remove the wine from his recipe. Reworking the formula, he kept the coca but sweetened the drink with sugar instead of wine. His friend and bookkeeper Frank Robinson suggested that he name the product Coca-Cola based on two of its ingredients. Coca leaves as well as the caffeine rich Kola nut.

The first store to sell Coca-Cola was Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta. Unlike today Coca-Cola was not originally sold in bottles but was purely a fountain drink. In that first year of production Pemberton made only $50, yet he had spent over $70 in production and marketing.

It was at Jacob’s Pharmacy that another important Coca-Cola milestone was made. In those days Coca-Cola was sold as syrup, the customer would add the water himself. However one day a customer asked that the man behind the counter add the water for him. The tap was at the opposite end of the counter and the clerk asked the customer if he could add soda water instead of still water. The customer agreed, drank the drink and determined it tasted better than normal. Carbonated Coca-Cola had been born.

Pemberton pressed on and the business became more profitable. However his health was failing and Pemberton was not that interested in Coca-Cola to begin with. When the brief prohibition ended in Atlanta in 1887 he once again returned to his French Wine Coca, although he kept the Coca-Cola Corporation in production.

Pemberton died in 1888, only two years after his invention had been created. He had passed on the business to fellow pharmacist Asa Griggs Candler, a northerner who had come to Atlanta during Reconstruction. Also joining Candler in the business was Pemberton’s friend Frank Robinson, who had come up with the name for Coca-Cola and also wrote the signature script of the Coca-Cola logo.



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