Yesterday was Coca-cola’s 126th birthday! Ranked as the most popular soft drink in the United States, Coca cola wasn’t the result of careful planning and experimentation, rather, it was invented by accident in 1886. Pharmacist John Pemberton was attempting to come up with a headache cure and general pain reliever by mixing coca leaves and cola nuts together. Pemberton embarked on this mission of mercy when he joined the Confederate army as a medical surgeon during the Civil War. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel with the Third Georgia Cavalry before he was severely wounded in the field. Due to the extreme pain, Pemberton became addicted to morphine.
After the war, Pemberton settled in Atlanta and immediately began trying to find a better pain reliever than the morphine that would eventually lead to his death and many others like him. As he was working with a special mix of coca leaves and cola nuts, his assistant accidentally mixed carbonated water into the concoction. The two men tasted it, liked it, and figured it could be as popular as ginger ale and root beer.
Pemberton sold the rights to Coca-Cola as he became more ill from the morphine. He died two years later at 57 and only a few months after the Coca Cola Corporation was founded.
And if you are wondering, yes, the coca-cola at the time did indeed contain traces of cocaine, but since cocaine is made from coca leaves and not naturally in them, you won’t find any cocaine in your can today.