What are you drinking, SOFT or HARD – is it Coke, Cocaine or Alcohol?

Eastern Crescent
Eastern Crescent 32 Min Read 162 Views

What are you drinking, SOFT or HARD – is it Coke, Cocaine or Alcohol?

In fact, Mark says that cocaine figures in a big way in the creation of Coca Cola. Before he invented Coke, John Pemberton had a hit with another drink called French Wine Coca. It’s ingredients were wine, cocaine and caffeine.

By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi

The contention of this piece of writing is – if the famous soft drink Coca Cola an alcoholic drink? Is it okay for Muslims to drink something which contains alcohol and cocaine in its component? We will try to bring our findings home but let me put a handy brief before we start with our main theme.

Genesis of Coke

What are you drinking, SOFT or HARD – is it Coke, Cocaine or Alcohol?
Before you have a drink, please consider your health

Going by the details available at the official Coca Cola website and online free Encyclopedia Wikipedia, Coca Cola is a carbonated soft drink sold in stores, restaurants, and vending machines in more than 200 countries. It is produced by the Coca Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia and is often referred to simply as Coke, a registered trademark of the Coca Cola Company in the United States of America (USA) since March 27, 1944. Originally intended as a patent medicine when it was invented in the late 19th century by John Pemberton, Coca Cola was bought out by businessman Asa Griggs Candler, whose marketing tactics led Coke to its dominance of the world soft drink market throughout the 20th century.

On May 8, 1886, a pharmacist named Dr. John Pemberton carried a jug of Coca Cola syrup to Jacobs’ Pharmacy in downtown Atlanta, where it was mixed with carbonated water and sold for five cents a glass. From there 125 years ago, this Company has evolved from one product – Coca Cola – to more than 500 brands in 2011. The Company’s public profile rightly claims “We’ve grown from selling a modest 9 drinks a day in 1886 to 1.7 billion a day. And we’ve expanded from one city (Atlanta) in one country (USA) to availability in more than 200 countries around the world.”

The prototype Coca Cola recipe was originally formulated at the Eagle Drug and Chemical Company, a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia, by Pemberton, as a Coca Wine called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. He may have been inspired by the formidable success of Vin Mariani, a European Coca Wine.

In 1886, when Atlanta and Fulton County passed prohibition legislation against wine and put age restriction, Pemberton responded by developing Coca Cola, claiming for a non-alcoholic version of French Wine Coca.

Controversies around Coke

The Coca Cola Company, its subsidiaries and products have been subject to sustained criticism by both consumer groups and watchdogs since the mid 20th century. Allegations against the company are varied and criticism has been based around; possible health effects of Coca Cola products, questionable labour practices, including allegations of involvement with paramilitary organisations in suppression of trade unions, the company’s poor environmental record, perception of the companies engagement in monopolistic business practices, questionable marketing strategies and violations of intellectual property rights.

What are you drinking, SOFT or HARD – is it Coke, Cocaine or Alcohol?
Are You Drinking Alcohol?

Perception of the company as behaving unethically has led to the formation of pressure groups such as “Killer Coke”, boycotts of Coca Cola and related products and lawsuits in almost all countries the Company has businesses.

Numerous court cases have been filed against the Coca Cola Company since the 1940s alleging that the acidity of the drink is dangerous. In some of these cases, evidence has been presented showing Coca Cola is more harmful than comparable soft drinks or acidic fruit juices. According to experts frequent exposure of teeth to acidic drinks increases the risk of tooth damage through dental erosion. But the Company has been successfully able to tackle all the odds – Heaven knows the strength behind! 

The Arab League bans Coke

In 1949, two years after creation of Israel, Coca Cola attempted to open a plant in Israel but the move was taken back with massive Arab opposition. Eager to avoid the Arab League boycott and sell to the much larger Arab market, Coca Cola was content not to sell in Israel. The issue arose again on April 1, 1966 when Moshe Bronstein, a Tel Aviv businessman, accused Coca Cola of boycotting Israel to appease its Arab market. The Anti-Defamation League took up this cause in the United States, and questions were raised about Coca Cola’s previous explanation for not operating in Israel. Pressure on Coca Cola grew from American power houses, Coca Cola promised to open a bottling plant in Tel Aviv.

In response to that, the Arab League had boycotted Coca Cola in the entire Arabian Peninsula from August 1968 as part of the economic boycott of Israel. Later in May 1991 with Senior Bush led USA government’s pressure, the Boycott of Israel Office, an affiliate of the Arab League lifted its boycott order on Coca Cola and three other US businesses, even though the companies have heavy dealings with Israel.

Along with McDonald’s, Coca Cola has become an international symbol of American culture, and especially of American consumerism. While the company still enjoys widespread popularity, some backlash has occurred, mostly in the form of boycotts in the Middle East from time to time. One such instance in 2000 saw a claim that the Coca Cola label, created in 1886, actually contained hidden anti-Islamic phrases in its mirror image in Arabic. The Coca Cola Company claimed sales dropped 10 to 15 percent in Egypt alone after the ‘rumor’ began spreading. The controversy became so widespread that the Grand Mufti of Egypt has to intervene publicly declaring that the logo “does not injure Islam or Muslims.”

What are you drinking, SOFT or HARD – is it Coke, Cocaine or Alcohol?

Though the Arab League has lifted the ban on Coca Cola in 1991 for reasons unknown to many, yet the Saddam Hussain led Iraq was not to be cowed down. Iraq did not come in terms and continued with the ban. Coca Cola along with so many others companies including those dealing with international oil business entered Iraq only following the invasion of Iraq by the USA after the second gulf war led by junior Bush. The Coke entered Iraq in 2005 only. But today it is the only popular soft drink in all 22 Arab League member countries.    

India was first to question about coke’s secret formula

Coca Cola was India’s unquestionable leading soft drink until 1977 when it had to leave India following a government ordered that the Company should reveal its secret formula M7X as required by the Foreign Currency Regulation Act (FCRA). Instead the Coke turned over the order and preferred to protect its secret formula and even abandoned its huge market in India. Later in 1993, the Coca Cola along with Pepsi Co returned after the introduction of India’s so called Liberalization Policy without declaring their secret formation formula to anyone. 

Coca Cola Go Back

Till date, across the world and especially in India, there exists widespread concern over how Coca Cola is produced. In particular, it is feared that the water used to produce Coke may contain unhealthy levels of pesticides and other harmful chemicals. It has also been alleged that due to the amount of water required to produce Coca Cola, aquifers are drying up and forcing farmers to relocate.

In 2003, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a non-governmental organization (NGO) in New Delhi, said aerated waters produced by soft drinks manufacturers in India, including multinational giants Pepsi Co and Coca Cola, contained toxins including lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos — pesticides that can contribute to cancer and a breakdown of the immune system. Tested products included Coke, Pepsi, and several other soft drinks such as 7Up, Mirinda, Fanta, Thums Up, Limca, Sprite etc., many produced by the Coca Cola Company alone.

According to media reports Coca Cola’s operations in India have come under intense scrutiny as many communities are experiencing severe water shortages as well as contaminated groundwater and soil that some asserts are a result of Coca Cola’s bottling operations. A massive movement has emerged across India to hold the Coca Cola Company accountable for its actions. The state of Kerala imposed a ban of colas from the state only to be quashed by Coca Cola; the matter is still pending in the Supreme Court.


The Coca Cola plant in Kerala was closed in March 2004 following a high court order and protests by Plachimada residents whose wells and ponds went dry. Over extraction of groundwater by the beverage company, Hindustan Coca Cola Beverage Private Limited, had caused severe environmental and soil degradation. The bottling plant’s effluents contaminated water in Perumatty and Pattanchery gram panchayats of Plachimada, leading to skin ailments, breathing problems and debility.

The Bill passed recently by the Kerala Assembly for the establishment of special tribunal to “make the polluter pay” and recover compensation for the people affected by the activities of Coca Cola’s controversial bottling unit at Plachimada in Palakkad district. “The Plachimada Coca Cola Victims Relief and Compensation Claims Special Tribunal Bill, 2011”, proposed by the Left Democratic Front government was passed on February 24, 2011 the last day of the last session of the 12th Assembly. The Bill was reaffirmed by the United Democratic Front government in April 2011 and the plant is closed till date.

In Sivaganga District of Tamil Nadu state there were several protests and rallies opposing the proposed Coca Cola bottling plant in fear of water depletion and contamination. The president of the Gangaikondan panchayat, Mr. V. Kamson died under mysterious circumstances two days after going back and forth in his resentment against the upcoming Coca Cola bottling plant in the village. When asked about the conflicting statements, he said: “I am under immense pressure from the public, police and other quarters. So I have issued this statement.” Reportedly five other Indian states have announced partial bans on the drinks in schools, colleges and hospitals.

Coke’s secret formula is out

The giant soft drink Coca Cola Company was able to safeguard its secret formula for last 125 years. It is now time for the consumers to know what actually they are drinking or offering their loved kids in guise of a soft drink which sales itself under the tag “teaching the world to sing”.

The remarkable revelation is part of undercover reportage by a small media house – ‘This American Life’ the radio house was hitherto unknown to the world out of America. Their sting on the Coke’s secret M7X brought them to the limelight. It is obvious that the sting operation done by the radio station – This American Life, is part of its own business benefits. Nevertheless, it brought out in public a very heavily guarded secret for last one and a quarter century.

The revelation was done by a radio broadcaster, thus we would prefer to put here the abstract of the original script from their own web site www.thisamericanlife.org. The story was partly reported by major print media across the world but shockingly it was blacked out by the electronic media – reason they might know well.

What the M7X secret is?   

Secret Formulas?


The This American Life radio anchor Ira Glass begins with:

“Hey there, everybody! So I’m not going to beat around the bush. For this week’s radio program, we think we may have found the original recipe for Coca Cola. And I am not kidding. One of the most famously guarded trade secrets on the planet, I have it right here, and I’m going to read it to you. I’m going to read it to the world. And I’m going to make my case for why I think it’s real, despite whatever Coca Cola might say.

“Probably the best story about how protective Coca Cola is of its secret formula comes from this book that was written by Charles Howard Candler. His Dad –  Asa, did not invent Coca Cola, but founded the Coca Cola Company back in 1892.

And Charles, the son, wrote this. “One of the proudest moments of my life came when my father initiated me into the mysteries of the secret flavoring formula, inducting me into the holy of holies.” Charles then says, “Incredibly there was no written formula and the labels had been removed from all the containers of the ingredients.” So they were, quote, “identified only by sight, smell, and remembering where each was put on the shelf. And I thereupon experienced the thrill of making up, with his guidance, a batch of merchandise 7x.”  Merchandise 7x (M7X) is the cartoonishly super secret, cloak and dagger name they give the flavoring mixture in Coca Cola.

Charles’ dad – Asa, was so paranoid about anybody else getting hold of the secret formula for 7x that, even though he was president of Coca Cola, he would go through the company mail himself and remove the invoices for any ingredients that had been purchased, so that nobody in the accounting department could read what ingredients had been bought for the product. “I learned all this from a history of Coca Cola, a book written by investigative journalist and historian Mark Pendergrast”, claims Ira Glass.

Mark Pendergrast is quoted as had written: The Company has always said, and as far as I know it’s true, that only two people at any given time know how to actually mix the 7x flavoring ingredients. And that these people never travel on the same airplane in case it crashes. It’s this carefully passed on secret ritual. And that the formula is kept in a bank vault at Sun Trust, which used to be the Georgia Trust Company.

Ira Glass puts her reason: In this particular Coke commercial, I guess the premise is that each of the two guys only knows half the formula. It’s just one of several commercials that have come out recently that poke fun at the myth of the super secret formula, while at the same time bolstering and selling that myth.

“Coke even has this thrill ride at its museum in Atlanta, The World of Coca Cola, where you follow two characters who are trying to unlock the secret formula for Coca Cola. So with all this money, all this energy, all these millions of dollars spent over the years to convince us of just how impossibly, importantly, iconically secret the formula to Coca Cola is, it was, a surprise when we stumbled across an article in Coke’s hometown paper, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, February 18, 1979. Not on the front page, but buried. One of their columnists, Charles Saulter, without any fanfare at all, published what looks like the original recipe for Coca Cola.

He found it in a pharmacist’s old book of recipes. All the recipes, including the one for Coca Cola, are written by hand. Most of them are for various ointments and remedies.

And if that seems like a strange and random place to find this kind of thing, well, Coca Cola was invented by a pharmacist, and it was originally sold at pharmacy soda fountains. The article says that the book passed from one pharmacist to another until it fell into the hands of one Everett Beal, who owned a drug store in Griffin, Georgia, 40 miles from Atlanta. He is mainly identified in the story as a fishing buddy of the columnist.

The radio script goes on: And you wanted to know how Everett got this book? Well Evans was a good friend of Pemberton.

OK, let’s just explain who these guys are. The Pemberton that she’s talking about is John Pemberton, the guy who invented Coca Cola in Atlanta back in 1886. Like I said, he was a pharmacist. But he was also a maker of patent medicines. He made something called Globe Flower Cough Syrup.

This book of recipes, Judy, the Everett’s wife, says, “Originally belonged to Evans”. She says ‘his name is all over the book’. Apparently after his friend Pemberton invented Coke, Evans copied down the formula in this book, calling it Cocoa Cola. And after Evans had died, the book started its travels.

Evans gave it to RM Mitchell from Griffin, Georgia. And then Mitchell’s widow was a friend of my (Judy) husband and told him, after he (Evans) passed way, to come over and get any books he wanted to out of the library. So Everett picked out the book.

Judy says: It’s 133 years old (book). It’s just leather bound. And I wear gloves – the last time I looked at it.

Ira Glass goes on: Everett was so intrigued by the Coke recipe that he spent the last year of his life while he struggled with cancer researching and writing his own book, a history of the inventor of Coca Cola, that’s still unpublished.

What are you drinking, SOFT or HARD – is it Coke, Cocaine or Alcohol?

Interestingly, just like the characters in Lord of the Rings when they get a hold of the ring, once Everett had the secret formula, like the people at Coca Cola, he started to get protective.

Ira Glass says: We sent a copy of that photo – recipe got from Everett’s wife Judy – where you can see the recipe for Coca Cola to that historian of Coca Cola, the guy who wrote that book – Mark Pendergrast and asked Mark, could this be real?

Mark Pendergrast replies:  Yeah. I think that it certainly is a version of the formula. And it’s very, very similar to the formula that I found that I talked about and printed in the back of my book.

Ira Glass elaborates: This was an amazing discovery. In Mark’s book he tells the story of looking through Coca Cola’s archives and being shown the yellowing pages of an old notebook that belonged to the inventor of Coca Cola – John Pemberton.

And Mark Pendergrast says: In fact, it was quite clear that it was a formula book from at least after he’d invented Coca Cola, because it mentioned Coca Cola. In this formula book there was a piece of paper that had a big X on the top of it. And as I looked at it, I thought, I saw this flavoring ingredient. It had neroli. It had coriander. I thought, my God. This is a Coca Cola formula. I couldn’t believe it. 

Ira Glass asks: And did the company confirm that that’s what this was?

Mark Pendergrast says: Of course not. The company denies that that’s what it was. 

New York Times May 2, 1993, the year Mark’s book was published; Coca Cola calls the recipe in his book, “The latest in a long line of previous unsuccessful attempts to reveal a 107 year old mystery.”

But here’s where things get interesting. When you compare these two recipes, the one that Mark found in John Pemberton’s own notebook, stored deep inside Coca Cola’s very own archives, and the one from the 1979 newspaper clipping found 40 miles away in Griffin, Georgia with Judy – Everett’s wife. The two together reveal the entire secret.

—the recipe in the newspaper fills in things that the one in the Coke archive leaves blank. The recipe from Coke’s archive just lists numbers next to each ingredient. The recipe that was found in Coke’s archive is just labeled X. The newspaper one says clearly, this recipe is Cocoa Cola.

Ira Glass speaks on: I got into this wondering if it might be possible that this super secret recipe had been hiding in plain sight in an old newspaper clipping for decades. But once I learned that it actually matched this recipe in Coke’s own archives, written by the creator of Coke, it was hard not to get very excited. These last two weeks I’ve been carrying around a printout of the recipe everywhere I go, this one that I have right here with me in the studio today. And I’ve been telling everybody I see, I think I may have found the secret formula for Coke. And then I just watch them freak out.

“So now, right here on the radio, I will read you the (secret Coke) formula. You have heard the facts. You can draw your own conclusions as to what this is”.

Then Ira Glass stops and asks her visitor in the radio studio: Is it legal for us to even talk about this on the radio? Is Coke going to sue us both?

What are you drinking, SOFT or HARD – is it Coke, Cocaine or Alcohol?
Secret Coke Formula is Out

The participant in the radio telecast – Mark Pendergrast replies: No, I don’t think they will. Because if they sued anything pertaining to the formula, then they would have to then produce the formula in order to say that what you were doing was an infringement on their formula. And they will never do that.

“Great. Here we go. The 7x formula is just one element in these two recipes. It’s made from (1) 20 drops of orange oil, (2) 30 of lemon oil, (3) 10 of nutmeg oil, (4) 5 of coriander oil, (5) 10 of neroli oil – neroli’s a kind of orangey flavor, (6) 10 of cinnamon oil, (7) and 8 ounces of ALCOHOL.

“The other ingredients, 3 ounces citric acid, 1 ounce caffeine, 2 and a 1/2 gallons of water. The recipe calls that aqua. 2 pints of lime juice, an ounce of vanilla, 1 and 1/2 ounces of caramel coloring. And then we arrive at the two most controversial ingredients in Coca Cola – 30 pounds of sugar and at the very top of the page, first ingredient, FE coca, which stands for fluid extract of coca. That’ll be the flavor of the coca leaf, which includes a small amount of COCAINE.

The Book Uncovers Secret Formula

In fact, Mark says that cocaine figures in a big way in the creation of Coca Cola. Before he invented Coke, John Pemberton had a hit with another drink called French Wine Coca. It’s ingredients were wine, cocaine, and caffeine.

Then, in 1885, Atlanta voted for prohibition, and Pemberton realized that he was going to have to get rid of the wine in his bestselling drink. So he kept the two other ingredients, the cocaine and the caffeine. People loved those. But when you mix cocaine and caffeine together, they’re bitter. So he pours in a ton of sugar to cut the bitterness and voila, Coca Cola. Pemberton called it his temperance drink.

So there’s all this circumstantial evidence pointing to this recipe being the original recipe for Coca Cola. Or at any rate, this is one of the original recipes.

Islam and Alcoholism

The glorious Qur’an says:  O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination, – of Satan´s handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper. (Surah 5, Verse 90)

Satan´s plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain? (Surah5, Verse 91)

The Prophet of Islam Mohammad (saws) clarifies: Jabir (ra) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (saws) said; “Whatever intoxicates in a greater quantity is also unlawful in its smaller quantity.” (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah)

Furthermore, the Prophet (saws) said, “Alcohol is the mother of all vices” (Tabrani).

Satan is the eternal enemy of humanity

In the Islamic Sharia let alone consuming alcohol, meat of swine or Interest even indirectly helping such business is strictly prohibited.

We industriously leave the rest on the wisdom of the learned readers, especially on Muslims across the world to take their own decisions. Do they want to live and nurture their children with alcohol and cocaine? We, of course, do not want an uncalled for hue and cry but for any Muslim, we think, this is an indistinguishable issue and your magazine Eastern Crescent is just doing what you expect from it do.                                                           

[This article was first published in the March 2012 issue of Eastern Crescent (print edition) as Cover Story. Later a translated version of the same was published by a few Urdu daily newspapers of India. We are reproducing it here in the Digital Edition of EC for our global online readership. – – – EC Editor]

To read urdu version of this article, please click the below link

آپ کیا پی رہے ہیں سافٹ مشروب یا ہارڈ مشروب؟   یہ کیا ہے :کوک، کوکین یا الکحل؟

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