Coca-Cola is not only the best-selling soft drink in the world, it is possibly the most recognized brand name.

From Drugstore to Taste Sensation

The story of Coca-Cola began in the 1880s with John Pemberton (1831-1888), an Atlanta, Georgia, pharmacist. Among the many tonics and elixirs he sold was a concoction called French Wine of Coca, a wine from the Bordeaux region of France that was laced with a small amount of cocaine, a byproduct of the coca plant native to South America. At that time, the addictive and harmful qualities of cocaine were not known and it was not illegal in the United States. The coca wine also contained caffeine from the kola nut, native to Africa.

In 1886, Atlanta banned the sale and consumption of alcohol, so Pemberton revised his formula, removing the wine and adding sugar to make a syrup. Since the sugar made the syrup extremely sweet, Pemberton added citric acid to counterbalance the sweetness. He also added various fruit oils to improve the taste. The resulting brew, called Coca-Cola, was advertised as a medicine that would cure all sorts of health problems and sold in drugstores throughout Atlanta.

That summer, a customer walked into Jacobs Pharmacy, a drugstore just down the street from Pemberton’s, and ordered the Coca-Cola syrup for a headache. He asked the pharmacist to mix it with soda water so he could drink it on the spot. When the customer remarked how good it tasted, a new carbonated soft drink was born. It was first sold at Jacobs Pharmacy in Atlanta for five cents a glass. In 1886, Coca-Cola sales averaged nine drinks per day. That year, Pemberton sold twenty-five gallons of Coca-Cola syrup, distributed in bright red wooden kegs. Red has been the color most associated with the soft drink ever since.


1886: Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton invents the Coca-Cola formula.
1891: Atlanta businessman Asa G. Chandler buys the company for $2,300.
1915: The distinctly shaped Coca-Cola bottle is introduced.
1919: Coca-Cola is sold to a group of investors for $25 million.
1923: Robert W. Woodruff becomes company president.
1927: The first Coca-Cola radio advertisement airs.
1929: Coca-Cola introduces “The pause that refreshes” slogan.
1940: Coke is bottled in more than forty countries.
1961: Sprite is introduced.
1963: Company introduces TAB diet cola.
1970: Coca-Cola launches “It’s the real thing” advertising slogan.
1981: Roberto C. Coizueta becomes CEO of Coca-Cola.
1982: Diet Coke is introduced.
1985: New Coke replaces original Coca-Cola formula; original formula returns after several months as Coca-Cola Classic.
1988: Coca-Cola opens a plant in the Soviet Union (now Russia).
1991: Cherry Coke is introduced.
2000: Doug Daft becomes CEO.
2001: Diet Lemon Coke is introduced.
2002: Company launches Vanilla Coke.
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