Why Coca-Cola Was Originally Alcoholic

Coca-Cola may be loaded with sugar, but history tells us the iconic American soft drink could have been a lot more scandalous. Rewind to the 19th century, when pharmacist John Pemberton mixed a concoction of wine and coca extract (yes, the same plant used to make cocaine). According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pemberton — who'd fought in the Civil War as a Confederate — began experimenting with syrups and tonics in Atlanta, Georgia after the war ended. One of his mixtures contained not only coca, but wine, and Pemberton had hoped to market it as a medicinal drink.

He appropriately named it Pemberton's French Wine Coca, but the drink didn't last long. According to Vice, local prohibition laws went into effect, outlawing the alcohol in Pemberton's drink. (That said, the coca ingredient was completely legal.) He shifted to a non-alcoholic recipe, and in 1886, the Coca-Cola we know today was born (via Atlas Obscura).

Wine cola started in France

Pemberton's wine-infused drink wasn't exactly original. Enter Vin Mariani: a French wine created in the mid-1800s that contained coca that was adored even by historical bigshots like Ulysses S. Grant and Thomas Edison, according to Atlas Obscura. And, if you can believe it, this beverage was created by a chemist — Angelo Mariani of Corsica — who'd been reading up on the supposed benefits of coca (via Vinepair). Eventually, the heyday of Vin Mariani drew to a close as legislation tightened, per Mental Floss.

Still, decades later, the Coca-Cola company has made a return to the world of alcoholic beverages, launching a Topo Chico hard seltzer in 2021, according to the Wall Street Journal. According to Topo Chico itself, the beveraged contains 4.7% alcohol and comes in a slew of tropical-inspired flavors. It's a far cry from Coca-Cola's wine-infused ancestor, and we're definitely not craving a glass of coca-infused wine anytime soon.