photos « Fergal Keenan

By: Fergal Keenan  05/12/2011

1. I would not stage or direct the photos in any way. Any physical contact would have to be initiated by the strangers.
2. I would accept any hospitality that was offered to me, whether food, drink, or otherwise.
3. I would give every participating stranger or group of strangers a personalised ‘Thank You’ card as a token of my appreciation.

On the 11th of February 2011, ‘‘ program broadcast an episode entitled ‘‘ in which host revealed on air the secret formula for . Glass’s source was a 1979 edition of the , a source that was later corroborated by historian who had himself published a version of the recipe in his 1993 book . Glass and his team then contracted the services of the Seattle-based and Californian extract specialists to make a batch: the results, after some tweaking, were remarkably similar to the beverage we know today. Having steadfastly maintained the secrecy of ‘Formula 7X’ since 1886 however, representatives for Coca-Cola, when contacted, declined to comment on the recipes authenticity.

Tasked with attempting an ‘impossible project’, I decided to make my own batch of Coca-Cola using Glass’s recipe, which I have reproduced below:

Formula 7X

  • 50ml of Alcohol
  • 4 drops Orange Oil
  • 6 drops of Lemon Oil
  • 2 pinches of Nutmeg
  • 1 pinch of Ground Coriander
  • 2 drops of Neroli Oil
  • 2 drops of Cinnamon Oil
  • 3 drams of Fluid Coca Extract
  • 18ml of Citric Acid
  • 5g of Caffeine
  • 240g of Sugar
  • 2l of Soda Water
  • 200ml of Lime Juice
  • 6 drops of Vanilla Extract
  • 500ml of Caramel

Note: Measurements have been converted to their metric equivalents; also, as the ‘This American Life’ recipe was to make 10 litres, I have reduced the measures proportionally to produce a more manageable 2 litres.

With the notable exception of coca extract (under UK law, coca and its derivatives are listed as Class A substances), the ingredients for 7X were reasonably easy to source. The primary document of the mixing process was a series of photographs which were then printed and compiled in a small scrapbook into which was also placed a small glass vial of the drink. A Flickr set showing both the process and the contents of the scrapbook is included below.

The resultant beverage, while not altogether unpleasant, has something of a harsh, medicinal flavour; it’s colour too, rather than the rich, dark brown we might be accustomed to, is more of a murky beige (interestingly Glass’s batch was more orange than brown, suggesting that Coca-Cola’s distinctive tint is likely the result of artificial colouring agents rather than its constituent ingredients).

Photography by Eszter Biró

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