Coke’s recipe is one of the most closely guarded secrets in American commerce, steeped in cloak-and-dagger lore. After businessman Asa Griggs Candler bought out Pemberton–who also conjured up cough medicines and blood purifiers, among other things–in 1887 for $2,300, the exact recipe for 7X was placed in the vault in an Atlanta bank. It’s been reported that only two company employees are privy to its ingredients and how they’re mixed at any given time–and that those two aren’t allowed to travel together out of fear that a traveling accident might take both of their lives.
Pemberton had reportedly hit upon the formula for Coke in an attempt to overcome the addiction to morphine he contracted after the Civil War, so it’s perhaps not surprising that, in addition to alcohol, the drink originally contained Coca leaves laced with cocaine. After Atlanta passed a local prohibition ordinance in the 1890s, the company took the booze out of the formula, and the company has used cocaine-free coca leaves since 1904.