Much has been made over the years of the ‘secret formulas,’ closely guarded by Coca Cola and Pepsi, that give their respective cola drinks a distinctive taste. With the advent of the Wiki phenomenon everything, including these ‘secrets’ opencola.jpghave come under attack. Smart people have figured out how to duplicate almost everything in a do-it-yourself fashion and have added to and improved these ‘open’ recipes. I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few disgruntled Coke or Pepsi employees were even in on the act since it’s anonymous. Anyone can refine the recipe.
Here is a recipe for OpenCola, a cola you can make yourself that supposedly tastes like a Coca Cola.
Take a look at the ingredients:

All ingredients listed are in metric units.

  • 3.50 ml orange oil
  • 1.00 ml lemon oil
  • 1.00 ml nutmeg oil
  • 1.25 ml cassia oil
  • 0.25 ml coriander oil
  • 0.25 ml neroli oil
  • 2.75 ml lime oil
  • 0.25 ml lavender oil
  • 10.0 g gum arabic
  • 3.00 ml water


  • 2.00 tsp (10 ml) flavoring
  • 3.50 tsp (17.5 ml) 75% phosphoric acid or citric acid
  • 2.28 l water
  • 2.36 kg granulated white sugar
  • 0.50 tsp (2.5 ml) caffeine (optional. use caution)
  • 30.0 ml caramel color

Take note of the amount of sugar required. If you convert from metric units it calculates out that you use a little over a 5 lb bag of sugar to mix into a little over 2 quarts of water.
Granted, when all this is put together it makes not the actual soft drink, but the syrup used to mix with the carbonated water to make the full drink. But if you read the full recipe, you’ll see that you mix one part syrup with five part carbonated water. Which means that the total volume of OpenCola made with this recipe ends up being about equivalent to six 6-packs of soft drink.
Which also means that when you down fully sweetened soft drinks, you down a lot of sugar. Having brought up three boys, all of whom had friends swarming all over the house at all times, I can tell you that teenagers can go through a lot of soft drinks. I’ve always known intellectually that soft drinks contain a lot of sugar, but for some reason, it took going through this recipe to really imprint on me just how much sugar they do contain. And in the case of commercially-made soft drinks, it’s high-fructose corn syrup, which is even worse.
To paraphrase Willie Nelson, Mamma, don’t let your babies grow up to be Coke drinkers.
(Hat tip:


  1. And aren’t teenage boys and young adult males the highest per capita soft drink consumers? Seems to me I read that somewhere.
    Hi Anna–
    They absolutely are!

  2. The variety of oils in the flavoring sounds surprisingly ‘non-issue’ and delicious. It’s the “concentrate” that makes it unhealthy (unhealthful?). Use Splenda, erithritol, and AceK and I’m OK with it.
    As a Mom of 2, I have to say that I’m amazed at how fat those “swarming friends” are these days. They are positively obese at age 11. At every turn, they want the sugar…will sneak around and steal it… but I don’t have any (oops! Too bad). Nobody likes coming over to our house. My kids, unfortunately, are the pariah to the sugar-seeking addicts, and in a way suffer the consequences.
    Somehow though, the sugar arrives in the form of teacher treats, neighbor treats, Memorial Day parade treats, holiday treats, etc.
    Can’t stand it. It is everywhere.
    Hi Karen–
    I’m sure that many moms wouldn’t have a problem bringing home six 6-packs for a group of kids hanging out at the house; most moms probably wouldn’t give it a moment’s thought.  But if you told these same moms to instead just open a 5-pound bag of sugar, pour it into a plate, and tell the kids to ‘come and get it,’ most would feel that such a thing would be intrinsically unhealthful and wouldn’t do it.  Yet the soft drinks are merely sugar in disguise.  They seem so harmless.  They’re anything but, especially now that they’re made with HFCS.

  3. Funny, the last weeks a went reading in detail the labels of a lot of beverages and found the results quite interesting and really surprising. All values I will give are in metric units (fortunately it is required in Europe to give labels that are based on a standard unit of measurement that can be compared accross all brands).
    Cola was not among the worst offenders and contains quite a moderate amount of carbs (relativly speeking). Juices are really bad. Here my list (from memory)
    Coca-Cola/Pepsi-Cola : 10.5 g/100ml
    Lemonades (Orangina, Fanta, Geyer et al)
    : around 10 g/ml
    Ice-Tea : ~7 g/100ml
    Apple juice : ~7 g/100ml
    Pineapple juice : 10 to 12 g/100ml
    Orange juice : 12 to 14 g/100ml
    Grape juice white : 16 g/100ml
    Grape juice red : 18 g/100ml
    I thought I had the top score with red grape juice but I found in the grocery store in Luxemburg imported English products (there are quite a lot Englishmen in Luxemburg) and found a drink called Barley water that contained a whopping 23 grams of carbohydrate for 100ml.
    Hi gallier2–
    Thanks for the list.  For those unfamiliar with the metric system, 100 ml = about 3 1/2 ounces.

  4. Wikihow is a hoot! I’ve got a customized home page set up from and one of my favorite RSS links is from with such funny things like:
    How to walk like a model
    How to whistle using grass
    How to care for a donkey
    Calculate your age by chocolate

  5. You know, it’s sad. 7-up is touting their new, better tasting formula. The thing I discovered, however, is that they ended using Splenda and are back to using aspartame! I’m so disappointed; no more diet 7-up for me!
    Btw, my aunt has a neighbor who is diabetic. She said Splenda causes muscle cramps or pain, or something like that. I couldn’t argue the point, since I was unsure. Thoughts?
    Hi Michael–
    I’ve never heard of Splenda causing muscle cramps or pain, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  It could be what’s called an idiosyncratic reaction.  Or it could be a potassium deficiency.  Often when people drop their carbs – as they do if they switch to Splenda – they have a diuresis and get rid of a lot of potassium in their urine.  A low potassium can certainly cause cramps and muscle pains.  Maybe you should suggest that this person try it again with a potassium supplement this time.

  6. I mixed up pineapple and orange juice, it’s the other way round
    orange juice : between 9 and 12 g/100ml and
    pineapple juice: around 12 g/100ml
    The new and improved list. 

  7. I’m more concerned about the caffeine, which at least this version leaves out, than the sugar, which is only “bad for you” in extremis. Caffeine is more physically addictive than cocaine…which is why, as you probably know as a doctor, a concentrated version of the latter is used as a “safe” topical anaesthetic. We’d probably have been better off if putting trace amounts of that in Coke had remained legal, instead.
    Of course the whole thing seems a waste of time, since Pepsi tastes so much better than Coke in the first place.
    Caffeine is certainly more dangerous than sugar in the short run at equivalent doses.  But we don’t take them in equivalent doses.  A shot of espresso contains about 80-100 mg of caffeine, which is less than one fiftieth of the dose of sugar contained in one level teaspoon.  If one adds a couple of teaspoons to the espresso, the sugar content is 100 times that of the caffeine.
    As to the taste difference between Coke and Pepsi…it’s obviously an individual thing.  Back during the days of the famous Pepsi challenge – the one that drove Coca Cola into coming out with its own HFCS version called New Coke – I took the test at least 20 times (this was before I had had my low-carb brain transplant) and chose Coke each time.

  8. You might be interested in this research reported in yesterday’s London Independent.
    “A new health scare erupted over soft drinks last night amid evidence they may cause serious cell damage. Research from a British university suggests a common preservative found in drinks such as Fanta and Pepsi Max has the ability to switch off vital parts of DNA.
    The problem – more usually associated with ageing and alcohol abuse – can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.”
    Hi Rachel–
    Simon commented on this a day or two ago and I put it up on the in-the-news section of our website.  I need to pull the actual research to see what it’s all about.  I have a tendency never to fully believe these things as reported in the press.  But there are so many health benefits to avoiding soft drinks that any news that drives people away from them is valuable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *