To this day, the Coca-Cola Company denies that their product ever had cocaine in it. You would assume that they would have to deny it for publicity reasons, but what if they were telling the truth? Looking back at history, in order for them to put cocaine inside of their drink, they would have to go through the process—in the 1800s—of crushing up the plant, mixing it with a basic substance, and then extracting the cocaine with a solvent, like gasoline, to make a paste. Then they would have to use an acid to extract the cocaine from the paste to yield the final product and add it to their drink.
It doesn’t make sense; cocaine itself doesn’t taste that good. Cocaine leaves make a tea that is worthy of drinking. Chewing them really doesn’t taste that bad either, kind of a pleasant herbal taste. But cocaine tends to be bitter and numbs your mouth. It doesn’t sound like something you would want to add your drink even if it’s addictive.
So, I was curious about another possibility: What if the Coca-Cola company is telling the truth and the rumor is also true. What if they did something which was far more reasonable in the old days, and they took coca leaves chop them up put them into an ordinary batch of Coca-Cola for flavoring and somehow the chemical constitution of Coca-Cola would incidentally extract the cocaine from the leaves?
From what I’ve already said, anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry can already see the problem: In order to extract the cocaine from the coca leaves, it has to be extracted in a basic environment. Coke is very acidic. So it stands to reason that if you crushed up coca leaves and put them in plain old Coca-Cola, the cocaine would probably not be extracted because it’s not a basic environment. Well, there’s only one way to find out.
I took a bottle of Coca-Cola and I crushed up a bunch of coca leaves and put them inside of the bottle. I drank about a quarter of the bottle and fill the rest of the leaves I swished it around a little bit inside of the bottle and turn the bottle at an angle inside of the refrigerator, to keep it cold but also to allow the leaves to macerate.
I waited for a couple of days until the leaves were thoroughly macerated and then, out of impatience and knowledge that there is no way in hell that I could bring this concoction out of the country with me, I opened up and began to sip it.
My first thought was: “hey, this tastes better than ordinary Coca-Cola!” And I say this as an American who was basically weaned on Coke. It was good. It had kind of a hard to explain extra sweetness. And he did have a slight tea taste to it as well. So because it tastes good and was a little bit sweeter I took another sip almost immediately. And then another and then after about four or five steps I realized what a great product that I had created and I had done it all right here in the privacy of my own hotel room and wasn’t this fascinating and oh my God this would be cool if I have more time to make a couple more of these and then I realized that I needed to stop taking sips off this bottle.
If you read the title, you are probably wondering: “But when does he make cocaine?” If you read this chapter of our story carefully, you are probably also wondering: “But what did he do while the Coke was sitting? Did he twiddle his thumbs and patiently pop sub-par decongestants? The answer to both of those questions comes in the third installment.