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What popular soft drink was invented in the United States in 1886?

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In 1886, an Atlanta pharmacist named John Stith Pemberton created the original formula for the iconic soft drink known as Coca-Cola. Born on January 8, 1831 in Knoxville, Georgia, Pemberton earned his medical degree at the young age of 19 from the Reform Medical College of Georgia in Macon. His journey led him to practice medicine and surgery, and later he opened his own drug store in Columbus, Georgia.

During the Civil War, Pemberton fought for the South and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war, he moved to Atlanta, where he began selling patent medicines and operated his own laboratory, the Pemberton Chemical Co. One of the products he sold was called “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca,” a drink made from wine and coca extract, prescribed as a cure for nervous disorders, headaches, and other ailments. Interestingly, this beverage was quite similar to Vin Mariani, an extremely popular coca-based drink developed in 1863 in Paris.

When Atlanta prohibited the sale of alcohol in 1885, Pemberton adjusted the formula and began selling only the coca syrup. It was during this time that he mixed a version of the syrup in a brass kettle in his backyard, which would later become the beloved Coca-Cola. This concoction contained extracts of cocaine and kola nuts (a rich source of caffeine), along with sugar for sweetening, replacing the wine. Pemberton took this creation to Jacob’s Pharmacy nearby for tasting, where it was mixed with carbonated water to create a soda. The drink was marketed as a “brain tonic” and positioned as an ideal temperance drink.

The name “Coca-Cola” was coined by Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, who also developed the distinctive script style that remains the company’s logo. Initially, interest in the tonic was relatively low. Although Pemberton had attracted investors and devoted some time to promoting the drink, he seemingly saw no real potential in the formula. When Atlanta repealed its Prohibition laws in 1887, he shifted his focus back to his original wine coca drink.

In 1888, Pemberton sold his rights to Coca-Cola for the sum of $1,750. Sadly, he passed away later that year on August 16. Through a series of transactions, another Atlanta pharmacist named Asa Griggs Candler gained ownership of the entire enterprise by 1891. Candler hired Robinson to direct advertising, and they began selling Coca-Cola in bottles while also providing syrup to independent bottling companies through licensing agreements. By the end of the decade, Coca-Cola had become one of the nation’s most popular fountain drinks, sold all over the United States and even in Canada.

During the company’s early years, the Coca-Cola formula underwent several alterations. Until 1905, it contained extracts of cocaine and the kola nut. However, Candler removed the cocaine and added citric acid and a variety of fruit flavors. Today, billions of people around the world enjoy Coca-Cola every day, making it one of the most recognizable and cherished soft drinks globally. John Pemberton is remembered not only for inventing this iconic beverage but also for his contributions to medical reform and chemistry. He served as a trustee of the former Emory University School of Medicine, participated in the first Georgia pharmacy licensing board, and his laboratory became the first state-run facility to conduct tests of soil and crop chemicals1234.

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The popular soft drink that was invented in the United States in 1886 is Coca-Cola.
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