Saturday, April 13, 2013

How to make Cola Syrup

Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility. – Robin Morgan 

This is my result. I used some of my soda mother and rum. Homemade rum 'n coke!

Our Prime Minister could take a lesson from that statement... Or does. He seems to like to keep all the information to himself.

But speaking of lessons, here’s something that may very well put your weekend rum and cokes on the neighbourhood map. And it’s not very difficult to pull off. Make your own homemade cola syrup. It’s tasty.

This could also be used with the homemade soda I posted two days ago to make your own soda!

Quite a concoction of different botanicals and soices.
Cola was invented in the mid-1800 by a US Civil War veteran from Atlanta, John Pemberton. He came back from war addicted to morphine and his cola recipe was a way to try to cure himself of his addiction. His recipe had cocaine in it. It was called “coca cola.”

That’s one way to cure an addiction, I suppose. Swap it out for another. It was originally sold by Mr. Pemberton at his pharmacy as a medicine. By 1888, three versions of cola were being marketed by three different companies. 

Mr. Pemberton’s company, and his recipe, was subsequently turned into what is now the Coca-Cola company. 

The actual formulation is—as you can well imagine—a closely guarded secret. Supposedly two people know the exact recipe at any one time and they are not allowed to fly in the same airplane. (I have suspicion that is a charming story but nothing more.)

A radio program “This American Life” came across a 1979 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that talked about the history of coca-cola and had a photo of Pemberton’s handwritten recipe. 

It received little attention at the time, but this may have very well been a photo of the recipe that Pemberton used – and maybe the source of the recipe used today by Coca-Cola.

If you would like to read more and see the picture look here: 

Regardless, homemade cola syrup is a wonderful thing. It has hints of vanilla, with spice, citrus and floral accents. I bet you didn’t know that cola was so complex!

Everything is pretty easy to find except for the lavender flowers, which do make a significant contribution. I know of three sources locally in Halifax: the Seaport Farmers Market, Pete’s Frootique, and Planet Organic.

The demerara sugar is important as it imparts the dark color and some molasses flavours. Buy just the amount you need at the Bulk Barn. It’s good in coffee, too. Everything in the recipe is there for a reason. It seems strange, but it works.

After straining.
Homemade Cola Syrup*
4 cups spring water
zest of 3 large navel oranges
zest of 4 large limes
zest of 2 large lemons
1” stick of cinnamon bark
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 Star Anise (whole)
1 tsp dried lavender flowers
2” piece fresh ginger, sliced thinly
3” piece vanilla bean
2 cups demerara sugar

Bring all the syrup ingredients together to a boil in a pot. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Let the mixture sit for one hour and then strain. 

Chill the resulting syrup and combine it 1part syrup to 4 parts soda water.

This really tastes like a cola. It might not be “the real thing” cola but it’s more than acceptable!

People WILL ask you what their rum and coke is mixed with, and then ask for the recipe!

*Recipe adapted from Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, New York (published online at


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