Ink Sauce Contents

The Coca-Cola Experiment

When I was on my homemade-foods kick, I started to get annoyed that I’d developed a taste for Coca-Cola. Not because it rots your teeth, or even because all my caffeine tolerance had mysteriously vanished a few months earlier, but because I couldn’t make it at home. So I searched around on the Web to find out what Coke is made of. This turned out to be the heart of ongoing controversies, but I won’t go into that here. The important bit is that there are webpages that tell you what the original recipe probably was, including the original flavors and their proportions.

What’s immediately interesting is that the cola nut was never a flavoring agent. It was used because it’s a well-known (at least in areas where it grows) source of caffeine. That was good to know, because I didn’t want the caffeine anyway, so that ingredient could be discarded. I was more concerned with the flavor itself: if I could come up with a comparable flavor at home, maybe I could get myself to stop buying the stuff.

So I went looking for essential oils for these flavors. I didn’t realize until I got to the store and was staring at prices that the total for six tiny vials of essential oils would be about eighty dollars. I didn’t think one experiment was worth that much. I thought of looking for bottled flavor syrups, but some of these flavors (nutmeg, coriander) are kind of unusual.

Then it occurred to me that an alcoholic version could be a big hit at parties. Maybe I could find liqueurs for these flavors. Well, cinnamon, lemon, and sweet and bitter orange liqueurs were no problem. Apparently there is a nutmeg liqueur out there (La Grenade), but I couldn’t find a store that carried it. Admittedly, I didn’t look very hard. Considering that my trip to the liquor store cost me about eighty bucks, I might as well have sprung for the essential oils.

But I didn’t, so now it was time to come up with a party drink. This would require mixing tiny, measured amounts of liqueur with a much larger amount of some base. The base that happened to be available was ginger ale. When I tried to pour tiny amounts, however, it became clear that some of these liquor bottles aren’t designed for pouring tiny amounts. I leave it to the reader to speculate on what this says about the liquor industry. (“Drink up! There are sober people in Africa!”) I managed to approximate the target proportions, eventually, but with much more liqueur than I originally intended.

It’s important when preparing any food or drink to consider its appearance. In the store, it seemed perfectly reasonable that Goldschläger, a lemon liqueur, Blue Curaçao, and a lime tonic would make a nice greenish-gold with sparkly flecks when mixed together. Evidently they really mean it when they call it Blue Curaçao; what I got was a slimy greenish-blue. The ginger ale helped not in the least.

Well, if it tastes good, maybe people won’t mind the color, I thought. Maybe I can serve it at Halloween. No such luck. The flavor was dominated by the cinnamon of the Goldschläger, and the mix of fruit flavors was the perfectly wrong complement for that. Ginger ale might still have been a good base, if the rest had been palatable. I downed as much as I could, and poured the rest down the sink. Ugh.

I still think this could work, if the right combination of flavors could be found. Anyone who feels the urge is welcome to use the idea.