Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Coca-Cola is a tricky one to make at home, but I thought there has to be an easier way then buying some really expensive essential oils (google neroli essential oil). So I dived in. To be honest, this was one of the most difficult experiments that I’ve done recently, but here it is. My own version of Coca-Cola. I named it Kevin Cola and used it to make a delicious Cuba Libre cocktail with it.
Soda pop drinks are usually made with essential oils and there are a lot of recipes out there on how to make it this way, but I wanted my method to be more mixology-oriented, but still approachable for homemade experiments. My recipe has more ingredients, but they are mostly easy to find. Otherwise, tweak my recipe and make your own version of Cocktail Time Cola.
Before we dive into my version of the cola, there are some videos replicating the original recipes from the late 1800s, including one from Pemberton’s own diary. The recipe used a special ingredient called Merchandise 7x, or simply the “Coca-Cola Flavor”, made with alcohol, and essential oils from orange, lemon, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, and neroli.
“Glen and Friends Cooking” made a great episode on it, so check that out if you want to learn more about the original recipe.
I’ll make the recipe without the “7x” and with a few other tweaks, making it totally unique. You can play around with most of the ingredients, to suit your taste, but one thing you’ll need to get the appearance right is caramel coloring. This doesn’t provide taste, but it’s there to give the iconic color of cola. I’ll make and use a lot of ingredients so I took the easy route with the coloring and got some from a Slovenian soda-making company. If you’re in the mood to make your own I recommend checking out “Art of Drink” on YouTube, he’s got highly detailed instructions on sodas, syrups, bitters, and other fun cocktail stuff.
Now, with shoutouts out of the way, get your sous vide ready and let’s make homemade Kevin Cola.
Kevin-Cola (homemade Coca-Cola)
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SYRUP:
● 300 mL (10 oz) water
● 180 g plain white sugar
● 90 g demerara sugar
● 60 g caramel sugar*
● 6 g caramel coloring
● 0.7 g grated lemon peels
● 0.7 g grated lime peels
● 1.8 g grated orange peels
● 2.3 g citric acid
● 0.6 g malic acid
● 0.6 g ceylon cinnamon
● 0.6 g nutmeg
● 0.45 g vanilla bean
● 0.75 g coriander seeds
● 4.5 g rosehip
● 0.12 g coffee bean
● 0.9 g kola nut
● 0.3 g makrut lime leaf
The sous vide will give us control of the temperature and the sealed bag will make sure nothing evaporates and all flavors infuse nicely for a delicious cola syrup.
We have a lot of ingredients here which I weighed in advance. You’ll find the whole recipe written out on kevinkos.com.
We’re not making an extra flavoring solution, but we’ll be adding all ingredients together, starting with 300 ml of water, 180 grams of plain white sugar, and 90 grams of demerara sugar. Follow that with another sweet component, 60 grams of caramel sugar. Here’s how you make that:
● 30 mL (1 oz) water
● 120g plain white sugar
In a pot mix 30 ml of water and 120 grams of sugar. Place on a medium heat until it boils and the sugar starts to caramelize.
Once it reaches 180°C, or 355°F, it’s time to take it off the heat and slowly and very carefully pour the hot caramel on a baking sheet. Spread it out evenly and leave to cool. Until then really try to be careful with hot sugar, because it will burn your skin. Once it’s cold, break it apart…
We have the water and sugars in, follow that with 6 g of the coloring agent - caramel coloring. This amount goes a long way. Just make sure to rinse out every last drop.
Next the citrus and sour components. Add 0.7 grams each of grated lemon and lime peels, and 1.8 grams of orange peels.
Follow that with our friends, citric and malic acids, 2.3 grams of citric and 0.6 gram of malic acid.
The next ingredients will first go into a mortar to be crushed, before going into the sous vide bag, ensuring a good extraction of flavors. Start with 0.6 gram of both nutmeg and ceylon cinnamon. Follow that with 0,45 g of a vanilla bean, cut opened lengthwise. Next, 0.75 g of coriander seeds and a whopping 4,5 grams of rosehip.
Moving on, the ingredients that will provide caffeine and bitterness, coffee bean and the kola nut. 0.12 gram, or a single coffee bean, and 0.9 gram of the nut that gave cola its name. Lastly, 0.3 gram of makrut lime leaves.
Now, be careful not to send everything flying, crush everything with a mortar and pestle. Really put some elbow grease into it and turn this almost into a paste. Once you’re happy with that transfer it into the sous vide bag. Vacuum seal the bag and place it in a sous vide bath, set to 80° C, or 175° F, for 1.5 hour.
Agitate the bag every so often, so the caramel sugar melts completely. Once that’s done it’s time to cut open the bag and filter the contents of the bag through a really fine strainer. You can pass it through several times, But I think we’re happy, so bottle the syrup, place it in the fridge to chill, then it’s ready to be used.
INGREDIENTS FOR 1 200 mL BOTTLE:
● 30 mL (1 oz) Kevin Cola Syrup
● 2 drops Saline solution (20% salt)
● top up with soda water
Next step is to bottle your very own Cola - for each bottle I use 30 ml, or 1 oz of the cola syrup. Then add 2 drops of saline solution - this will nicely enhance the citrus elements and tone down the bitterness. Lastly, add highly-carbonated water. The colder you can have this water, the better it is for the final product - we really don’t want a flat soda. Final step is to place a crown on top and seal it firmly - the rubber on the inside will help with that. Turn the sealed bottle to make sure everything is nicely mixed.
And now, let's make the Cuba Libre!
● 3 lime wedges
● 60 mL (2 oz) Havana 7y
● 120 mL (4 oz) Kevin-Cola
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To make it easier for you to try these recipes you can grab the bottles from my collection at CURIADA