Records show that Coca-Cola was invented in 1886 in Columbus, Georgia, by former Confederate Colonel John Pemberton, who intended to create an opium-free medicine in an effort to kick a morphine addiction. However, a distillery south of Valencia, Spain, has long claimed that the world-famous soda was actually invented there.
In a recent interview with Spanish daily El País, the distillery’s 79-year-old owner, Juan Juan Micó, reiterated the longstanding claim that the recipe for what was originally dubbed “Kola-Coca” is locked away in a safe at the still-operating Destilerías Ayelo in the municipality of Aielo de Malferit. Nobody has any actual proof that Coca-Cola has roots in Aielo, but locals are so confident in the story that village officials have penned a letter to the Coca-Cola Company seeking permission to publicly explain further.
“Everything points to this being the case,” the town’s mayor, José Luis Pinter, told El País. “Our aim is to get Coca-Cola to acknowledge the project so that the town will get recognition. We’re not seeking anything more than that.”
According to the Spanish newspaper, the key ingredients in Kola-Coca and the original Coca-Cola were identical — coca leaves and kola nuts — but Kola-Coca used fresh water, which Coca-Cola subbed with fizzy water. In 1885, five years after the distillery opened, it’s reported that sales representative Bautista Aparici traveled to Philadelphia with a suitcase of samples including Kola-Coca Superior Syrup. There’s no clear trail from Aparici’s visit to Pemberton’s home in Georgia, but coincidentally or not, the Civil War veteran introduced his soft drink to the world just one year later.
According to a 2014 report from ABC News, Coca-Cola officials purchased rights to the name from the Spanish distillery for a modest fee in 1953 while preparing to bring their product to market in Spain, and while Coca-Cola became one of the world’s most recognizable brands, Destilerías Ayelo labored in relative obscurity. “We want to keep the tradition alive, so it doesn't get lost forever,” Micó told ABC News at the time. “But we can no longer invest in it.”
Kola-Coca was eventually discontinued, but the Destilerías Ayelo still produces an alcoholic version of the drink called Kola Nut Liqueur. The Daily Meal has reached out to Coca-Cola for comment. For trivia on the multi-billion-dollar brand that actually just launched an alcoholic drink of its own, take a sip of these 20 things you didn’t know about Coca-Cola.