Coca Cola Recipe Story Crashes Website Servers

This American Life" host Ira Glass conducts a taste test in a supermarket in New York City.
This American Life/Emily Condon
"This American Life" host Ira Glass conducts a taste test in a supermarket in New York City. This American Life/Emily Condon

NEW YORK -- Ira Glass didn't think  revealing Coke's secret recipe was going to be a big deal.

"I viewed this as a fun little story," said Glass, host of the public radio program "This American Life." "I was naive about how much attention this would get."

The story has gotten so big that it crashed the servers of the "This American Life" website, something that Glass says is difficult to do because they're used to seeing high traffic from hosting the most popular podcast on the web.

Sites from Latvia, Italy, and Argentina have picked up the piece, and he has fielded interview requests from across the globe. "When you and I are done," he said, "we're doing al Jazeera."

While researching another story last summer, Glass and his team came across a picture in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from February 18, 1979. It showed the formula for making Coke, which has been one of the most closely guarded secrets in the corporate food world for more than a century. 

Coke, 4x3
Above, a bottle of "Coke" made from the recipe in a 1979 newspaper article. In a blind taste test, 28 of 30 participants coulddifferentiate between this formula and Coke as its known today. CBS,Arden Farhi

"This American Life" mixed up a batch of Coke from the old formula, did a taste test, and put the recipe online along with the story over the weekend.

While Glass has heard from news organizations all over the world, he hasn't heard from Coke. "I hope that they're amused, but I have no idea what the reaction is," he said. "It's probably good for their business, and if that's so, I hope they will remember their local public radio station in the coming pledge drives."

Even with all of the attention he's gotten from revealing the formula, Glass points out that the myth behind the secret recipe may be more important than the recipe itself. "Although Coca-Cola says this is a super secret formula, what we're arguing is that the thing has been sitting in plain sight for 30 years in their own hometown paper," he said. "I think the people at Coca-Cola have always been really amazing salesmen. And they just knew this is a really funny, great bit of sales puffery and why not have fun with it?"

Because, after all, how important is the secret recipe to Coke in the grand scheme of things?

"I really think if the terrorists get their hands on this formula, America is still safe," Glass said. "I think we're going to be fine."