Soft drinks group AG Barr this week bowed to pressure from regulatory authorities and agreed to remove two colourings from its flagship Irn-Bru drink. In addition to a recall over taste complaints, reports have suggested owner Robin Barr, one of only two people who know the closely guarded secret ingredients to Irn-Bru, may no longer be mixing the essences since stepping down as chairman last year. Here we look at five other closely guarded recipes across the drinks world.

  • The Coca-Cola Co has kept the formula for Coca-Cola as a trade secret known only to a few employees, mostly executives, it is believed. The drink was originally invented by the druggist John Pemberton in 1885 and has since become popular worldwide. Published competitors say it contains sugar, caramel colour, caffeine, phosphoric acid, coca leaf, kola nut extract, lime extract, flavouring mixture, vanilla and glycerin. However, the “Coca-Cola Formula” as it is known, remains a closely guarded secret.
  • Dr Pepper was first nationally marketed in the US in 1904. It was created in the 1880s by Charles Alderton of Waco, Texas, and first served around 1885. The drink is made from a secret combination of 23 different ingredients and the exact combination is only made known to three senior employees of the firm at any one time. A battered notebook discovered in a Texan antiques store last year was thought to have finally solved the mystery. The yellowing pad suggested the distinctive drink, named in the pad as “D Peppers Pepsin Bitter”, was originally concocted from a mixture containing mandrake root and a large quantity of syrup. However, after further research it was said the recipe bore little resemblance to the real Dr Pepper recipe.
  • The popular herbal alcohol Benedictine is believed to be the oldest French liqueur to have survived to this day in an unchanged form. Invented in 1510 by Dom Bernardo Vincelli, the drink remains one of the most preciously guarded drink recipes in France. A trade secret, the recipe is supposedly known to only three people in the world. Based on brandy or Cognac, the liquor’s aroma is said to be the result of 27 plants and spices, which are the drink’s main ingredients. The beverage has been produced exclusively by the Alexandre le Grand family since 1863.
  • Angostura bitters is a concentrated bitter made of water, alcohol, gentian root, and vegetable flavouring extracts. It is probably one of the most well-known brand of bitters. Angostura bitters became famous when they began being marketed to the Royal Navy as a cure for seasickness in 1824 by Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert. Upon discovering this cure, he formed the ‘House of Angostura’ company in Trinidad and Tobago, which retains the recipe for the bitters as a secret to this day. Angostura is 44.7% alcohol by volume.
  • Diageo’s Pimm’s brand is most common in the UK, particularly Southern England. It is one of the two staple drinks at Wimbledon, the Henley Royal Regatta, and the Glyndebourne opera festival, the other being Champagne. A ‘Pimm’s Cup’ is also the standard cocktail at British and American polo matches. It was first produced in 1823, by James Pimm, a farmer’s son from Kent who became the owner of an oyster bar in London, near the Bank of England. Pimm offered the tonic, (a gin-based drink containing quinine and a secret mixture of herbs) as an aid to digestion, serving it in a small tankard known as a “No. 1 Cup”, hence its subsequent name. Pimm’s began large-scale production in 1851 to keep up with sales to other bars. The exact formula of the drink however, is only made known to the “top” six people at Pimms.

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