It’s not the third gunman on the grassy knoll, but this week’s dispute over a yellowed ledger with a formula marked “D Pepper Pepsin Bitters” may leave us with a mystery that can, sadly, only be resolved by opening a vault that’s likely to remain shut.
Both the Oklahoma man that found the ledger and his auction house claim that the recipe represents an early variation of Dr Pepper. The document dates back to around 1880 to 1890 they said (Dr Pepper debuted in 1885), and came from the pharmacy where Dr Pepper was first served.
Despite that evidence, The Dr Pepper Snapple Group says it isn’t the recipe for its flagship beverage.“Heck, it isn’t even a recipe for a soft drink,” the company said in a statement Monday.
But that didn’t quiet the auction house.
“Dr Pepper Snapple Group never claims that the ledger book from The Corner Drug Store in Waco… isn’t the original formula,” said Greg Rohan, president of the Heritage Auction Galleries, “just that it’s not the current one.”
It’s worth noting that the ledger lists 13 ingredients, while Dr Pepper famously includes 23 flavors.
Of course, the only way to clear up whether or not this “bitters” recipe has anything to do with Dr Pepper would be to gain access to the current formula. According to DPSG, that isn’t going to happen.
“Dr Pepper’s 23-flavor blend is safely under lock and key in an undisclosed location,” the company said. “The room is under 24-hour video surveillance and only one person in the world has access to this room. Only three members of the Dr Pepper family know the formula, and they aren’t talking.”