Secret formulas of America's favorite foods

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"I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you." Many have died in the pursuit of perfection. From secret weapons to classified documents, the progress of humanity is marked by whispers, threats and censoring black markers. The CIA once remarked that Hollywood's depiction of their advanced technology is, in actuality, ancient history.

The sea of what we don't know dwarfs the raindrop of what we do. We don't even know exactly what we put into our bodies! Companies brag about secret recipes that make their products so tasty, teasing our curiosity and whetting our appetites. In 1886, John Pemberton brewed the first secret batch of Coca-Cola in his backyard, and as a tribute to its mysterious formula, DoYouRemember looks back at famous products with confidential recipes, and exposes their possible classified ingredients.

READ MORE FROM DOYOUREMEMBER: America's Love Affair With Velveeta​

Coca-Cola
Inside Coca-Cola Amatil's Production Facilities
Photo: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg via Getty Images​

In the late 19th century, John Pemberton, a wounded Civil War veteran and morphine addict, searched desperately for an alternative to his dangerous and deadly opiate addiction, but to no avail. So he created a concoction to help himself, calling it Coca-Cola; a few years later he began selling it as a medicine, claiming it cured illnesses such as indigestion and impotence. The original recipe included trace amounts of cocaine, which gave the drinker a slight buzz.

Speculated Secret Ingredient: Vietnamese Cassia Oil

Famous Amos Cookies


In the '70s, Wally Amos, an agent with William Morris, would bake and send his special chocolate-chip cookies to celebrities to entice them to sign with his company. They became so popular that in 1975 he opened his first store, calling it Famous Amos.

Speculated Secret Ingredient: Cream of Tartar

Kentucky Fried Chicken's 11 Herbs and Spices
Well Cooked Poultry Safe Despite Bird Flu Fears
Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images

Colonel Harland Sanders began selling his fried chicken at a roadside restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky. In 1940, Sanders perfected his dish, which became known as his Original Recipe of 11 herbs and spices. A shrewd businessman as well as promoter, he recognized the potential of franchising, and in 1952 opened his first Kentucky Fried Chicken in Utah.

Speculated Secret Ingredient: Monosodium Glutamate

​READ MORE FROM DOYOUREMEMBER: The Pepsi Challenge​

Dr Pepper
Cans of Dr Pepper sit on a pantry shelf in New York, Tuesday
Photo: Stephen Hilger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Marketed in 1904 as a new kind of soda with 23 flavors, Dr Pepper was originally served in 1885, preceding the introduction of Coca-Cola by one year. The origin of its name is not entirely clear, but there are a number of theories. The most popular is that Wade Morrison, the drink's original distributor, was honoring his fiancée's father, Dr. Charles T. Pepper, after obtaining permission to marry his daughter.

Speculated Secret Ingredient: Amaretto

Twinkies
Twinkies Production Inside Hostess Brands LLC Facilities As The Snack Cake Returns To Shelves
Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

This snack cannot survive a nuclear attack. In fact, contrary to popular belief, they don't last forever—but they do last for a surprisingly long time (Twinkies currently have a shelf life of 45 days). In 1930, baker James Alexander Dewar conceived a snack cake with banana crème filling. During World War II, bananas were rationed, so the company switched to vanilla crème, which proved to be far more popular.

Speculated Secret Ingredient: Or lack thereof. Absolutely no dairy.

Big Mac Special Sauce
AUSTRALIA-FOOD-EBAY-MCDONALDS-OFFBEAT
Photo: SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions—on a sesame-seed bun. That was the slogan for McDonald's' Big Mac for years. Invented in 1967 by Jim Delligatti, it was first called the Aristocrat, then the Blue Ribbon Burger, but both names failed to catch on. Big Mac, conceived by a 21-year-old advertising secretary named Esther Rose who worked at McDonald's' headquarters, then became a winner.

Speculated Secret Ingredient: Mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish, yellow mustard, vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika. In 2012 McDonald's admitted that the special sauce ingredients weren't actually a secret, and have been available online for years.

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