Dear Mr. Dowd:
I noticed your soft drink section and thought I'd pose a question. Does Coke make a kosher version with sugar instead of corn syrup for Passover?
-- John D., Albany, NY
Yes, the Coca-Cola company has been making a kosher version of its soft drink since about 1935, thanks to the late Rabbi Tobias Geffen who was dean of the Southern Jewish Orthodoxy. You can get the whole story from the American Jewish Historical Society here.
Since Geffen was often asked which foods and beverages were kosher, particularly at Passover, he began compiling his own list. Since Atlanta-based Coke is a true Southern beverage, he checked with the manufacturing giant and found out its No. 1 seller was not kosher. Perhaps you'd have a new market if it were, he suggested.
Although the recipe for Coke is a closely-held secret, the company did share it with the rabbi on condition he keep it a secret. He did so, but noticed two problem areas. Coke contains glycerin, unkosher because it is made from beef tallow, and trace amouints of alcohol that come from the grain products used to sweeten Coke. Anything derived from grain is not kosher. The sweetner for kosher Coke is now made from vegetable glycerin.
Now, as to finding kosher Coke, you're on your own. Check around, though, since it is supposed to be available nationally.
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