Pepsi wasn’t always Pepsi: why it was originally called ‘Brad’s Drink’

Such was the etymological evolution of this fizzy drink that has become a pop icon.

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Pepsi‘s effervescent legacy spans 125 years of history. An evolutionary upward trajectory in which it instantly became an international cult drink. However, its beginnings were marked by a totally different context to what we might all expect: the pharmaceutical one.

From the very beginning, this product was used to alleviate stomach discomfort. According to Pepsi’s website, back in 1898, the pharmacist Caleb D. Bradham was looking for a name that would better describe his formula, which he sold in his pharmacy in North Carolina under the name ‘Brad’s Drink’. He bought the name ‘Pep Kola’ from a local competitor and changed it to ‘Pepsi-Cola’ in 1902. But let’s expand on this brief history.

The etymological origin

Pepsi‘s name actually derives from ‘dyspepsia‘, which means indigestion. The drink was supposed to soothe those ailments, as the LA Times explained in 2017. That is, it was represented by a holistic name for a product that aided digestion made from a mixture of kola nuts, sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, nutmeg and other additives – although this was really just an urban legend, as Pepsi has never had pepsin in it.

In fact, its slogans in 1903 focused on the digestive powers of the pharmaceutical concoction with an all-enveloping symbology of words: ‘Stimulating, invigorating, aiding digestion’, which were subsequently challenged by both the pharmaceutical industry and the masses.