What Are The Alleged 23 Different Flavors In Dr Pepper?

With the news that Dr Pepper has moved into the number two spot behind Coke as the second most popular soft drink in America, pushing Pepsi into third place, the age-old question has once again piqued our curiosity — what are those 23 different flavors in Dr Pepper? The mystery persists because the brand has never revealed its exact formula, keeping the recipe a closely guarded secret since the beverage was created in 1885.

What we do know for certain are the basic ingredients; the drink is made with carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (a preservative), and caffeine. But what about those natural and artificial flavors? The FDA allows companies to shield these precise ingredients in order to protect proprietary secrets, so what makes up those specific 23 flavors in Dr Pepper is really anyone's guess.

And guess we have. People have been trying to determine what comprises Dr Pepper's unique sweet and spicy flavor for over a century. From amateur soda pop sleuths to professional food and drink experts, theories abound. One common online list alleges that the 23 flavors are almond, amaretto, blackberry, black licorice, caramel, carrot, cherry, clove, cola, ginger, juniper, lemon, molasses, nutmeg, orange, pepper, plum, prune, raspberry, root beer, rum, tomato, and vanilla. A slightly different version circulating the internet nixes some of those in favor of allspice, anise, apricot, birch, cardamon, coriander, prickly ash, and sarsaparilla.

Dr Pepper doesn't contain prune juice and it's not a cola

Despite being the oldest of the big-name sodas (Coca-Cola wasn't invented until a year later in 1886), Dr Pepper has managed to keep the details of its 23 flavors under wraps all this time. And yet, it's dropped a few clues over the years. While it tastes similar to Coke, or rather, Cherry Coke with a pepper kick, we can confirm that Dr Pepper is not a cola. In order to be considered as such, a drink needs to include cola nut as an ingredient, and cola nut is not one of the 23 flavors. Likewise, the drink is also not a root beer.

There's one more purported ingredient that we can cross off the list. In an admission from Dr Pepper, the brand revealed that its flavor "is a blend of many fruit and flavor extracts. However, prune juice is not one of those fruits." The prune rumor is believed to have originated from a joke once made by comedian Bob Hope while in Waco, Texas, the drink's birthplace, and home to the Dr Pepper Museum. 

Stemming back in the 1930s, the beverage was once thought of as a tonic that could cure constipation, thanks in part to the belief that it contained prune juice, as well as its early advertising as a healing medicinal — now debunked as one of the myths about soda that deserve to get busted.

Other soda pops inspired by Dr Pepper's swicy flavor

From one of its most well-known 1970s-era slogans that begged the question, "Wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?" to its current, "There's just more to it" campaign, the company has always put its marketing focus on the drink's peppery flourish. With its sweet and spicy 'swicy' flavor profile, the unique mix of its unknown ingredients has kept it ahead of the curve. In fact, it's a combo that's often been imitated.

First, there was Mr. Pibb, a Coca-Cola product that was essentially a spiced cherry Dr Pepper knock-off, later rebranded as Pibb Xtra, with the extra being the addition of more cinnamon. Then came Pepsi Fire, another cinnamon-flavored cola that was sold in Asian countries from 2004 to 2005, and then brought briefly to North America in 2017 before it was discontinued. More recently, Coca-Cola added a new spiced flavor to its permanent lineup, Coca-Cola Spiced, which blends raspberry and undisclosed spicy flavors.

In another unique flavor mashup, the viral pickles and Dr Pepper drink trend has taken social media by storm. Increasingly popular at Sonic drive-thrus across the South, you can try this latest culinary fad by simply ordering your soda plus pickles. While the idea might not sound appealing at first, it's not so strange when you consider other sweet and sour combinations that work, like sour candy, dirty martinis, or adding pickle juice to margaritas.