Wine and cokeA Brief History of Cocaine Wine and Coke

In 1863, an unknown chemist named Angelo Mariani from Corsica arrived in Paris. Coming from a long line of doctors and chemists, Mariani set up shop in a humble Parisian neighborhood and began to unlock the secrets of Erythroxylum cocacoca leaves from the Andes, then a legal drug.

A Brief History of Cocaine Wine and Coke

Three years later, at age 25, Mariani mastered the art of extracting cocaine and mixing it with wine. Delighted with the results of his experiments, he launched Vin Mariani two years later.

The Beginning of Vin Mariani (Cocaine Wine)

Together with Marie-Anne, his wife and apothecary assistant, Mariani invested in a barrel of Bordeaux and bought several kilos of Peruvian coca leaves of three different varieties. Then he rented a shop facing the opera house.

Singers, actors and writers enjoyed Mariani’s shop. Painter Louis Vallet creates prints and posters for the public eye. After Mariani’s domestic sales skyrocketed, he began exploring overseas markets.

Read more: The secret science behind alcohol-free wine

Mariani adapted his elixir for foreign sales and upgraded it from 6 grams to 7.2 grams per ounce. In 1880, Mariani discovered a successful New York and built a massive factory on the outskirts of Paris. The sprawling complex included two greenhouses, workshops, warehouses and a new home for Mariani.

Mariani’s name was already a household name. Among his followers are none other than Queen Victoria, Sarah Bernhardt, Emile Zola, Thomas Edison, Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain, President William McKinley, composer Charles Gounod and Robert Louis Stevensonwhose dark tale of Jekyll and Hyde was largely inspired by the author’s experience with coca wine.

Pope Leo XIII even awarded Mariani a gold medal and allowed him to freely use his image in advertising.

Vin Mariani to Coca-Cola

Once established, Vin Mariani imitators began to appear. One was named Colonel John Pemberton, a native of Georgia. Pemberton became addicted to morphine after sustaining injuries on the battlefield during the Civil War. In severe and persistent pain, he found relief in morphine.

Pemberton, a physician and chemist, mixed cocaine and wine to ease his addiction. In the process, he founded Pemberton’s French Coca Wine in 1885, an American clone of Vin Mariani.

After a year, Colonel Pemberton removed the wine from his recipe to comply with state laws and replaced it with sparkling water to introduce Coke, now one of the most popular soft drinks in the world. Each bottle of Colonel Pemberton’s popular drink contained 3.5 grams of cocaine until it was phased out in 1930.

Vin Mariani today

Shortly before the First World War, Angela Mariani died at the age of 76. After the death of the founder, Mariani’s son, Jacques, continued his father’s work until 1930, when many of his products flooded. Soon Elixir Mariani was the company’s only offering. In 1954, the company changed hands and sold Terpine Mariani, a cough medicine with 56 grams of cocaine per bottle, until it was discontinued in 1965.

Few traces of Mariani’s legacy remain, but coca wine (and other coca consumables) are sold in Latin America. Today, Bolivia’s coca industry offers cocaine-laced wine, such as Andante Vino de Coca, a clone of Vin Mariani, and a Coca-Cola rival that contains cocaine, Coca Colla, an energy drink, and a cure for altitude sickness.

Before becoming President of Bolivia, Evo Morales was the General Secretary of the Union of Coca Growers in Bolivia. As the nation’s first indigenous president, Morales announced, “I hope the new pope will resume the use of Vin Mariani.”

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