Wine and Cocaine (A History Lesson)

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The other day I had some guests over and I believe someone was sipping on a can of Coke. From there we discussed how vintage colas are trending again and from there went on to discuss the origin of Coca-Cola – ‘coca’ or cocaine leaves. I realized at that moment that I had no idea what a cocaine plant looked like, so I did what any inquisitive mind would do and conducted a quick search for ‘cocaine plant’. Suddenly, I am reading about cocaine and wine – something I had never realized existed…

Throughout history, mankind has always searched for a new fix, a great high, an escape from reality, so it really should not have been a surprise that these two substances were ever married together. As we all know (or perhaps have heard), each of these substances has their own type of high, but what I gathered from consequent research is that the combination of wine and cocaine actually created a different type of reaction, which was more potent than either of the two items if taken alone. The resulting beverage became extremely popular in the late 1800’s and into prohibition.

Back to the Wine & Cocaine Part

After doing some research, I discovered the following fun and interesting facts:

  • Vin Mariani – Created in 1863 by a chemist which consisted of Bordeaux wine and coca leaves, was the first mass-marketed coca product.
  • The beverage was marketed to intellectual, prominent, individuals of high social status.
  • The beverage was demanded by actors and actresses, royalty, popes, and great inventors, such as Thomas Edison (now we know why he was able to sleep for only 4 hours a night thereby creating the lightbulb).
  • The concoction consisted of ~7mg of coca per 1 oz. of wine…which also translates to 10% alcohol and 8.5% cocaine (today’s average alcohol content is ~10-14%; average coca drink: ??)
  • Pope Leo the XIII apparently loved the stuff, and not only carried it around in a flask on his hip, but also awarded Mariani with a VATICAN GOLD MEDAL
  • Coca-Cola began as a medicinal cocktail, consisting of cocaine-infused wine, which imitated Vin Mariani. The drink was called ‘Pemberton’s French Wine Coca’
  • Due to early prohibition adoption by some counties, the wine in ‘Pemberton’s French Wine Coca’was replaced with soda water, making it ‘Coca-Cola: the ‘temperance drink’ (note that the ‘coca’ part of the name remained)

So there’s a little history of wine that you may or may not have known about. I would have never guessed that wine played such a critical role in the creation of what is now arguably America’s most iconic drink: Coke. We’ve all heard about Coke at one time containing cocaine, but what happened to the wine? How did this very crucial element get lost in Coke’s historical story? Also, I wonder if the Vatican actually awarded any regular wine a gold medal, or was it just this one particular blend? Is mixing cocaine and wine sac-religious? I would think so. Sipping a good glass of Bordeaux is enough of a religious experience for me – why would you need anything more?

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