Sunday, May 8, 2016

Vin Mariani: The Foundation for Coca-Cola

In my recent post on the creation of Coca-Cola from my HistorySisco Tumblr page, which occurred on May 8, 1886, I was introduced to a concoction known as Vin Mariani. How does this drink fit in with Coca-Cola? Well, let me tell you how.

In the 1860's, chemist Angelo Mariani came up with a tonic that combined Bordeaux wine and coca leaves, naming it Vin Mariani. The post The history behind the wine from the Vin Mariani vineyard website describes what happened next:
Vin Mariani (French: Mariani's wine) was a tonic created circa 1863 by Angelo Mariani, a chemist who became intrigued with coca and its economic potential after reading Paolo Mantegazza’s paper on coca's effects. In 1863 Mariani started marketing a wine called Vin Mariani which was made from Bordeaux wine treated with coca leaves. The ethanol in the wine acted as a solvent and extracted the coca from the coca leaves, altering the drink’s effect. It originally contained 6 mg of coca per fluid ounce of wine, but Vin Mariani which was to be exported contained 7.2 mg per ounce in order to compete with the higher coca content of similar drinks in the United States.
When coca is administered on its own it yields two key active compounds, benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester. When combined with alcohol, as in Vin Mariani, the mixture forms a powerful psychoactive: cocaethylene (which is both more euphorigenic and has higher cardiovascular toxicity than coca by itself). 
 Pope Leo XIII purportedly carried a hipflask of Vin Mariani with him, and awarded a Vatican gold medal to Angelo Mariani. Vin Mariani was very popular in its day, even among royalty such as Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland. Pope Leo XIII and later Pope Saint Pius X were both Vin Mariani drinkers. Pope Leo awarded a Vatican gold medal to the wine, and also appeared on a poster endorsing it.
Following Mariani's success with his tonic, in comes John Pemberton of Atlanta, Georgia.

Pemberton was Lieutenant Colonel in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. He found that after he was injured in battle, he developed an addition to the morphine that was administered to ease battlefield injuries. Pemberton sought to find another way to ease the pain without having the morphine addiction.

Similar to the popular Vin Mariani, Pemberton created his own concoction with the name of  “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca.” The post John Stith Pemberton from the American Civil War Story website describes what made Pemberton's medicinal wine different from Mariani's:
At this time there was a hugely popular French medicinal drink called Vin Mariani. This drink was essentially a wine infused with the coca leaf (the source of cocaine). Pemberton eventually launched his own version of this medicinal wine, but his wine was infused with the kola nut (for caffeine) and damiana (reputedly a powerful aphrodisiac) in addition to the coca leaves. He called his drink, “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca.”
John Pemberton’s new drink became so popular in Atlanta that it was soon sold in almost all the drug stores in the city. This “French Wine Coca” was said to be an,“invigorator of the brain,” and Pemberton recommended it to aid in overcoming morphine addictions.
When asked to describe his popular drink, Pemberton said, “It is composed of an extract from the leaf of Peruvian Coca, the purest wine, and the Kola nut. It is the most excellent of all tonics, assisting digestion, imparting energy to the organs of respiration, and strengthening the muscular and nervous systems.”
Prohibition of alcohol in Atlanta went into effect in 1886, causing Pemberton to change his tonic. He eliminated the wine. In its place he added to the coca and kola a sugar syrup as the base. The final piece of the puzzle was the addition of carbonated water and voila: Coca-Cola was born.

You can still get the Vin Mariani tonic through the Vin Mariani Winery, which is based in Peru. You can visit their website here: Vin Mariani Winery.

So next time you hear someone order a Kalimotxo, or you order one yourself think back to Vin Mariani and Pemberton's French Wine Coca. What's a Kalimotxo? Very simple, its equal parts red wine and coca-cola. You really had to ask? ;)

Until Then Happy Drinking,