Pemberton's French Wine Coca

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Pemberton's French Wine Coca was a coca wine created by the druggist John Stith Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola. It was an alcoholic beverage, mixed with coca, kola nut and damiana. The original recipe contained the ingredient cocaethylene (cocaine mixed with alcohol), which was removed, just like the alcohol had before it, in 1899 because of a social stigma surrounding the rampant use of cocaine at the time.[1]

French Wine Coca was marketed mostly to upper class intellectuals, afflicted with diseases believed to have been brought on by urbanization and Atlanta's increasingly competitive business environment. In an 1885 interview with the Atlanta Journal, Pemberton claimed the drink would benefit "scientists, scholars, poets, divines, lawyers, physicians, and others devoted to extreme mental exertion."[2][3]


French wine coca is a combination of cocaethylene (a unique drug made by mixing cocaine and alcohol) and French wine.

In 1863, a Parisian chemist Angelo Mariani combined coca (short for cocaethylene) and wine and started selling it under the name "Vin Mariani". This became extremely popular. Jules Verne, Alexander Dumas, and Arthur Conan Doyle were among literary figures said to have used it, and the chief rabbi of France is quoted to have said, "Praise be to Mariani's wine!" [4]

Pope Leo XIII reportedly carried a flask of it regularly and gave Mariani a medal.[5]

Seeing this commercial success, Dr. John Stith Pemberton in Columbus,Georgia—himself a morphine addict following an injury in the Civil War—set out to make his own version. He called it Pemberton's French Wine Coca and marketed it as a panacea. Among many fantastic claims, he called it "a most wonderful invigorator of sexual organs."[6]

In 1885, when Atlanta and Fulton County enacted temperance legislation, Pemberton scrambled to develop a non-alcoholic version of his popular product. However, the new legislation did not affect the coca ingredient (coca), which remained in the formula until the end of the 19th century. The result was an early version of Coca-Cola, although the coca ingredient was the main active ingredient when the company was acquired by Asa Candler.

French Wine Coca was essentially an imitation of Angelo Mariani's blend of Bordeaux wine and coca, called Vin Mariani. Mariani's beverage achieved extraordinary success in the 1880s, inspiring a host of knock-offs, of which Pemberton's was merely one of the more successful. However, Vin Mariani lacked both damiana, a reputed cure for impotence, as well as kola nut, a source of caffeine - both of which were later included in Coca-Cola.

Despite Atlanta's Temperance legislation, production of French Wine Coca continued until Pemberton's death in 1888. Indeed, in 1887, French Wine Coca sold 720 bottles a day - far outstripping Coca-Cola.


Pemberton claimed astounding medicinal properties for his French Wine Coca, which was marketed as a patent medicine. The beverage was advertised as a cure for nerve trouble, dyspepsia, gastroparesis, mental and physical exhaustion, gastric irritability, wasting diseases, constipation, headache, neurasthenia and impotence.[7] It was also suggested as a cure for morphine addiction, which was increasingly common after the Civil War (Pemberton himself was addicted to the drug).


  1. ^ Hamblin, James (31 January 2013). "Why we took cocaine out of soda". The Atlantic. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  2. ^ "Pemberton's French Wine Coca (Coca-Cola) - Do You Drink Coke?". Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  3. ^ "Coca-Cola Television Advertisements:Dr. John S. Pemberton". Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  4. ^ Markel, Howard (2012). An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine. United States: First Vintage Books.
  5. ^ Haskins, Mike. Drugs - a user's guide.
  6. ^ Hamblin, James (31 January 2013). "Why we took cocaine out of soda". The Atlantic. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  7. ^ Pendergrast|, Mark (March 16, 2000). For God, Country and Coca-Cola. Basic Books. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-465-05468-8.