Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Coca-Cola's roots in Bordeaux Wine

Did you know that the original Coca-Cola was once made with Bordeaux wine? The recipe for Coca-Cola was invented by John Pemberton in Columbus, Georgia in 1885 and he named it Pemberton's French Wine Cola (he also sold a cough syrup and a hair dye that are both now long forgotten)

Pemberton sold it as a medicine and made claims that it cured headaches, dyspepsia, impotence and neurasthenia and it's thought that he may have been trying to create a pain reliever for himself and other wounded Confederate veterans. Although the recipe is still secret French Wine Cola was made with wine mixed with coca, kola nut and damiana and Pemberton claimed that the drink would benefit "scientists, scholars, poets, divines, lawyers, physicians, and others devoted to extreme mental exertion."

French Wine Coca was essentially an imitation of Angelo Mariani's blend of Bordeaux wine and coca leaves called Vin Mariani, created in 1863. 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.

Vin Mariani was very popular in its day, even among royalty such as Queen Victoria, Popes Leo XIII and Saint Pius X (Pope Leo even awarded a Vatican Gold Medal to the wine and also appeared on a poster endorsing it). Thomas Edison also endorsed Vin Mariani, claiming it helped him stay awake for longer hours.

However with the introduction of prohibition in 1886, Pemberton had to make a non-alcoholic version of the popular drink so he substituted sugar syrup for the wine, changed the name to Coca-Cola, and advertised it as the ideal temperance drink . Vin Mariani disappeared into the history books . . .

Perhaps he would have been better just sticking to Bordeaux!

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