Flashback Friday: The Golden Age of Cocaine Wine

Each Friday, we’ll be republishing an article from the High Times archives. This week, we’re bringing you an article by John Groff, revealed within the August/September, 1975 concern.

Three centuries after the European discovery of coca leaves, their superb properties have been nonetheless usually unknown. Then, in 1859, Paola Mantegazza, an eminent Italian neurologist, revealed “On the Hygienic and Medicinal Coca Virtues of Coca.” This monograph extolled the virtues of coca within the follow of drugs and impressed widespread curiosity in coca leaves.

By the mid-1860s, Europe and America have been deluged with cocaine preparations, and an ideal social experiment of freely skilled cocaine was beneath means. By the 1890s coca was having fun with an outstanding reputation, obtainable all over the place in an astonishing selection of varieties: tonics, elixirs, wines, liquors, lozenges, teas, cheroots, and extra. The main figures of the Victorian age — docs, scientists, churchmen, outstanding politicians, artists, singers, composers, even kings and queens — loved coca and publicly endorsed it with enthusiasm. Surely coca was a serious stimulant of gaiety within the Gay Nineties.

The man behind this phenomenon was Angelo Mariani, a Parisian pharmacist whose spécialité was an beautiful coca wine referred to as Vin Mariani a la Coca du Perou. Born in 1839 in Corsica, from an extended line of physicians and chemists, younger Angelo was learning pharmacy in Paris simply because the coca fad started. As a scholar Mariani dreamed of sometime creating an excellent spécialité. Destiny positioned in his arms a small brochure on coca. He plunged into experiments mixing coca with alcohol and ultimately got here up with a “tonic” combination of effective Bordeaux pink wine liberally laced with an extract of rigorously chosen coca leaves.

Around this time Dr. Charles Fauvel, a famous throat specialist, befriended Mariani. Nearly all of Fauvel’s sufferers have been opera stars, the Nineties’ equal of at present’s rock stars. Fauvel was satisfied that coca wine had a soothing, tensing impact on the vocal cords, and someday despatched a rasping vocalist to Mariani.

“It is excellent,” stated the star after sipping a pattern. “You will send me a dozen bottles.”

The opera star’s order pressured Mariani to start manufacturing. With Fauvel’s suggestion, his coca elixir was quickly the fashion amongst opera stars. So Mariani opened a small apothecary store, the place he bought nothing however his specialty, coca wine in seventeen-ounce (half-liter) bottles. According to Dr. W. Golden Mortimer, grasp historian of coca, Vin Mariani was the primary and solely coca preparation to precisely reproduce the style and results of the recent coca leaves of Peru. Dr. Mortimer devoted his historical past of coca use to Mariani, “A Recognized Exponent of the ‘Divine Plant’ and the first to render coca available to the world.”

To Dr. Mortimer, Mariani’s refreshment was a miracle. In his phrases, “the wonderful qualities of Coca remained locked as a scientific mystery unsolvable by the multitude until it was finally released from its enchanted spell as through some magic touch of a modern Merlin.”

Mariani, in Coca and Its Therapeutic Applications, wrote, “Vin Mariani incorporates the soluble elements of the Coca plant. The mixture of Coca, with the tannin and slight traces of iron which this wine naturally accommodates, is pronounced probably the most efficacious of tonics.

“The recent Coca leaves that we make use of, after cautious choice, come from three totally different sources and are of incomparable high quality. It is that this that provides to our wine that particular style and agreeable aroma which renders it so acceptable to the sick.

“It is likewise to the mixture and getting ready of these three varieties of Coca leaf in our wine that we will attribute this essential reality: throughout greater than thirty years, regardless of in how giant doses taken, Vin Mariani has by no means produced cocainism, nor another disagreeable results.

“Vin Mariani is a diffusible tonic, the action of which is immediate. This action, instead of being localized on a single organ, the stomach, spreads to the whole system. Taken into the circulation, it awakens in its course the retarded functions of every organ, and this is owing to the presence in our preparation of the volatile principles of the plant.”

With magic in each bottle of his wine and his personal charismatic character, Mariani quickly discovered himself surrounded by a large constellation of stars and influential individuals from nearly each sector of society.

Mariani’s wine flowed within the veins of royalty and anarchy, affected person and physician, genius and common, popes and rabbis, atheists and mystics, Decadent artists and performers of each persuasion and perversion.

Paris within the Nineties witnessed the flourishings of the electrical mild, les Décadents, impressionist and symbolist poetry, and medicines. The Decadents, as they unabashedly favored to name themselves, shaped an esthetic subculture of a number of thousand artists and intellectuals, many of them fashionable musicians and performers. Describing the group in Dreamers of Decadence, Phillipe Jullian compares their peculiar look and use of ether and morphine to the life-style of as we speak’s “hippies.” Sarah Bernhardt was with out query probably the most immortal of the Decadents, and Vin Mariani wine permeated her circle as a lot because the Decadent philosophy.

But Vin Mariani was praised by devoted Decadents and vociferous anti-Decadents alike. By the 1890s, Mariani’s wine had overflowed the cup of arts and letters into the world of politics and energy. It was a decade of agonizing political turbulence. Phillipe Jullian writes: “The Church was losing many of its faithful … the bourgeoisie, terrified by the Commune, was finding it impossible to recapture the sense of security it had known in the middle of the century; while high society felt ashamed of having enjoyed itself too much under the Second Empire…. As the century drew toward its close, a feeling of uneasiness became apparent in every class of society…. There was a fear of the end of civilization, a sort of millennium whose destructive forces would no longer be the angels of the Apocalypse, but either Socialism or the Machine, or the Yellow Peril.”

Engravings from Les Figures Contemporaines, from the Collection of the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library

To survive, Parisian politicos relaxed with Vin Mariani. Amid the worry and loathing of the last decade got here the infamous Dreyfus Affair, the Watergate of 1894. Notable figures on each side of the case have been Vin Mariani imbibers, together with Anatole France, Émile Zola, Manuel Prévost and Henri Rochefort.

When Mariani died the newspapers listed promoting improvements as his most essential contribution to historical past. Yet his important method happened totally accidentally when he started to obtain quite a few spontaneous endorsements from outstanding personalities of the day.

In 1895, the publication of the primary quantity of Les Figures Contemporaines despatched shock waves via the promoting world. Thirteen good-looking editions of Vin Mariani endorsements have been printed on the best paper and included a gently etched portrait of every notable, along with a brief biography and a few private expression of gratitude to Mariani—a poem, a sketch, a couple of stanzas of musical composition, a bit of prose. These endorsements have been by no means paid or bargained for in any method.

Strangely sufficient, Vin Mariani was so properly established by then that it wanted no endorsements, since Mariani didn’t care to woo a bigger mass market. The nice pharmacist refused to increase operations past the bounds of his private supervision. In fact, the wine earned its status solely by itself deserves — persistently top quality, dependable effectiveness and an immediately recognizable sensation on the tongue.

Vet Mariani was barraged with so many endorsements that he needed to restrict their inclusion in his album. Naturally sufficient, Mariani’s tonic was additionally drunk and lauded by main spiritual leaders. Dr. Mortimer remarks that Pope Leo XII maintained his ascetic retirement with a never-empty vial of Vin Mariani strung from his neck. Pius X, a number of cardinals and prelates of different faiths, and even the Grand Rabbi of France are included amongst Les Figures Contemporaines. “A modern prayer. We no longer say ‘Hail Mary,’ we say ‘Hail Mariani’,” wrote playwright Émile Fabre in his personal endorsement.

In their flip, European royalty joined within the reward. The kings of Spain, Greece, Serbia, Sweden and Norway, the Prince of Morocco and the Shah of Persia all drank coca wine and endorsed it. Queen Victoria requested for and acquired an entire set of Les Figures Contemporaines, which she cherished.

Meanwhile, stateside, Vin Mariani simply discovered its strategy to the Oval Office. President McKinley’s private secretary, John A. Porter, despatched Mariani a thank-you word “on the President’s behalf.” The sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty, Frederic- Auguste Bartholdi, beloved Mariani’s wine too.

Perhaps much more astounding to some Americans, Thomas Edison additionally endorsed Vin Mariani. Edison virtually went to South America as soon as, however missed the boat in New Orleans. Who is aware of what the inventor of movement footage and the phonograph may need gotten into had he made that boat?

Here are however a number of of the accolades provided to Mariani and his wine.

Thomas Alva Edison: “Monsieur Mariani, I take pleasure in sending you one of my photographs for publication in your Album. Yours very truly.”

Sarah Bernhardt (actress): “I have been delighted to find Vin Mariani in all the large cities of the United States, and it has, as always, largely helped to give me that strength so necessary in the performance of the arduous duties which I have imposed upon myself.”

Émile Bergerat (poet, dramatist): ‘‘One glass of Coca Wine for an article, and two glasses for an aquarelle—that’s my dosage. But the actual genius is on the backside of the bottle.”

Lillian Russel (actress): “I have found Vin Mariani a pleasant stimulating tonic; and I constantly recommend it to my fellow artists.”

Alexandre Dumas fils: “Mariani, your sweet flasks delight my mouth.”

Jules Verne: “Since a single bottle of Mariani’s extraordinary coca wine guarantees a lifetime of a hundred years, I shall be obliged to live until the year 2700! Well, I have no objections! Yours very gratefully.”

H.G. Wells drew two little cartoons of himself, earlier than (slouching and depressed) and after (radiant and elated) consuming Mariani’s wine.

Sully-Prudhomme (poet, thinker): “You rejuvenate faces by at least a quarter of a century.”

Edmond Rostand (playwright, writer of Cyrano de Bergerac): “I always keep a flask on my work table.”

Camille Flammarion (founder of the French Society of Astronomers): “Solar rays in bottles.”

Anatole France: “It is true that Mariani’s coca wine … spreads a subtle fire through the organism.”

Charles Gounod (composer of symphonies and operas): “To my good friend Mariani, beneficial revealer of this admirable coca wine from Peru, which has so often restored my strength.”

Louis Bleriot (the primary aviator to fly the English Channel, in 1909): “I took the precaution of bringing a small flask of Mariani wine along with me, and it was a great help. Its energetic action sustained me during the crossing of the Channel.”

Despite the widespread reputation Vin Mariani loved in its day and the hundreds of well-known individuals who endorsed its use, the high-quality wine is completely forgotten right now. Among the opposite coca-drinking lights of the fin-de-siècle interval have been playwrights Henrik Ibsen, and Victorien Sardou, actress Lillian Russell, opera stars Augusta Holmes and Enrico Caruso, artists Auguste Rodin and Felicien Rops, composer Camille Saint-Saens, and William Butler Yeats’s peripatetic lover, Maud Gonne.

How did Mariani reside with this unimaginable success? What did he do with all the cash? Always the gourmand and fond of throwing giant dinner events, Mariani entertained a salon of notables in his lavish Valescure villa with its Edenesque grounds. He cultivated coca crops “simply for amusement” in a greenhouse at his Neuilly residence. The ceiling of the lounge was reserved for an allegory painted by his pal Eugene Courbin: The Goddess Bringing the Branch of Coca to Europe.

In all his enterprise affairs — he made a fortune virtually in spite of himself — Mariani was the perfect coke vendor. Georges Regnal, who revealed a biographical sketch of Mariani, describes him properly:

“There was by no means any signal of servility on this store. One felt that the ‘dealer’ didn’t exist, solely a person who spontaneously empathized with even the slightest drawback of whoever entered his threshold.

“In the evenings and on holidays, once his storefront was closed, he would go back upstairs to his home and become once again the enchanted wanderer, the lover of the beauty of life. Forever distracted by something or other, he would smoke on the terrace among his roses, leaf through books classifying the works of the poet and the artist he could have become himself had he chosen to express himself so. Already he preferred to remain the discrete amateur. Already he was buying the canvases of heavily indebted painters … and always enlarging his hospitality.”

Dubbed the “Propagator of Coca” in his personal time, Mariani turned a dwelling legend. But the key method for Vin Mariani died with him in 1914, sarcastically the identical yr that Congress within the United States handed the Harrison Narcotics Act, making cocaine unlawful.

Today one other coca-derived drink, a pale imitation of Vin Mariani, units the tempo of the fashionable age. We are advised to “relax,” “pause” and “refresh” with mass advertising’s reply to Angelo Mariani’s bracing elixir. Here’s to the Parisian pharmacist and a time when issues did go higher.


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