Pope Leo XIII’s longevity as Pontiff of the Catholic Church (the third longest in church history) may have been down to his favourite tipple Vin Mariani. Pope Leo was so enamoured by this French tonic wine it is claimed he kept a hip flask hidden under his cassock, so he could enjoy the occasional snifter to perk up his spirits—which it undoubtedly did, as Vin Mariani was a heady mix of Bordeaux wine and coca leaves. The original drink had 6mg of cocaine per fluid ounce, which went up to 7.2mg per fluid ounce for the export market—mainly to compete with similar coke-filled tonics—such as Coca-Cola—sold in the USA.
It was claimed that Mariani wine could quickly restore “health, strength, energy and vitality,” and hastened convalescence (“especially after influenza”). In one of their ads, His Holiness the Spokesmodel decreed:
...that he has fully appreciated the benefit of this Tonic Wine, and has forwarded to Mr. Mariani as a token of his gratitude a gold medal bearing his august effigy.
Talk about a celebrity endorsement, eh? If God’s representative on Earth approved of the coca-infused tipple, that would have been quite a boon in marketing terms.
Cocaine enhanced drinks were common in the late 1800s, and there is an academic paper to be written on the influence of cocaine and the rise of the British Empire—how else to explain the sound of grinding teeth among all those overworked lower classes whose labor put the Great into Britain?
But it wasn’t just adults who benefited from the restorative powers of cocaine, it was added to pastilles for teething children, throat lozenges for flu and colds, and as a cure for hay fever.
After the jump, heroin for kids and more…