Coca fiends


The latest post at Strange Flowers details some of the celebrity endorsements for Vin Mariani, the 19th-century tonic that famously blended wine with an extract of cocaine. Those antique ads reminded me that others may be found in the Leonard de Vries collections of old newspaper ads which is where these examples originate. The Victorians invented mass advertising, and were quick to realise the potential of the celebrity endorsement. What’s surprising today is seeing a product like Vin Mariani promoted by Popes and crowned heads alongside writers such as Émile Zola and Octave Mirbeau, neither of whom had glowing reputations among moral guardians of the time.



Vin Mariani had many competitors. One of the American brands was Pemberton’s French Wine Coca which later became a non-alcoholic drink called Coca-Cola. The advert below is for another coca-derived product whose contemporary equivalents may be found in Body Shops today.


Previously on { feuilleton }
Opium dens
Opium fiends
La Morphine by Victorien du Saussay
Haschisch Hallucinations by HE Gowers
The Dark Ledger
Demon rum leads to heroin
German opium smokers, 1900

3 thoughts on “Coca fiends”

  1. I remember having once thumbed through a copy, from a friend’s collection, of this “special offer book” mentioned in the ad featuring Emile Zola, that contained “portraits and endorsements of EMPERORS, EMPRESS, PRINCES, CARDINALS, ARCHBISHOPS and other distinguished personages”. Quite an eclectic company.

  2. That’s probably the same book in the Strange Flowers post. As with any endorsements, it doesn’t imply they were all regular users but some of them may have been. Vin Mariani was a very popular drink.

  3. As the marijuana legalization movement gains momentum here in the States it’ll be interesting to see what tinctures and potions make their appearance. So far it’s been mostly candy like edibles but one can easily imagine “bhang in a bottle”.

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