Cocaine would make Coca Cola better

When Cola still contained cocaine

Friday, August 26, 2016, Signes in the south of France: The employees of a Coca-Cola production facility made an unusual find. They found 370 kilos of cocaine in a container from South America.

Xavier Tarabeux from the Marseille Public Prosecutor's Office estimates the sales value to the AFP at "around 50 million euros." He is one of the most spectacular in France in recent months. No, the cocaine was not hidden in cans with names, but in bags.

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The white powder has always been part of the history of the famous lemonade. It's one of those urban legends surrounding Coca-Cola and it could answer some of the questions people have always asked themselves about Cola: Why is the recipe kept in a safe in Atlanta? Why was it "given" to the GIs before they were sent to Normandy?

Cola and cocaine initially had a very harmonious relationship. Their common story begins at the end of the 19th century: Angelo Mariani, the son of a Corsican pharmacist, goes to Paris and develops invigorating tonic products that were all the rage at the time, Aymon de Lestrange recalls. He wrote a biography about him (Angelo Mariani 1838-1914, published by Intervalles) and recently spoken to TV5Monde.

Angelo Mariani photographed by Nadar

“He should try different mixtures, with quinine from the cinchona bark, which was also used against malaria, with kola nut or with coca leaves. He had the feeling that he could make something out of this new plant. "

Mariani let 60 grams of coca leaves soak in a good Bordeaux for several months. One or two glasses a day, that's about a line of coke. So it was really an invigorating drink.

Mariani also tries out his new creation on the customer, as de Lestrange tells in an anecdote. “One day a singer comes to his pharmacy and asks about a cure for hoarseness. Mariani tells her that he is currently working on a mixture of Bordeaux wine and coca leaves. The singer tries it, thinks it's great and orders several bottles from him. "This is how Vin Mariani was born.

Initially, the precursor to Coca-Cola is prescribed for flu, insomnia and stomach problems. It also contains traces of cocaine, one of the ingredients of the coca plant that has been known to the Andean peoples for thousands of years. For de Lestrange, it is only one of many ingredients, an alkaloid among many others. “Mariani let 60 grams of coca leaves soak in a good Bordeaux for several months. One or two glasses a day was the equivalent of a line of cocaine. So it was quite an invigorating drink. "

The Mariani wine was a resounding success and spread across national borders. Popes, rulers, celebrities and even US President Ulysses S. Grant fell under his spell. Many tried to copy it and de Lestrange knows of hundreds of plagiarisms that were not prosecuted because this intellectual property was not protected. And this is exactly where Coca-Cola comes into play.

Mariani wine perks up even tired mummies

An Atlanta pharmacist, John Pemberton, also began to be interested in the invigorating concoctions and brought his "French Wine Coca" onto the market - for de Lestrange "an admission" who is certain that the American will break away from the idea of Inspired by the French. “He says it himself. To his misfortune - or luck - the first prohibition laws came about in the United States at that time. So he has to replace the wine in his mixture with something else. And he chose soda water. "

In 1886 a more "innocent" version comes on the market with sugar syrup, citric acid, nutmeg, vanilla, cassia oil and two other ingredients that gave the drink its name: grated kola nut and extract from coca leaves.

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Alcohol disappeared early on, but cocaine will take a while. At the beginning of the 20th century, cocaine was not yet illegal in the United States and was administered as a powder or pill for medicinal purposes: for headaches, constipation, Impotence, asthma, or nausea. Scientists later devised a way to remove all traces of cocaine from the extract, paving the way for success.

However, the Corsican drink never made it that far and was later banned in France and Germany as well.

Today, thanks to modern technology, we know what is in the Coke cans: Of course, no trace of cocaine, but a lot of sugar and substances that can also be used to dissolve coins. But above all, the remains of an invention by a Corsican pharmacist that quenched the thirst of the most famous figures of the 19th century.

All pictures off Angelo Mariani 1838-1914, le vin de coca et la naissance de la publicité modern by Aymon de Lestrange, published in French by Intervalles.

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