Pembroke’s Remedies – Cocaine Wine!

Pembroke Banner (1)In a warm, mahogany paneled drawing room, adorned with filled bookshelves, gorgeous chandeliers and lofty ceilings, Dr. James D. Pembroke sits in an armchair, leaning slightly to one side. To his right, upon a handsome George III oak side-table, sits six or seven bottles of what appears to be wine, yet upon closer inspection they all bear the label ‘Vin Tonique Mariani – Coca Du Perou’. When he speaks, the Doctor’s speech is slurred, yet he seems able to continue conversation. There is a faint whirring sound as his secondary mechanical liver struggles to keep up with the enormous amount of alcohol he has imbibed…

Consequently, the editor would like to apologize for the less than stellar literary quality of the following Remedy review – the Doctor was not himself.


For you, my readers, I would do anything. I love you fine people. Really I do [takes a long drink from the wine bottle]. You’re the best [hiccup]. If it wasn’t for your readership and the paltry sums I procure from publishing these works in the Pandora Society rag, I wouldn’t be able to live in this dump [gestures wildly at the beautiful decorated and luxurious surroundings]. What you might not know is that I try upon myself every single one of the remedies I have writted… wrotten… written about. Yes. Every one. Even the Electric Corset – it fit very well, if you’re interested – and the Tobacco Resuscitation Bellows – really painful, that one. I endure all this for you [points violently at no-one in particular], my loyal readers, so I may write with erudition and accuracy for your reading pleasure.

That label is far too complicated for anyone to read after a few swigs from the interior.

That label is far too complicated for anyone to read after a few swigs from the contents.

However, there’s this stuff [squints at bottle label], this stuff. Vin Mariani; wine with a healthy amount of cocaine. Surprisingly, it’s quite good. Indeed. Quite good indeed. [hiccups].

Let me tell you about it. Come closer. Ish fine, I don’t bite. Much. Tee hee [Dr. Pembroke falls out of his chair with a dramatic flail. The assistant recording the proceedings helps him back up and resumes transcription].

Where was I? Ah yes. As a famous person once said, cocaine is a hell of a drug. First used in South America by indigenous tribes as an anesthetic and recreational drug, it was exported to Europe in the early 19th century where it remained a mere medical curiosity until the self-promoting, Corsican-birthed Angelo Mariani created his famous coca-wine in 1869. Although others ingest, snort or inject cocaine (I’m looking at you Sigmund Freud), no-one is making coca more popular than Mariani in the autumn of the 19th century.

Although records of Mariani’s early life are blurred (much like my vision at this point from drinking all of this wine) it is known that he worked in a reputable pharmacy in St. Germain, Paris, where his primary task was the creation of wine-tonics, that is, the addition of wine to just about every type of drug available, making them far more palatable and allowing the artful re-branding of the dubiously efficacious cures as ‘medicinal wines’. Genius. [takes a deep swig of the nearest bottle and belches loudly]. Medicinal. Exactly.

I feel this advert places far less of an emphasis on 'medicinal' than it does 'get wrecked as fast as possible'

I feel this advert places far less of an emphasis on ‘medicinal’ than it does ‘get wrecked as fast as possible’

It was then that Mariani hit upon the fabulous concept of adding coca leaf extract to Bordeaux, which inexplicably (given the lethal nonsense that people called medicine in those days) no-one had tried before. Promptly, Mariani perfected the concoction and it was an immediate success.

Although the dosage was only around 6% cocaine solution (Sherlock Holmes was known for his famous 7%), the ethanol contained in the wine combined with the coca to form cocaethylene which has a powerful euphoric, invigorating effect. That said, after eight bottles, it’s making this fine Doctor feel a touch sedate and jolly [editors note: read – totally inebriated]

One of the first testimonials came from a depressed actor of the Comédie-Francaise, who upon drinking the coca-wine, rapidly rejuvenated (surprise, surprise) and recommended it to all her friends, becoming what is presumably the first in a long line of depressed and cocaine addicted actors. Cheers to that. No, seriously. Cheers.

Well, now we know why Pope Leo XIII smiled so much.

Well, now we know why Pope Leo XIII smiled so much.

In 1870, following his departure from the pharmacy and founding his own business venture, Vin Mariani became enormously popular and was sold throughout France and then the rest of the world. Always the great marketer and promoter, Angelo Mariani sent free samples to noted physicians across the globe, who, it is assumed, under the influence of the drug-laced booze wrote naught but the most glowing endorsements, allowing Mariani to boast in his advertisements of over 8,000 testimonials from medical professionals. Celebrities also contributed to his references, with names as illustrious as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Queen Victoria, the Czar of Russia, as well as hundreds of other heads of state, artists, actors and military officers. Even Pope Leo XIII, who reportedly carried a flask of the addictive intoxicant with him at all times, awarded him a Gold Medal. Santos Dumont, the famed ‘Aeronaut’ and pilot of an airship, remarked in an advertised testimonial:

“Two liquids are essential to the steerable balloon: for the motor “Petroleum” – which for a given weight embodies the maximum mechanical energy, and “Vin Mariani” – which is the best accumulator of human energy. Aerial navigation is conceivable only with the essence of petroleum and the quintessence of that excellent wine of Mariani.”

When your child won't go to sleep, give them a mixture of wine and cocaine. Ah. Simpler times.

When your child won’t go to sleep, give them a mixture of wine and cocaine. Ah. Simpler times.

So keep this in mind – all those noteworthy folks you respect from our glorious 19th century were probably drugged up to the eyeballs, and consequently all of their achievements and glories were undoubtedly enacted whilst high as a kite, or an airship, depending on your preference. Doctors throughout the world also caused countless patients to become unwittingly addicted to that delicious [hiccup] wine-tonic, which I am now imbibing in generous quantities. Well done there doctors.

Personally, I highly recommend it. There’s other types out there of course, greatness will attract scoundrels. An American by the name of Colonel Pemberton has released a blatant imitation named Coca-Cola which by all accounts is awful – I’m sure the brand will amount to little.

For praise of Vin Mariani I wish to add my name to the list of luminaries – I give my endorsement as Doc… Doctor… wassmyname? I forget. Anyhoo, that’s not important right now – what’s important is that this stuff is great. For God’s sake have some. Cheers and good health to you all [empties bottle in several gulps]

An’ I don’t care what my fool assistant says, I can stop any time I want…


Dr. Pembroke – not always this drunk, I promise – is a morally ambiguous surgeon, physician and alienist. You can find more of his ‘Remedies’ series HERE. New medical history articles every Wednesday – once he gets over his hangover.

You can also find him on The Book Of Faces for his whereabouts, performances and other medical historical curiosities.


 

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