Pemberton's French Wine Coca

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Pemberton's French Wine Coca was a coca wine created by the druggist John Stith Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola. It was an alcoholic beverage, mixed with coca, kola nut and damiana.

French Wine Coca was marketed mostly to upper class intellectuals, afflicted with diseases believed to have been brought on by urbanization and Atlanta's increasingly competitive business environment. In an 1885 interview with the Atlanta Journal, Pemberton claimed the drink would benefit "scientists, scholars, poets, divines, lawyers, physicians, and others devoted to extreme mental exertion."


In 1885, when Atlanta and Fulton County enacted temperance legislation, Pemberton scrambled to develop a non-alcoholic version of his popular product. However, the new legislation did not affect the coca ingredient (cocaine), which remained in the formula until the end of the 19th century. The result was an early version of Coca-Cola, although the coca ingredient (cocaine) was the main active ingredient when the company was acquired by Asa Candler.

French Wine Coca was essentially an imitation of Angelo Mariani's blend of Bordeaux wine and coca, called Vin Mariani. Mariani's beverage achieved extraordinary success in the 1880s, inspiring a host of knock-offs, of which Pemberton's was merely one of the more successful. However, Vin Mariani lacked both damiana, a reputed cure for impotence, as well as kola nut, a source of caffeine - both of which were later included in Coca-Cola.

Despite Atlanta's Temperance legislation, production of French Wine Coca continued until Pemberton's death in 1888. Indeed, in the year 1887, French Wine Coca sold 720 bottles a day - far outstripping Coca-Cola.


Pemberton claimed astounding medicinal properties for his French Wine Coca, which was marketed as a patent medicine. The beverage was advertised as a cure for nerve trouble, dyspepsia, mental and physical exhaustion, gastric irritability, wasting diseases, constipation, headache, neurasthenia and impotence. It was also suggested as a cure for morphine addiction, which was increasingly common after the Civil War (Pemberton himself was addicted to the drug).

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