Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

15 April 2016

Kirby’s Coca Wine

What better way to end the working week than with a glass of Kirby’s Coca Wine?  This Victorian tipple was advertised as ‘an energizing and invigorating restorative, for mental and physical fatigue’.

The wine contained the active ingredients of the coca plant ‘which, it is well known, possesses powerful stimulating and strength giving properties’.  Coca was used in Bolivia and Peru to 'appease hunger and thirst', and to sustain those undertaking tiring journeys.  Clergymen, public speakers, and others engaged in exhausting work of any kind were said to find the wine a great help.  It contained less alcohol than sherry and was ‘invaluable as a substitute for spirits’, counteracting the craving for strong alcoholic drink by supplying the needed stimulant. Kirby’s Coca Wine cost 2s 6d for a pint and 4s 6d for a quart.

Advert for Kirby's Coca WineBritish Library X15/2023 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence 

I found this advertisement in the snappily titled A guide to proper remedies for common ailments, and the use of surgical appliances. Designed expressly for persons going abroad, residents in India and the Colonies; heads of families; clergymen and others unable to obtain medical assistance written by 'A Physician' (c. 1890).  As you might imagine, the book is full of useful advice and products, and we'll enjoy sharing more of these in later posts.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records


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