Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The tonic wine that cures your brain-fag, love life and blood-sucking by vampire bats ...

This will be a new series of posts on “tonic” wines and other health remedies that were once in common use and have now largely disappeared.

Growing up in the 1950s, I was one of those kids who always seemed to get a lot of infections and was often put onto a tonic regime of Wincarnis. It could only be purchased via the off-licence or chemist and was pretty pricey if I recall. 

Hard to imagine now, but there I would be, aged eight or nine, sitting with my parents at the dining table with my own little sherry glass containing my nightly dose of Wincarnis. When you look closely at this image from 1963, it shows that it is “27.5 proof spirit”. Yikes! And doctors actually recommended this for weakly kids?!


Image from ebay.ca

Fortunately, it didn’t turn me into an alcoholic and my health has been pretty good throughout my adult life so there might have been something in that tonic after all.

It originated in 1881 and was made by Colemans of Norwich (not to be confused with the mustard people) and contained meat extract, malt and port wine. It is still made today and although the meat component has gone, the modern recipe for Wincarnis remains a closely-guarded secret but it still has a pretty hefty alcohol content and in most countries it would be illegal to give it to kids! 

There are numerous images to be found for Wincarnis online, but here are just a few from old newspapers at Trove and Grace's Guide to British Industrial History:


Fixes brain-fag and mental prostration ...

More prostration ...

Joy, strength and vigour


Will even rescue your love life ...



... in just three days




With custard anyone?



If it makes time stand still, perhaps I should start taking it again?



My personal favourite. As good as a blood transfusion.