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Generally a sweet, strong, red wine with added herbs or compounds such as iron salts, formerly supposed to confer medicinal benefit, though now labelled with cautious disclaimers.
'Buckfast' Tonic wine was produced from the 1890's at the Devon Abbey of that name with the slogan "Three small glasses a day, for good health and lively blood", until the monks handed over marketing to J. Chandler & Co of Andover, since when this cheap, syrupy concoction of 15% alcohol + caffeine and vanillin seems to have become the hit of choice for winos throughout Britain and Ireland, especially in Scotland where there have been official calls for it to be prohibited. The drink was mentioned in 5,638 crime reports in Strathclyde from 2006-2009, with the Buckfast bottle itself being used as a weapon 114 times.
'Sanatogen' ("Enjoy it doing you good") and 'Wincarnis' ("enjoyed by generations for generations") also survive, but 'Burroughs Beef and Iron Wine', 'Nervine' ("The Great Restorative"), 'Vibrona' ("The Ideal Tonic") and 'Lemco' appear to have gone the way of 'Bovril Meat Wine'.
Suspicions about the effectiveness of 'Tonic Wine' are not new. 'The Family oracle of health' of 1824 has; "This quack drug the Tonic Wine appears to be composed of very cheap stuff though it is sold at the exorbitant price of about 1s per pint. … England no doubt is a free country and the people of England have the undoubted right to be gulled if they so please. Quacks therefore find it is the only country in which they can live and thrive. The same blessed freedom gives quacks and extortioners a right to charge what they please for their trash whether it be Tonic Wine, Balm of Gilead, Jordan's Rakasiri gin or Hunt's Roasted Corn."
Coca Wine, c1904
For an ancient version, see: Aqua Mirabilis
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