The week in pictures

Amuerte White Gin and Red Bull’s organic ginger beer

On Thursday, db had trouble sleeping after a caffeinated night at Red Bull’s central London office for the UK launch of Amuerte Gin, a new spirit infused with coca leaves (as in, what is used for the production of cocaine).

Yes, really.

There are two in the range, a black bottle which uses botanicals such as “Peruvian cocaine leaves, with dragon fruit, tamarillo, papaya, Peruvian physalis and orange zest,” and a white variant with coca leaves, cardamom, coriander, lime and Sichuan pepper. Both were paired with Red Bull’s new line of organic sodas, which launched in May last year.

It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the only gin in the world made with coca leaves, and is set to launch in the UK next week. Jeroen Reynders, the Belgian co-founder of the brand, told db he bought the stock from the Peruvian government.

In Peru, the traditional use of the coca leaf is an ancestral practice which has never been criminalised. Instead there is a scheme of licenses under state control for the cultivation of coca leaves and their distribution through the National Coca Company (ENACO: Empresa Nacional de la Coca).

In the basement at Red Bull HQ

The idea came to Reynders after he and a group spent time backpacking through the Peruvian rainforest, and took part in a coca leaf ceremony with a rural tribe.

Once picked, the leaves undergo a maceration and decocanisation process to remove the active ingredient inherent in cocaine, making it safe/legal for consumption.

Still, Reynders said it took a long time to get the product approved before launching in Belgium last year.

“It was very difficult,” he told db last night. “For a while I thought I should’ve just made something with apples.”

He said, the gin was in the market, his team managed to sell 2,000 bottles in a week.

It is not the first time cocaine has been used to enhance an alcoholic beverage. In 1863, chemist Angelo Mariani devised a mixture of coca and Bordeaux wine, fortified with brandy, and then sold it as a health drink. A small glass (100 ml) contained the equivalent of 21 mg of cocaine.

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