Curious Ancient Drinks

American Brewer’s Review 1898

The Egyptians, who have been ungallant enough to leave behind them delineations of the fair sex in a state of intoxication, had several kinds of wine more than 6000 years ago, in addition to a beer called hega, made from barley. 

The ancient Assyrians, too, loved their wine.

The earliest mention of wine in the Bible is a reference to Noah planting a vineyard and getting drunk with the wine.

The drinks of antiquity were sometimes, to say the least, peculiar.  The Greeks and Romans, whose customary drink was wine, often mixed it with sea water.  Other ancient beverages were honey and rain water; honey, salt water and vinegar; and a mixture of honey and myrtle seed.  Homer speaks of a wine to which 20 times as much water could be added.

The Roman lover, when drinking to his lady, often drank as many cups of wine as there were letters in her name.  Warm water was sometimes regarded by the Romans as an agreeable drink; the conclusion of the chief meal.

Famous among drinkers were the Vikings, whose liquors were ale, beer, wine and mead.  Quaffing ale from the skulls of their enemies formed one of the chief attractions of the promised Valhalla.

A drink much in demand in the time of Chaucer was bracket made of the wort of ale, honey and spices.  By the time of Edward IV, drinking had become so productive of crime that few places were allowed more than two taverns.  London had to be content with 40.

Under the Stuarts drunkenness was at its height.  Thirst provokers were largely taken, and a man’s distinction was largely due to his bottle capacity, while ladies of the court thought it no shame to become inebriated.  The three or five bottle man was an object of envy to his fellows.

Signs were hung outside taverns informing the thirsty wayfarer that he could get “drunk for a penny,” and “dead drunk for twopence.”  Such notices often ended with the significant words, “Clean straw for nothing.”  With the reign of George IV disappeared fashionable intemperance, and “drunk as a lord” was no longer a correct simile.    —    London Mail.

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